Old World vs New World Wines: What Are Key Differences?

Old World vs New World Wines: What Are Key Differences?

The differences between Old World and New World wines are commonly misunderstood. Some wine drinkers say they prefer New World to Old World wines or vice versa. But do they really understand the differences? The differences between the two go beyond geography.

What are Old World wines?

Old World wines are from countries or regions where Vitis Vinifera grape winemaking first originated. The Old World is basically the birthplace of wine and is generally most of Europe and the Middle East.

List of Old World wines:

Old World wines include wines from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Hungary, Austria, Georgia, Germany, Turkey, Armenia, and Moldova.

What are New World wines?

New World wines are from countries or regions where Vitis Vinifera grape winemaking was imported. This typically happened during the ages of exploration where vines were transported from Europe and the Middle East to North America for example. This has continued on until present day as different kinds of vines, both indigenous and clones, are imported and exported.

List of New World wines:

New World wines include wines from the countries of the United States, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, China, India, and every other wine growing country where Vitis Vinifera grapes are not indigenous to.

What are the key differences between Old World and New World wines?

Taste

Do they taste different? Yes. One of the greatest differences is that the New World wine countries and regions tend to be warmer than the Old World regions. This creates fuller-bodied wines that have bolder and more fruit forward flavors. The varietals of Old World regions tend to be lighter in body compared to their New World counterparts.

Laws and Regulations

As you learn more about wine, you will discover that some Old World wine countries like France and Italy are extremely strict and have many regulations and laws that their grape growers and winemakers must follow. New World wine countries, on the other hand, have a much more free-spirited approach to winemaking.

Old World wine regulations are much too complicated to get into in one simple blog post. However, in many cases, these wines have been made the same for centuries and that can be quite romantic for a wine drinker to think about. Many countries like France have strict laws on what varietals can be grown in what region, weight limits on how much grapes you can harvest from a single hectare, quality regulations, aging laws, restrictive label laws, and much more. The good thing is that, in most cases, you can tell the quality of the wine before you even try it just by reading the label. 

New World wines countries and regions are free to grow whatever grapes they want on their land, there are no weight limits to how much they can harvest, there are no quality regulations or aging laws. Many might think that this means New World wines are not as high quality as Old World wines, that is not always the case. New World wines are able to compete on a quality level just like Old World wines. The differences in these laws allow New World winemakers to use a combination of whichever grapes they choose, use new technology in their viticulture and enology practices, and allow for experimentation to make wines that Old World regions cannot (like a Sangiovese, Syrah, and Tempranillo blend)

Is one better than the other?

No, but they are different. It is up to you as a wine drinker to have your own preference for wines. Do you enjoy fuller-bodied wines or exotic blends? New World wines may be for you. Explore wines from California and Australia. Do you enjoy lighter-bodied wines, traditional varietals, and the romance of Old World history? Old World wines may be for you. Explore wines from Spain or French wine regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy. We encourage you to try wines from all countries and regions, as your new favorite wine may be from an unsuspecting country or varietal.

Have you tried the wines from each of the Old World countries? Do you tend to gravitate toward either New or Old World wines?