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New World vs. Old World Wine

August 21, 2012 Blog » Learn About Wine » New World vs. Old World Wine

What does Old World Wine mean? Find out the differences between New World and Old World wine and how winemaking style greatly affects what you taste.
New World vs. Old World Wine


Old World Wine Definition

Old World wine generally refers to wine made in Europe. However, its cultural roots go back to the Roman Empire where the first techniques to produce, store and distribute wine were developed. Since this time, Old World wine has evolved through generations of family winemaking. Old World Wine Regions include:

  • Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Germany, Greece Hungary, Israel, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Cyprus, Switzerland, England, Macedonia


The Old World Style is Spreading Slowly

The Old World style is based on traditional and sometimes antiquated winemaking practices that have been passed down through the generations. Many of these practices are now regulated by strict laws to preserve an area’s authenticity. Old World wine styles are not limited to Old World regions, winemakers sometimes create wine in New World regions with an Old World style.
Common Vernacular: Terroir, Earthy, Minerality, Elegant, Herbaceous, Tannic, low-alcohol


The Old World vs The New World


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New World Wine Definition

The term New World refers to countries colonized by Western Europe and regions that are new to wine production. New World wine regions adopted the successful ideas from the Old World and expanded on them. Most of the New World wine regions were started within the last 100 years and benefit from modern agriculture, such as vineyards designed to fit tractors and industrial irrigation. New World Wine Regions include:

  • United States, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, China, India, Uruguay, Brazil, Mexico, Canada


The New World Style is Taking Over Quickly

Without entrenched traditions, New World areas seek to push the boundaries of what is possible. The areas focus on technology and efficiency and tend to be more susceptible to popular trends. The New World style focuses on commercial success and making wine that is ready to be enjoyed today. Because New World regions focus on popular trends, these techniques tend to spread more quickly into other regions.
Other words: Modern, Fruit-forward, Oakey, Big, Lush, Opulent, Ripe, high-alcohol

Taste the Difference Between New & Old World Wine

Example 1: Bordeaux Merlot vs. California Merlot
new world merlot Rombauer old world merlot Chateau Siaurac

2008 Rombauer Merlot California Critic Review

“This elegant, focused version delivers currant and floral herb aromas and appealing cherry, caramel and spice flavors. Drink now through 2017.” -Wine Spectator
ANALYSIS Wine Spectator is quick to announce the fruit characteristics of this wine first and also discuss “Caramel” and “Spice” which indicate oak aging. “Floral Herb” is mentioned as an aroma but not a flavor, saying that this wine may smell complex but tastes more fruity. Rombauer has long been known for making very fruit-forward wines in the past and Wine Spectator says this one is not as bold or lush as the others with the word “Elegant”.

2009 Chateau Siaurac France Critic Review

“Attractive truffle, graphite and plum notes intermixed with mocha and black cherry cascade from the glass of this supple, chunky, fleshy wine. There is good glycerin, purity and overall character to this wine, which can be drunk over the next decade.” -Robert Parker
ANALYSIS Robert Parker reveals the most prevalent flavors of this wine first in his description of Chateau Siarac. By saying the words “Graphite,” “Truffle” and “Chunky” he is telling us that the wine is more earthy. The indication of its expected age-worthiness of a decade, Parker is saying that the wine has the 4 components that make a wine age worthy. This does not mean that the wine will necessarily drink well now.

Example 2: Loire Sauvignon Blanc vs. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
new world sauvignon blanc Brancott old world sauvignon blanc Touraine

2011 Brancott Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand Critic Review

“Brancott sets the style for clean, oceanic Marlborough sauvignon with this mouthwatering wine. There’s a touch of flint in the aroma, bright passionfruit flavors and fresh acidity to balance it.” -Wine & Spirits
ANALYSIS Wine & Spirits suggests that the wine has a unique mineral aroma, but says that overall it tastes of passionfruit. “Passionfruit” in Sauvignon Blanc is a ripe flavor whereas flavors like “Lemon” and “Pepper” indicate a sauvignon blanc that was picked less ripe.

2011 Les Roches Touraine Blanc France Critic Review

“Intense classic nose of cut grass, pepper and, believe it or not, pineapples and lemons, with plenty of minerality. Very crisp and refreshing” -KL WInes
ANALYSIS KL Wines points out that this wine has a “Classic” note of “Cut Grass.” Picking flavors other than fruit shows that this wine has more savory flavors. Sauvignon Blanc from France tends to lean towards more herbaceous and mineral flavors.


By Madeline Puckette
I'm a certified wine geek with a passion for meeting people, travel, and delicious food. You often find me crawling around dank cellars or frolicking through vineyards. Find her at @WineFolly