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Old World Wine vs New World Wine

What exactly are people talking about when they use the terms Old and New World?

Single vineyard Pinot Noir expressions from the Mornington Peninsula and Burgundy highlight the similarities and differences of Old World and New World.

A simple definition

In short, Old World wines refer to those from Europe, where wine was originally made and where traditional technique was established (mainly France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain). New World wine, simply enough, refers to basically everything else (including wines from America, Australia, Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand).

Are there differences between Old and New World wines? Yes. What are they? We’ve included a few key ones below, but bear in mind these are generalisations – there are plenty of wines from each category that don’t fit the mould!

Technique

  • Old World wines are made using more traditional and strict methods of winemaking; there is often more of a focus on allowing the wine to do its thing to express terroir, with the winemaker playing a minimal role
  • New World wine tends to see more involvement from the winemaker, and there is often more openness to using scientific techniques and new technologies to achieve a desired result in the wine (such as controlled malolactic fermentation)

The role of the winemaker often differs between Old and New World wine production

Labels

  • Many Old World wine labels use region or appellation to imply which grape varietal is used
  • For example, a wine made with Chardonnay grapes from Sonoma, California (New World) will say “Chardonnay” on the bottle, whereas a wine made with Chardonnay grapes from Chablis, France will say “Chablis”

New World wines, Australian included, usually list the grape varietal used, like Chardonnay, rather than listing just a region or appellation

Taste

  • The differences in technique, role of the winemaker and terroir result in differences in taste, which is probably the most important difference for you to note as the wine drinker (a very important role).
  • Old World wines tend to be more acidic, lower in alcohol (partly because many Old World wine regions are colder and thus use less ripe grapes), lighter bodied, and less fruity.
  • New World wines tend to be fuller bodied, higher in alcohol, and fruitier.

Again, these are generalisations. There are good and bad wines from both branches, and while there are often differences, there are plenty of Old and New World wines that are very similar. Taste, compare and discover which ones you love – likely, there will be some Old and some New World wines that do the job!

Learn more about the alcohol in your wine glass here, or, if you like Old World wines, you might want to know more about Greek wines – check out why we love them.

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Jill Haapaniemi

Jill Haapaniemi

Jill is a lover of all things food and wine. As a food blogger and recipe developer, she is passionate about sharing meals with others, never without a bottle of something to enhance the experience. She spends her free time at her partner’s family winery just outside of Melbourne, and can usually be found drinking Oregon Pinot, wines from the Rhône Valley or Victorian Shiraz.
Jill Haapaniemi

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