I was visiting one of my favorite wineries this past weekend and got involved in a discussion about Old World and New World wines. Of the six of us there, four had no knowledge of the differences. I thought that this would be a great topic to review here. So, what’s the difference?
Well, Old World is pretty much as it sounds…the wines in the old European world such as France, Italy, Germany and Austria. New World would be just the opposite, newer wine producing countries such as the United States, Australia, Chile and Mexico. The big difference is that OW wines tend to be higher in acidity, lighter in body, lower in alcohol. They are wines of the earth (terroir-driven) and restrained and elegant. Much of this has to do with the weather. The wine growing season in Europe is shorter and the climate is cooler than that of, let’s say, Napa. With the lack of warm weather, OW fruit really doesn’t get the high degree of ripeness that NW wines do, thus the lack of sugar. The low sugar content lowers the alcohol level creating a lighter body and more acidic wine. In warmer NW climates, the fruit ripens, and ripens, the sugar content rises and rises, and the alcohol levels go up…up…up! Big over-the-top fruit bombs! That’s a pretty general description of the two. But there are other aspects that define the two wines. One is the winemaker styles where OW vintners basically shape their wines in the vineyard through vineyard management, and they also have to contend with strict European winemaking rules and regulations that also shape the end product. NW winemakers take control of their products, for the most part, in the winery. They tend to manipulate the wine through science, powerful oak and really have very liberal laws or regulations in how they produce their wine. So, the next time you hear Old World or New World used in describing a wine, you now have a basic idea! In the meantime…read up on it… and ask questions!