New World & Old World Wine

If you’ve ever been searching for the perfect bottle for date night and come across the term ‘old world’ and ‘new world’ wine and been left wondering if you should have paid more attention in geography class, you’re not alone in your confusion.

The world of wine has its very own map (which matters when climate has such a big impact on what’s in the bottle) and it’s all about the old and the new. Knowing a little bit about the differences between them can guide you to a wine promised land like no other!

The Geography

When it comes to wine, the world looks a little different. Think of it as one of those maps students make when they tick off the countries they’ve been to. There are the areas where they grew up, and the places they went travelling. Wine is like that.

Old World Countries

The Old World of wine is all the countries that started growing wine grapes before it became cool. It’s basically Europe. There are the big guns, like France, Spain, Italy and Germany, and then some outliers, including Bulgaria, Hungary and Greece.

Wine making’s OG members started their work in the middle east before really turning the process into an art when Europe was busy around the Mediterranean, so the term Old World has pretty ancient routes.

New World Countries

When wine grew up and went travelling after university, it went everywhere. New World really means anywhere that isn’t Europe, and you’ll find some big names here including America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. But there are also wine makers in Argentina, China and beyond that all have a place in the New World.

Old World Wine

Because Old World wines come from areas that have made wine for centuries, they tend to have a lot of tradition. You’ll notice that French wines are named for regions, rather than the grapes that make the wine. This is an indicator of an Old World wine, as the place it was made is traditionally more important.

You’ll also be able to tell the differences in flavours. Old World wines come from cooler climates, which makes for lighter, less alcoholic wine that tastes floral and earthy, rather than fruity (especially red wines). This isn’t a hard rule, there are plenty of heavy, boozy wines from Europe, but climate has a big impact on wine flavours, and Europe is always cooler than most New World countries.

New World Wine

New World wines are typically named for the grape that is in the bottle. Because the New World didn’t have the traditional restrictions on European wines, the making and labelling of wines could be simplified, and as a result, there was a lot of emphasis on the grape. This comes from the exploration of what grapes grow well in different areas.

When it comes to flavours, New World wines tend to be fruiter, with higher alcohol and more pow in the sip. This is because of the warmer climates, which ripen the grapes and make everything that bit sweeter before it’s made into wine. Again, that’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s a good indicator when you’re looking to pair food or find something to sip on through an evening.

Pairing Wines

The style of using single grapes in the New World makes finding a particular bottle a bit easier. Every pairing note you’ll find recommends based on grapes, which the New World puts on the label for easy finding. The Old World enjoys a bit more mystery, so the wines often have very little grape information on them. This is great for a wine buff who loves a bit of intrigue, but when you’re matching your wines with something to eat, it can be tricky.

New World Champagne & Prosecco

Simply, there is no such thing as New World Champagne or Prosecco, and it highlights something to be wary of in the wine world. While Europe is very stringent on it’s wine names, the New World is not. In some parts of the world you might find a wine labelled as Champagne when it’s never even been close to France. If you come across a bottle of American Champagne put it down and back away slowly. It’s using the label to make you buy it and is bound to be rubbish.

Does it even matter?

The reality is that Old World and New World doesn’t really matter at all. It’s fun to know where your wine comes from, and when you’re stood in front of the wine wall, unsure where to go, it can help to remember the styles of the Old and the New to give you something to go off. But when you’re popping the cork, you’re not thinking about whether the wines heritage is more traditional or less. It’s about the right bottle for the thing you’re doing.

Some people are keen on Old World wine for its traditional nature, it has a bit of prestige that you don’t get with New World wine. This is the snobby side of wine that makes it more complicated than it needs to be. What matters is finding something you love, and that could come from the Old or the New. At least now when you here the terms, you’ll know what they mean, and can move on to finding the perfect bottle for the moment.

Written by Matt Mugan