Old world or new world — what’s the difference?


By Tom Hollings
Tom is the owner of innovative online wine store, DifferentDrop.com, which sources and sells unique and small production wines from Australia’s best boutique wineries.

The phrases old world, and new world get regularly thrown around in wine circles, but what do they actually mean?  Is there a difference, and do they matter?  Here’s our quick explanation of the differences between the old and the new!

What’s In A Name?

Put simply, old world wine refers to wine coming out of Europe, where wine has been made for thousands of years.  New world wine, on the other hand, refers to wine coming out of more recently colonised countries where winemaking has only begun in the last two or three centuries.  This includes places like Australia, New Zealand, USA, South America, Argentina and Chile.


What’s the Difference?

While the lines are becoming increasingly blurred, old world wines are generally more structural, rustic and savoury, with a heavy focus on terroir (check out last month’s issue for a full explanation of that term) and wines representing their particular vineyard site.  New world wines on the other hand have tended to be made in a much more fruit-forward, ripe and clean-cut style, with a focus on consistency and evenness rather than unique vineyard-to-vineyard and vintage-to-vintage variation.

Which is Better?

How long is a piece of string?  There is no definitive answer on whether old world or new world wines are better – they are merely different (and even this is becoming less and less so).  What can be said though is that old world wines have tended to be better at telling a story of where they came from, whereas new world wines have probably been better at being consistently approachable and offering up easy-drinking.

The Future of Old vs New World?

Ironically, many European producers are successfully adopting new world winemaking philosophies and techniques in order to produce more consistent entry-level wines, while the trend amongst premium producers in new world nations like Australia and the USA is to utilise old world techniques with the goal of crafting more authentic, natural and terroir-driven wines.

So as far as the debate goes, what is old is new again, and vice-versa!

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