Are you new or old?

No I’m not refering to your age. The next A to Z is N.

New world N

For New world/Old world

These are probably terms that you’ve come across before, but what exactly do they mean?

First off: the term Old World refers to the countries where the grape vine (latin name: vitis vinifera) used to make all the wines we know and love originates from. Very simply this includes most of Europe and countries around the eastern Mediterranean. In these countries they have been making wine for hundreds if not thousands of years and as a result they have lots of laws and legislation to protect the tradition that has grown up around the regions. For example, can you make Champagne anywhere in world? No, you can only make it in the delimited region in northern France, and it must be made sparkling by the traditional method and you can only use certain grape varieties to make it (amongst lots of other things)…

The New World countries are ones where the vitis vinifera grape vine was exported out to, these principally being the Americas, South Africa, New Zealand and OZ. These countries have fewer laws, and as a result are much more open to experimentation.

There are lots of generalisations and preconceptions that people have about old world wines vs new world wines, but the main difference of importance is the styles of wine that they are aiming to make are different.

In the old world on the whole their wines are made to be consumed with food, therefore what they value is the structure of the wine. These things are not exactly something a novice would appreciate about a wine. New world wines are generally made to be very fruit-driven in style and therefore are generally more easy-drinking, approachable and can be drunk alone.

So if you’re only just starting to get into wine chances are you’ll prefer the fruitier, easy-drinking styles that the new world has to offer. Whereas if you’ve been around the (wine) block a bit then you’re more likely to appreciate the structured styles of the old world.

What’s your preference? Are you old or new?

28 thoughts on “Are you new or old?

  1. Well, after spending time in Europe… I think I’m Old World. Love the Rhine region wine and Northern Italy. Dry red Dornfelder is my favorite from Rhine River region. In italy there wasn’t a wine I could enjoy. My favorite was a Cabernet served at the castle in Marostica. Bought four bottle since I could indulge that evening (prego with my first). Austria also had some great white Rieslings that taste nothing like the American sweet version.

  2. I would say a bit of both for me, but I haven’t paid so much attention to wines until I started reading your blog! So maybe I’ll let you know in a few months?
    Hope you’re not too annoyed that I wrote prosecco=sparkling wine=champagne in my recent post! I know they’re not all the same but I thought it would be OK to make the substitutes in my recipe? 😉

  3. Generally Old world – my Grandparents grew Sangiovese in Tuscany and that’s where I got my first taste of wine. Always with food by the way! But never disregard the talent and stunning wines from around the New World. In many ways the explosion of quality wines from around the New World has made wines from Europe better than ever.

  4. Hmm, you’ve really made me think here! Am probably 60/40 in favour of old world. Some things just can’t be beaten – Champagne, Rhone, Pouilly Fume, Rioja, Pomerol to name but a few, but then I’m going through a South African phase and am an avid drinker of anything from South America. Then there’s always a time and a place for a ‘big’ Californian or Australian red…I could go on…and on. Love Wine Wrangler’s comment too about New World practices improving Old World wine, Chapoutier springs to mind. Nice post! :)

  5. Thanks :) I do think that the post was quite simplistic, probably aimed at people that aren’t that into wine. I too am neither old world or new world, it just depends what mood strikes me!

  6. I’m both! New and old! :) I’ve had a lot of travelers tell me that they were surprised to find the wine in Italy doesn’t give them a headache like they claim American wines do. I had a past WSET instructor tell me this is due to the PH difference between American wines versus old world. What do you think? Do you ever get an American Wine Headache? I actually don’t…maybe I’m lucky!

    • Hi!

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I’ve never heard of an American wine headache before!

      I know some people get more more headaches with red wines (mainly due to the tyramine) than with whites.

      I suspect the difference is not the PH (because that would vary massively amongst styles of wine both Italian and American) and mainly down to the alcohol content. Italian wines are usually much lower in % than American blockbusters… This would be the case with most new world wines too.

  7. Thanks for clearing that up, I thought it sounded unlikely there was such a uniform difference between the Old wine and the New wine, but I couldn’t really find any literature on the subject. I think you’re right: the alcohol difference it probably all it takes really, (and people sensitive to reds tend to react to Italian wine all the same, some wines more than others for obvious reasons). I’ve noticed American travelers also tend to incorrectly attribute headaches to sulfites (which while sulfite sensitivities certainly exist it’s rarely the cause of the dreaded wine-headache folks I meet here describe to me). Sulfites got a really bad name in the press at some point in the USA and people associate(d )the warning labels on the bottles to mean they are dangerous or bad for you, like the mandatory labeling of tobacco products. I’ve noticed that European travelers are much less sulfite-afraid.

    • Urgh the dreaded sulphites! Some people in the UK think the same too – which I suspect is as you say due to the warning levels on bottles.

      To be clear – all wine will contain sulphites (it’s a natural preservative). They label them on bottles because some people do have an allergy to sulphites, but the actual levels of sulphites are so small that very few people will actually be affected. The only ones which don’t have sulphites are called ‘natural wines’.

      And also foods ‘contain sulphites’ too! Especially dried fruits – much more so than wine.

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