A lot of wine critics speak about New World wines and Old world Wines. But what does this mean? What is the difference between the old and the new? Is one better than the other?
What does it mean?
This is essentially Europe and the Middle-East. Countries where viticulture has been practised for thousands of years. This would include obvious countries such as France and Italy, but also the UK, Hungary, Israel and Georgia.
Despite many of these countries producing wine for over 500 years they are still considered new – Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Chile and the USA.
What is the difference?
The majority of the great old world regions lie in fairly cool climate zone. Such as Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne in France. Tuscany, Piemonte and Verona in Italy for example.
Whereas if you look at the great New World regions – Napa Valley, Mendoza and Barossa for example, they are far hotter.
One of the main differences this has on wine is that the hotter the climate the greater the sugar and the lower the acidity. This results in ‘juicer’ and ‘fruitier styles of the wine, typically with higher alcohol.
Labeling in the Old World is very different to the New world. Wines are often named by their location, this is often seen as more important than the grape used to make it.
So a wine from the region of Pauliac in Bordeaux will have the name of the Producer – ‘Chateau Anuva’ for example and then the name of the village it is from – ‘Pauliac’. The customer buys the bottle based on prestige of the region, rather than the grape. Want to know WHICH grapes are in the wine? Well, you better buy a wine encyclopedia and study which grapes and permitted in the region. This brings me on nicely to my next considerable difference between The old and the new..
Rules, Regulations and Laws
All the Great Old world regions are required to adhere to certain laws. These laws tell the winemaker what they can and cannot do, both in the vineyard in the winery. So let’s just imagine that I am fantastically rich and I own a vineyard in Bordeaux. And let’s just say I happen to be a HUGE fan of Pinot Noir, I happen to think that Pinot Noir is more beautiful than the rose. I plant some Pinot vines with the hope of making a Grand Vin de Bordeaux. Well unfortunately, I can’t.
French Law the – AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) has some very strict rule for which grapes are allowed in my wine, if I want to use the prestigious ‘Bordeaux’ name. I am, of course free to grown my Pinot Noir grapes if I wish- it isn’t an agricultural dictatorship after all. But I can only use the very generic ‘Vin de Pay’ or Country Wine name on my label. Doesn’t sound so fancy now, eh?
If we take a trip across the atlantic to California or Mendoza, yes there are laws, to protect the customer. You cannot bottle water and call it wine after all! However restrictions on grape varieties are incredibly rare. You like pinot, you bloody well plan it!
Which one is better?
This is a question that has no answer. There are so many styles of wines for so many occasions it is simply impossible to say. But if I really, really had to answer? New World!s