Are the terms “Old World” and “New World” wines totally scary to you?
Do they leave you feeling like, “Oh my god, this is such a huge concept! I’m never gonna be able to get it!” Let me tell you it actually is the simplest thing you can learn. It’s this basically–Old World wines are Europe, New World wines are not Europe.
Okay, there’s a little more to it than that. We know that the history of wine began in Europe. The grapes that we use all over the world, vinfera grapes, come from Europe, France, Italy, Spain, and Germany. The other thing about old world wines is they’re rooted in a lot of traditional winemaking and a lot of tradition in terms of what grapes grow in which region. If you’re in Burgundy, you will find chardonnay, pinot noir, and petit verdot. In Bordeaux, you’ll see malbec, merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc. Or in Spain, you’d be seeing tempranillo. In Italy, you’ll see grapes like sangiovese and Nebbiolo. These are specific to different regions within those countries. You don’t cross lines from region to region or appellation to appellation in terms of grape variety.
When you move into the New World, anything goes for the most part. If you are in a region that can grow a grape, you can do it. And you can have as much fun with it and make whatever style you want. Those are the two big differences that we see.
New world wines are kind of like the Wild West in a way because we do have that kind of freedom and flexibility to do what we want. That isn’t to say that New World wines aren’t often very traditional. There’s a lot of winemakers in the New World that really love the tradition of European regions and really strive to get the same kind of characteristics and winemaking practices into their cellar. On the other hand, you can find very old-world wineries with winemakers that really want to take it to the edge and get as innovative as they can and try new techniques and push it way past the traditional borders of what is done in that region.
Characteristics about Old World wines are that they tend to have more earth and more minerality. If you’re tasting a Chardonnay from Burgundy and then you taste a chardonnay from Napa, you will notice a lot of differences. There is a lot more minerality in those wines from France. However, you’re also dealing with a climactic difference. Napa is very warm, and Burgundy is warm, but not as warm, so ripening comes into play there too.
The reality here is when someone tosses out the term New World or Old World the only thing you really need to know is the Old World refers to Europe, and the New World is everything else.
That pretty much covers the subject. The only other thing that comes up is learning how to read a label. Old wines have a little bit more information, and they’re a bit more specific, and you’ve got to know what grape variety comes from that region. With new world wines, the grape variety is always printed on the label, and you can watch a different tutorial on how to read the labels of old world and new world wines.
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