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New World vs. New World; conflict or complement?

Posted By Rick's Grape Skinny, Monday, July 3, 2017
Updated: Monday, June 19, 2017



In a nutshell, the fundamental difference between Old World and New World wines is one of geography. Old World wines hail from Europe – France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal principally, while New World wines are those that quite literally come from anywhere and everywhere else. That said however, when one is speaking of New World wines, they’re typically talking about wines from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa.



                  Is That All There Is?

 No, that’s not all there is…not by a long shot! First and foremost, there is the incredibly rich and intriguing history that is associated with Old World wines, and it’s a history that is actually related to what we know as Old World wine today. As a brief for instance, consider the Fall of the Roman Empire. What on earth could that have to do with Old World wine? Well, as wine-centric as the Roman Empire might have been…when the empire collapsed, the industry of growing grapes and making wine went with it. As fields became fallow, a comparatively few varietals survived centuries of agrarian neglect, and as winemaking resumed, these “survivors” became some of the principal grapes that then and now defined Old World wines. Similar examples abound.

Terroir versus Technique

As an extension of the Roman Empire theme, where certain grapes were discovered to be more durable and suitable than others for certain areas, suffice it to say that thousands of years of growing grapes and making wines throughout Europe cultivated a masterful, even scientific, understanding of which grapes grew best in certain regions and in specific kinds of soil and environmental conditions, etc.. As a result, Old World wines are by and large associated with and defined by the location and terroir in which the grapes are grown. Terroir is not just about soil. Rather, it’s a widely used viticultural term that encompasses soil chemistry and composition, micro- climates, temperature, light, elevation, precipitation, and other factors that might serve to distinguish the nature and make-up of where and how grapes are grown and the wine made. To a significant degree, Old World wines are more about reflecting and expressing the terroir…and less about the grape. By way of contrast, and while confessing there’s a lot more to the story, New World wines are far and away more about the grape than they are the terroir. To my way of thinking – fruity rich tastes, the structure and complexity of flavors associated with particular varietals and winemaking styles and techniques are more the objectives of New World winemakers – and almost to the virtual exclusion of terroir as an element of the final tastes and flavors. New World wines are more “formulated and crafted” if you will, where perfectly ripened fruit, fermentation techniques, high alcohol content, natural additives, creative blending, and intense oak aging play integral roles in defining the finished wine. It’s got to be flavor-packed!

 Is There a Difference in Taste?

I could summarize my answer succinctly by saying Old World wines are more subtle and earthy…and New World wines are more rich and fruity…but most would understandably ask, “What the heck does that really mean?” So, the best way to put your curiosity to rest is to taste Old World and New World wines -- each made from the same grape – side by side. Here are a few Old World versus New World suggestions:


Rhone Red (Syrah)


White Meritage/French Sancerre 


French Red Burgundy


FR White Burgundy


 Italian Chianti


Spanish Monastrell



 Australian Shiraz Bordeaux Red Blend 


NZ Sauvignon Blanc


Oregon or California Pinot Noir 


Californian or Chilean Chardonnay 


California Sangiovese


California Mourvêdre






Tags:  New World  Old World  wine tasting 

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