New World vs. Old World Wines

In the world of music, some critics, magazines and websites try to educate and inform their readers by using verbiage such as this: “If you like So-and-So, you might also like Such-and-Such.”

It’s actually a “play” on a marketing ploy that has been used by businesses in innumerable industries for years. Think about what happens when you add something to your “cart” on a website such as Amazon. The next thing you’ll see on your screen is a message noting, “Other customers who purchased this item also purchased…”

And so it is in the world of wine, with comparisons made among types of wine (white, red, sparkling, fortified)… among styles of wine (dry, off-dry, sweet) and, perhaps most commonly, among winegrowing areas.

While we may compare and contrast the wines of specific countries, the “big picture” comparisons involve “Old World” wines versus “New World” wines.

By “Old World,” we’re referring primarily to the wines of Europe. The “New World” is much larger, encompassing the United States, Australia, New Zealand and South America.

Are there noticeable, definable differences between Old World wines and New World wines? As long as we’re willing to speak in generalities, the answer is yes.

Here are a few general observations based upon close to 30 years of wine drinking and judging…

  • Old World wines tend to be “wines of a place.” They offer a taste of a specific place in a specific year. New World wines are more about “style”—achieving, through the use of various procedures and techniques in the cellar, the aroma, flavor and texture preferences of the winemaker.
  • New World wines are “cleaner.” Old World wines sometimes can be kind of funky. Why this difference? Because the New World is further along in terms of embracing technology and focusing on hygiene.
  • Old World wines have long been considered to be an important part of a meal, whereas New World wines are thought of more as beverages. That’s why Old World wines tend to be lower in alcohol and higher in acid—both food-friendly traits.

Once you know what characteristics in wine you particularly enjoy, it would not be unusual for you to begin gravitating toward either Old World or New World bottlings.

A word of caution, however: There are wonderful wines being made in both “worlds,” which means an open mind will be rewarded with many memorable wine-drinking experiences.

Do you prefer Old World wines over New World bottlings—or vice versa? Share your thoughts in the Comments box below.

Posted in Editor's Journal
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