It's easy for a newly minted wine lover to get a bit confused when it comes to terms like New World and Old World wine. Let's explore the qualities of New World vs. Old World wines and how they differ because there's more to it than meets the eye.
"Old World Wine" refers to those wines produced in countries where modern wine-making traditions first originated, mainly the European wine-producing regions. Some Old World Wine producing countries include France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Austria, Greece, Hungary, and Switzerland.
"New World Wine," on the other hand, refers to those countries that borrowed wine-making traditions from the origin countries to jumpstart their own. New wine producing countries include the U.S., New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Australia, and South Africa. Most of these countries began wine production during the colonization period by English settlers.
Old World wine-production is heavily restricted, with guidelines all wineries must follow. These regulations control the quality and type of grapes grown in certain regions, harvest methods, minimum alcohol content, and wine-making methods.
On the other hand, new wine producers don't have to stick to the same amount of rules. Instead, New World wine-making is more experimental and technologically-oriented.
Old World regions are generally cooler than regions in the New World. As a result, the grapes don't ripen as much, resulting in more light-bodied wines with high acidity and low alcohol content.
The warmer climates of New World wine regions tend to result in full-bodied and bold fruit-flavored wines that have higher alcohol content.
Old World wines are usually named after the wine-producing regions themselves. Some famous examples include Bordeaux from France, Rioja from Spain, and Chianti from Italy.
New World wines, however, are typically named after the main grape they're made from. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon is made from the grape variety of the same name. Likewise, Chardonnay is made from the most commonly used white wine grapes grown in California, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Chile.
Popular Old Wine regions in the world
Bordeaux, as a whole, is a name that has become synonymous with quality and history in the wine world. It is undoubtedly one of the most famous, if not the most famous Old World wine-producing regions on the planet. In 1787, Thomas Jefferson visited the Bordeaux vineyards and fell in love with its wine. He ended up contributing significantly to the rise in popularity and export of Bordeaux wines to the United States.
It's not every day that you hear about a wine region that's so beautiful it has been given a UNESCO World Heritage designation. The grapes in the Lavaux terraced vineyards are said to benefit from 'three suns' – the sun itself, the heat emitted by the walled terraces, and the light reflected off the nearby lake Leman. To taste wine from the Lavaux region, you'll have to travel to the area as it's not sold anywhere else.
Popular New Wine regions in the world
Napa and Sonoma Valley, U.S.
When you think about American wine, California stunning wineries and vineyards come into mind, with more than 90% of American wine production occurring on the West Coast. The most prominent wine regions in California are Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. California is also the home of E & J Gallo, the world's largest wine company, with more than 100 brands.
Cape Winelands, South Africa
South Africa's Stellenbosch and Franschhoek—also known as the Cape Winelands, are the most prominent wine regions in South Africa being home to hundreds of wineries. The fertile soil allows for a wide variety of wines to be available, including Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon and but Pinotage that is produced only in South Africa. The country has a rich history of wine production running over three centuries.
This is the icon of wine production in Chile known to produce some of the world's finest full-bodied red wines. It boasts roughly 50,000 acres of vineyards. Across Chile, independent winemakers are challenging traditional wine-making norms, from creating new blends and resurrecting old grapes to implementing dry and organic farming practices.
It's hard to make a clear-cut judgment on which world produces better wines; it's a matter of personal taste! Both Old and New World regions create truly unique wines – so try them both and choose your favorites.