Vino 101: Old World vs. New World Wines

Feliz Friday, chicas y chicos! The weekend is here, and it’s time for a whirlwind tour of the “Old World” and “New World” of wine. Yes, right now. It’ll only take five minutes. Fasten your seat belts, make sure your tray tables are locked and your seat is in the upright position, ¡y vámonos!

Old World wines come from Europe and the Mediterranean.
Old World wines come from Europe and the Mediterranean.

Simply stated, Old World refers to a wine from southern or central Europe (France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria and other Mediterranean regions). The New World covers wines made in North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa.

You’re probably wondering why this matters, right? The short answer is that an Old World Chardonnay (made in France, for example) is going to taste a lot different from a New World Chardonnay made in California. Here’s why:

1. Winemaking

Old World winemaking relies on traditions that have been around for centuries, while New World winemakers tend to use modern science and technology, giving them a little more control over how the wine will taste.

2. Terroir

Think of terroir as the environmental factors (climate, soil, rainfall) that give a wine some of its characteristics. For instance, grapes grown in hot climates ripen more easily and have a higher sugar content, so those wines will have more alcohol (remember that sugar is needed for fermentation, the magical process that turns grape juice into wine). Wine made from grapes grown in cooler regions tends to have less alcohol and will be more acidic.

The soil where vineyards are planted is an almost literal example of terroir.
The soil where vineyards are planted is an almost literal example of terroir.

Okay, got all that? If not, all you need to remember is this:

Old World wines generally…

– Are higher in acidity

-Taste more “minerally”

-Have fewer fruity aromas or flavors

-Tend to age better

New World wines generally…

-Taste more fruity

– Have less acidity

-Are higher in alcohol (because the grapes have more sugar)

– Tend to be less diverse (“international” grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Merlot and others are used more in New World winemaking than lesser-known grapes like Müller-Thurgau, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo and Cinsault)

How can you tell which style you like best? If you’re a fan of black cherry flavors in your Cabernet Sauvignon, go for a New World option from California, Chile or Australia. If you like your Cab with a touch less alcohol and a little more acidity, an Old World wine from France’s Bordeaux region is a fine choice.

We’re going to hit a little turbulence now, so hold on to your wine glasses. The lines between the Old and New Worlds are beginning to shift as younger winemakers in Europe experiment with New World techniques. My philosophy: Explore both worlds and let your tastebuds be your guide.

Salud, and thank you for flying Señorita Vino!

4 thoughts on “Vino 101: Old World vs. New World Wines

  1. Senor Ernesto, Como Esta!
    What do you recommend as a fruity dessert wine- not dry with a hint of cherry?

    1. Hola Kathy! Thanks for your question, and I’m glad Ernesto’s guest post keeps you coming back for more Señorita Vino. I suggest a sweet sparkler from Italy’s Piedmont region called Brachetto. This yummy dessert wine is a gorgeous pale red in color with hints of wild strawberries and red fruit. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think. I recommend the NV Rivata Brachetto. ¡Salud!

  2. Great post as always! I guess Old World wines are my kind of wines.

    1. Gracias, Natalia! I’m glad to hear you’ve found your favorite style. ¡Salud!

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