Tasting the differences in similar varieties of wine can be confusing enough – but what exactly are the differences between Old World and New World wines? We’re going to try and simplify this for you to help clear things up.
The oldest wine-producing countries in the world are France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Germany. Old World wines include those made there. New World wines essentially come from anywhere else, including the United States, Argentina, South Africa, Israel, Chile, Australia, and New Zealand.
But what exactly determines the differences in flavor and style between Old World and New World wines? In a nutshell – it’s all about terroir. Terroir defines how the geography, geology, and climate of a certain area affect the flavor profile and quality of a specific variety of grape. It’s widely believed that the vines absorb flavors from the soil and climate surrounding them, and are a major contributing factor in the overall finish of the wine.
So now you’ve got an idea of why the same varietals can taste different from one another, depending on where they grow – but what is the difference between Old World and New World?
Old World wines traditionally have a shorter growing season, with fruit being picked earlier. This leads to a higher acid content and greater minerality. You can also more readily taste the terroir, or ‘earth,’ in these wines. You might pick up notes of tobacco or leather in addition to slate or mineral-like flavors. Old World wines also are usually lower in alcohol content, which gives them a smoother, softer mouthfeel.
New World wines are not grown in the traditional European areas and have a longer growing season, with the grapes being left on the vine longer. This produces a higher sugar content, which translates to bigger and more pronounced fruit flavors, along with a higher alcohol content. Since these wines are not grown in the classic European regions, the winemakers have far greater freedom in experimenting with new techniques and new technology, which results in wines that can be very different from the same variety produced in the Old World style.
So go ahead – try some Old, try some New – you may just surprise yourself with the different flavor profiles you’ll experience!