Old World vs New World Wines

Old World vs New World Wines

Old World vs. New World Wines

When we discuss Old World vs New World wines, it’s all about location, right? Well, it’s definitely not that simple; but let’s start there.


Winemaking has an impressively long history. The oldest known winery is in Armenia and dates to 4100 BC. That’s 6000 years of making wine!

To keep the history lesson short: Old World wine comes from countries that have native winemaking traditions, like Germany, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain; these regions across Europe and the Middle East are the “birthplaces” of wine. These areas grew their wine making traditions around the time when the early Romans set out to conquer Europe. These wine making traditions are full of rules and regulations that give these wines their distinctive qualities (i.e. All Champagnes are sparkling, yet a sparkling can only be called Champagne if it was grown in the Champagne region of France).

New World wines come from everywhere else. I generally remember the distinction based on which countries were the colonizers (aka Europe and the Middle East) and which countries were the colonized, like the United States, South America, South Africa, and Australia.


This is where Old World vs. New World gets really interesting. In today’s wine world, where the vines are planted seems to be increasing less important than how the wine itself is made. Michelle Williams from the Rockin’ Red blog sums it up nicely, “New world style wines tend to be more fruit forward, juicy, and often described as 'delicious;' whereas old world styles tend to be more earthy, complex, and thought provoking. I do feel understanding these two styles is important for consumers because it provides insight to their palate and preference; however, rules of style are not absolute, and there is a time and place for both styles.”

To generalize, Old World wines are usually lighter in body, lower in alcohol, and more delicate in their aromas and flavors. Red wines are generally filled with tart dark fruits, notes of vegetation, herbs, and flowers. White wines have notes of citrus, florals, herbs, and excellent minerality.

New world wines usually have a fuller body, more alcohol content, and bolder, more aggressive flavors. Red wines tend to show bold red and black fruit flavors, strong tannins, and high alcohol (think a rich Cabernet from Napa). White wines usually have stronger flavors of tropical fruits. California Chardonnays are known for their rich, full-bodied style that results from oak aging while South African Chardonnays are crisp with no oak or buttery mouth feel due to being aged in stainless steel barrels (my absolute personal favorite).

Many of these differences are due to geography and growing regions. France, Spain, and Italy tend to have more temperate climates than hotter California and Australia. The cooler climate produces grapes that ripen more slowly and have more delicate flavors and lower alcohol. The opposite tends to happen to grapes grown in warmer climates.

Winemaking style also contributes to these differences and varies by producer and region. Choices like how long to age wine, the type of barrel used, and the blend of grapes are all made by the winemaker.

Of course, geography will always play a role in how a wine tastes, but as terroirs (growing regions) evolve and change and winemakers experiment with new methods and technology, Old vs New may become increasingly difficult to tell apart. Splash Wines “Old World vs New World” case is the perfect place to start when exploring the differences. Can you tell the difference in a blind taste test? Get your case HERE and find out.


Bailey Imeson, Splash Wines Marketing and Graphics

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