The world of wine is divided into two groups: the new world and the old world. The old world refers to countries where wine has been made for thousands of years, starting in ancient times. This includes all of the European wine producing countries like France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and parts of Eastern Europe. The new world refers to countries where winemaking is relatively new compared to the old world, although in most cases this still means hundred of years old. The new world consists of the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Thus, all New World plantings and dates emerged during or from the age of Colonialism and exploration as European nations traveled outward.
New World vs Old World Wine
In general the wine world assigns certain stylistic traits to both the old and new world.
The old world is known for having a slightly cooler climate compared to the new world. Therefore, the grapes don’t ripen quite as much, producing wines that are lower in alcohol, higher in acid, and lighter bodied than the new world. They also tend to have less fruit aromas and flavors and more earthy, mineral notes.
The new world is generally considered to have a slightly warmer climate, meaning the grapes get slightly riper, which leads to wines with higher alcohol levels, lower acid, fuller bodies, and more fruit flavors and aromas. It’s important to note that these descriptions are very general, and there are many regions and wines that are exceptions.
Another big difference between the new and old world is the amount of tradition and innovation in each. The old world has a long history with wine and has developed many traditions around wine and winemaking. For instance many regions in the old world are only allowed to plant certain wine varietals or use certain winemaking techniques.
The new world’s wine history is much shorter and therefore lacking many of these kinds of traditions to follow. This allows the new world a little bit more freedom to innovate and experiment with their wine. Although similar to the stylistic traits, this is a generalization and there are exceptions in both the old and new world.
New World Growth
The old world dominated much of the world’s wine industry in the 20th century. But as the 21st century progresses, the new world’s wine industries have grown, matured, and have begun to create more competition for the old world.
In 2020 Italy, France, and Spain were the top three largest producers of wine. But the next five largest wine producing countries were all located in the new world. Starting with the top producer, they were the United States, Argentina, Australia, South Africa, and Chile. All together these five countries were responsible for producing 25% of the world’s total wine.
It’s an exciting time for the new world wine regions. Their wine industries have continued to grow as they continue to evolve and produce higher quality wines. Considering how long wine has been made in some of these regions, it’s amazing the progress that has been made in such a small amount of time. Below is a new world planting and dates timeline featuring major dates in the history of the new world wine regions, including when winemaking grapevines were first introduced into the country. Also check out this interactive map showing which old world countries were the first to introduce wine into each of new world countries.