New World vs. Old World Wine: The Real Differences

For the novice wine aficionado, words like “New World” and “Old World” might be a little confusing. Is there a distinction to be made here? How does wine vary from one “world” to the next? What is “Old World” wine, and how does one define it?

The primary difference lies in where current winemaking practices got their start. However, concepts like “Old World” and “New World” also allude to differences in aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel.


The most fundamental distinction between Old World and New World wines is their geographical origin: “Old World” alludes to the classic wine-growing areas of Europe where wine first originated as a beverage, whilst “New World” refers to the rest of the world.

However, the characteristics of Old and New World wines also differ in their style. For instance, the generally warmer climate of New World wine areas means wines produced there tend to be riper, more alcoholic, full-bodied, and more focused on fruit.

These wines also tend to be created with a greater emphasis on extraction and aging in oak barrels. Wines from the Old World, in contrast, are often lighter in body, with more herb, earth, mineral, and floral notes. So, if you hear the terms Old and New World, that is how the phrases are often used, even if they can be broad generalizations.


“Old World” and “New World” have taken on new meanings among today’s wine-drinking population and have sparked disputes concerning tradition vs. modernity. Tradition and history are associated with the “Old World,” whereas the “New World” conjures up images of technology, science, companies, and commercialization.

Old World Wine

Conditum paradoxum – Ancient red wine from Apicius by Carole Raddato

Old World wine regions are defined by where winemaking practices were initially introduced and from where they spread around the world. This includes nations that have exported wine, grapes, and winemakers.

France and Italy are examples of countries that fit the bill. Here are a few instances of the global impact that these nations have had and, consequently, why they are considered “Old World”:
France – To study wine is to study France, whatever your feelings about the country’s wine. This is where grapes like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay have had their start. For hundreds of years, France’s best blends (Bordeaux and Champagne, for example) have defined what constitutes a balanced wine. And winemakers across the globe have been influenced by French winemaking practices.

Portugal – Portugal’s fortified Madeira was a huge hit with the first Congress of the United States. Jefferson, the man who has been dubbed “America’s first winemaker,” was deeply influenced by this trend.

Italy – California, a new international hotspot, has benefited much from Italian winemaking’s global reach. Italians were among the state’s first European settlers, and their influence can still be felt throughout the state’s wine-making practices today.

Germany – While Riesling isn’t the only grape grown in Germany, its popularity has spread all over the globe. Today, Riesling is grown all over the world, from South Africa to the Finger Lakes region of New York State.
Spain – Spain boasts a vast variety of indigenous grapes. As a result, the Spanish developed distinctive approaches to a wide range of wine varieties, from red blends to sparkling.

New World Wine

The term “New World” refers to those nations and winemakers who adapted their traditions from other countries to build their own successful winemaking businesses. In most cases, colonization also played an important role. Because many of the first colonists were Europeans, they brought their own set of preconceived notions with them. Whether it was due to chance or ingenuity, these people were able to discard many of their old practices and replace them with innovative ones. New World wine was created!


The New World includes all of the continents of the Western Hemisphere as well as Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. Take a closer look at how these nations have established themselves differently from their peers.
North America – the state of California comes to mind right away. California’s wine sector demonstrated its European-level competitiveness during the infamous Paris Judgment. And ever since, the rest of the New World has basked in the recognition they deserve. Everything from the luscious fruit-forward wines of the Pacific Northwest to Canada’s Ice Wine has earned its fair share of attention from around the world.
South America – Argentina, Chile, and other South American wine regions are well-known for their adaptations of French grape varieties. Argentina’s version of Malbec and Chile’s version of Carménère are among the most popular. It is difficult to compare these wines to their European equivalents as they’re so distinct.

Australia – Australia’s wine business is a monument to the tenacity of European settlers in an environment that could not be farther from European. Today’s typical consumer may not be familiar with the varietal characteristics of Syrah, but you can guarantee they’ve got an Australian Shiraz on tap!

New Zealand – The fight between French and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is perhaps the finest illustration of a grape’s metamorphosis dependent on its terror. Winemakers in New Zealand know how to take a dry French white and turn it into a tropical fruit fiesta using only what the climate and winemaking techniques give them.
South Africa – When it comes to “New World” wine, South African wine is the oldest, having been cultivated in the 1600s. However, its mix of European influence and progressive transition places it in the New World group. It’s also worth noting that most non-South African wine consumers were not familiar with South African wine until the 1980s.


China – In comparison to the other countries on this list, China’s history with fermentation and culture is very recent. With their latest alterations, they’ve mostly followed the “French Model .”
In general, New World wines are a mix of imitation and innovation. Compared to Old World wines, these often come with much less structure.

Ancient World Wine

To claim that the origins of wine can be traced back to Old World areas would be an error. Unfortunately, the dispute over Old World vs. New World wine sometimes means that the pioneers of winemaking are forgotten. Vitis vinifera is said to have its ancestry in Eastern Europe. Ancient varietals are being revived, and winemaking practices from the past and present are used in the region’s winemaking.

Armenia, Turkey, Georgia, Lebanon, Iran, Israel, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, and Greece can all be included in the “Ancient World” category. Although these nations aren’t the most well-regarded for their wines in the present day, their winemaking traditions are undeniable. As a result, the blend of current winemaking processes and pre-modern activities makes Ancient World winemaking practices so intriguing.

Difference between Old & New World

Wine styles, manufacturing processes, flavors, smells, and the overall character are so vastly different across nations that it’s impossible to say that there are substantial distinctions between the Careener Old and New World. But if we’re looking for a way to distinguish between the two worlds, we might look at their wines’ characters.

For the most part, Old World wines are lighter in the body than their New World counterparts. New World wine areas generally are hotter, drier, and have more fertile soils. Fruity flavors and a richer texture are often the result of combining these two characteristics. In addition, the New World tends to place less emphasis on complexity, nuance, and age-worthiness, and blended wines are less prevalent.

However, the fundamental distinction we can make with some certainty has to do with the winemaking process and the mindset and approach adopted by the vintners. There’s no evading the truth that many European wine regions are managed and monitored by a restrictive system of rules and regulations.

When it comes to winemaking, these restrictions determine everything from what grape varieties may be cultivated in specific appellations to how long winemakers must age their products before they can be released.
To maintain high standards and quality, wines from some regions cannot carry the name of where they were produced since they fail to fulfill the requirements set out.

There is a great deal of disagreement concerning these rules: there is no solid evidence to show that they definitely lead to higher-quality wines, and many winemakers believe that they constrain their ability to be creative or follow their instincts to produce the greatest wines that their land is capable of producing.

Unlike the Old World, however, the New World is characterized by its will to succeed. These wine regions and their vintners flourished because of the pioneering spirit when they first moved into the area.

Immigrants have a strong sense of independence when it comes to making their own rules, finding their fortunes, and ignoring anybody who attempts to tell them otherwise. Are the wines produced by this method usually of the highest quality? Not always, however, it has enabled certain areas to develop their own identities and learn for themselves what works best and which wines are most suited to their region.

As a result, the New World is always on the lookout for and fast to embrace new ideas and technology. This means it generally grows and changes considerably more quickly and in more intriguing ways.

French Wine vs. Italian Wine: The Epic Showdown of Wines

This Day in Wine History

Old World Wine

12,000 years ago – Archaeological evidence suggests that the Celts were the first to produce the grapevine, Vitis vinifera, in Gaul. Some 12,000-year-old grape pips have been discovered in France, dating back to a time before the Greeks and Romans. Greek settlers from Phocaea in Asia Minor founded Massalia around the 6th century BC as a crucial turning point in Gaul’s wine history.

1305 – Avignon became the new papal residence after Pope Clement V’s election in 1305. Wines from the Rhone and Burgundy regions gained prominence during this period because Avignonese popes took a liking to them. Pope Urban V was told by Petrarch that the greatest Burgundy wines could not be found south of the Alps when he wrote to him, appealing for his return to Rome.

17th Century – The English developed a new kind of wine on the Douro Valley’s steep slopes in the 17th century.

1963 – An official method for classifying wine in Italy was put into place. Since then, the Act has undergone several changes and amendments, including a substantial revision in 1992. Four fundamental categories were developed in 2010 under the most recent European Union wine standards.

1960 to 1970 – The image of German wine was tarnished, thanks to the export of vast amounts of sweet blended wines like Liebfraumilch and Blue Nun. Sweet, bland wines have come to be associated with German wine, even though the vast majority of Germans have never heard of either of these two brands, which continue to be made and consumed in their homeland.

Today – Wines like Vinho Verde are helping to make Portugal a household name outside of Port and Madeira.
New World Wine

1553 – Demand for wine in South America increased dramatically due to the mining activities in Potosi, according to Pedro Cieza de León’s work in 1553.

1687 – The 1687 Peru earthquake devastated the towns of Villa de Pisco and Ica on the southern coast of Peru, causing widespread devastation. Toxic mud pots used to store wines were damaged in the earthquake. Following this, the Peruvian wine boom came to an end.

1822 – Gregory Blaxland became Australia’s first wine exporter and first international prize winner.

1830 – The Hunter Valley began to see the planting of grapes.

1833 – James Busby returned from France and Spain with a substantial collection of grape types, including several of the most well-known French grapes as well as several fortified grapes.

1927 – Early efforts to cultivate Vitis vinifera in Canada failed, resulting in a substantial export business centered on Vitis labrusca and Vitis Riparia, fortified to mask the ‘foxy’ odors. It wasn’t until 1927 that the government implemented its form of Prohibition.

1980 – Various grapes were experimented with in the early years, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that New Zealand produced its Sauvignon Blanc, which has become the country’s hallmark. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the Burgundy grapes, have been successfully produced in cooler, more southerly vineyards ever since and have achieved tremendous success in the process.

2000 – Australia sold more wine to the United Kingdom than France, thanks in large part to Penfolds Grange and other leading brands in the table wine sector.

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Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesTags: By Published On: October 22, 2022Last Updated: February 29, 2024

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