“Old World” wine and “New World” wine are terms you may have heard on the wine-soaked lips of your friends. As simple as this distinction may appear at first, comprehending what it means when someone says a wine is Old World or New World can be very perplexing.

Old World wines bear the name of the region in which they were made. For example, Cahors, rather than Malbec, is the name of a wine made from the Malbec grape in the Cahors region of France.

New World wines, in contrast, are named after their grape variety. For example, in Mendoza, Argentina, a wine made from the Malbec grape is known as Malbec and not Mendoza.

Traditional wine names include Burgundy, Champagne, Sherry, Port, and Hock, all of which are well-known European areas.

New World Wine Labels

Easy to Understand New World Wine Labels

Wine labels that are easy to understand are important for a number of reasons. They make it easier for the consumer to choose a bottle of wine that will suit their taste and budget.

Old World wines typically only indicate regions and aging classifications on their labels and rarely include grape varieties. This is especially true of Appellation Controle wines in France.

Easy to Read

The label on a bottle of wine tells you what the wine is made from, who makes it and where it came from. It also conveys the style and quality of the wine, which will have an impact on your buying decision. Some labels are simple, while others contain a wealth of information. The type and style of label will depend on the wine’s country of origin.

The first thing to look at on a wine label is the place of production. This will be written in the largest type on the front label and should give you a good idea of where the wine comes from. Next is the grape variety. This is usually the second biggest identifier on the label and will let you know what the wine is made from. Some wines will list more than one grape on the label, but this can be confusing to consumers.

Another important piece of information to look for is the date of production. It is important to check both the front and back of the label for this. The date of production will help you decide whether the wine is currently drinkable or whether it is better if left to mature a bit longer.

Other important pieces of information to look for include the vintage and the name of the vineyard. These can make a big difference in the flavor of the wine. For example, a vintage that is generally known to be cold may produce fruit with too much acid resulting in a dry and boring wine. On the other hand, a vintage that is generally hot may produce fruit with too much sugar resulting in a sweet and overly-fruity wine.

The names of the vineyards that produced the grapes will be listed on a wine label if the majority of the grapes used to make the wine came from the specified vineyard. This is not always the case, though, as some producers put more importance on their brand than the region of the wine. The producer’s name will also be on the label, but this can sometimes be very small.

Easy to Understand

If you’re a wine lover, you know how confusing it can be to decipher wine labels. Wine-makers can vary from providing a mountain of information on the label to no information at all, and the laws governing the wines in each country are different. Some wine labels are cryptic, but many others are like the back covers of books, full of helpful information.

A New World wine label is generally more straightforward than an Old World wine label, as it tends to focus on identifying the grape varieties used and the region of production. The wine name will be prominently displayed on the front of the bottle, followed by a short description of the region where the grapes were grown. In addition, the winemaker may include an Appellation symbol, which indicates the legally protected area from which the grapes were harvested.

The back of the wine bottle will usually include additional information, including the grape varieties, winemaking methods, aging times, and government health warnings (if applicable). Some wine-makers may also add a Reserve or Gran Reserva designation to their bottle, which is often an indication that the wine was aged longer than required by regulations.

One thing to keep in mind with the New World is that some winemakers will identify the style of their wine rather than the specific grape varieties on the label. This can be true for wines from historic European regions such as Rioja, Burgundy or Chianti, where the blend of grapes is more important than the individual names. It is also common with some New World wines, such as those from California, Australia or South Africa, to have a vintage date and an alcohol percentage on the label.

Another thing to look out for on a New World wine label is the mention of “old vines” or “veille vieilles.” This refers to the fact that the grapes were grown on older vines, which normally produce less fruit and are able to concentrate more flavor. These wines are generally considered to be of higher quality. This is a very common practice with Old World wines, as well.

Easy to Find

While many wine enthusiasts may have a slight snobbery about New World wines, they are still a popular and growing segment of the industry. New World wines are wines from countries like the United States, Australia, Chile and South Africa. The labels on these wines are typically easy to read and require little pre-knowledge. Generally, the information you need to know is the who (producer), the where (country or region) and the what (grape variety). If the wine has a vintage, then you will also need to know that as well.

If you are unsure about how to read a wine label, the first thing you should do is look for the date on the back of the bottle. Most New World wines will list the year the grapes were harvested on the back of the bottle. If you do not see a date on the back of the bottle, then check the bottom of the bottle for a sticker with the date on it.

After you have identified the year of production on the back of the wine bottle, then look for the region. The region on a wine label will usually tell you where the grapes were grown and how the wine was made. For example, if a wine is labeled as being a Rhone-style red blend, then it will tell you that it is a combination of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre, which are the only grapes permitted to be planted in France’s Rhone Valley.

Next, you will need to determine if the wine is Old World or New World. Old World wines typically only include the wine region on their bottles and may not always indicate what grape varieties are used. New World wines, on the other hand, will usually include the name of the grape and sometimes even compare the wine to iconic European regions. For example, a Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast will often be compared to Burgundy.

Once you have all of this information on the wine bottle, you should be able to find the wine that meets your needs and wow your friends at your next dinner party. With a little practice, you will be able to decipher even the most complicated wine labels.

Easy to Buy

Wine labels can be confusing, but they don’t have to be. There are some basic rules that, if you know them, can help you decipher wine label information like a pro. The first thing to figure out is whether you’re looking at an Old World or New World wine bottle. Old World wines will typically only indicate the region and aging classifications on the label, whereas New World wines will usually include the grape varieties used as well.

The next step is to identify the vineyard or area where the grapes came from. This will be written on the label in the largest type, and often at the top of the bottle. If the wine is vintage or non-vintage, that will be clearly stated as well. Finally, the level of alcohol will be noted neatly at the bottom of the label.

In addition to identifying the grape varieties and regions, New World wine labels also tend to note the brand as well. This is important for people who are buying in bulk or looking for a particular style of wine. Many of these wines will be blends, but the brand name will usually be a prominent feature on the bottle.

Lastly, New World wines will sometimes include terms such as “Reserve,” “Special,” or “Selection.” These are not necessarily indicative of quality, but they may indicate that the wine has been aged longer than the normal minimum required by the region.

Knowing how to read a wine label can be a lot of fun. Once you get a feel for it, you can start to find the types of wine that you enjoy and even learn a little bit about how the wine is made along the way. So take some time to learn the ropes, and soon you’ll be pouring a glass of wine as easily as you pick up an apple.

Also read:

Want to read more? Try these books!

The Wine Bible, 3rd Edition The Art and Design of Contemporary Wine Labels

  1. “How to Read the Label |.” n.d. Accessed August 16, 2022.
  2. Thacker, Kyle. 2015. Review of French Connection: A Short Guide on French Wine Regions and Their Grapes. Uncorked. October 15, 2015.‌‌

Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesTags: , , By Published On: October 28, 2022Last Updated: February 26, 2024

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