With Wine, What’s Old Is New Again – and Vice Versa

by Gary Twining


old_newworldWhen discussing wine style and philosophical approach, the terms Old World or New World are often used.


“Old World” encompasses Europe, specifically France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, Portugal and Greece. “New World” includes North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.


The fruit for many Old World releases is grown in cooler climates, offering higher acidity, lower fruit ripeness and more elegance, demanding more bottle age and time in the glass to show their best attributes. The New World is known for always reaching high ripeness, yet has numerous cool climate regions, including Oregon, Sonoma, Lake Erie and Australia’s Yarra Valley.


With centuries of tradition and experience the Old World has discovered the best places to plant, quality pruning techniques and extraction of the best vineyard potential. The New World has used the knowledge acquired through time by the Old World and tweaked it to vineyards that usually have more soil vigor, water and heat. Envision California wines with five hundred years more experience.

Legal restrictions also impact the Old World significantly, establishing specific grape varieties, maximum yields, aging time, and more. Regulations help set style and flavor for the region, and aim for maximum quality. The New World, on the other hand, determines its style based on consumer demand, though we also see that starting to happen in the less restrictive south of France.


The use of technology for consistency and commercial availability is one of the most divisive arguments between regions. Winemaking is a basic technique. The New World focuses on production technology. We’ve seen some Old World producers and regions use technology to improve their products, such as Bordeaux’s grape must concentration in rainy vintages and modern hygiene and new barrel aging from “flying” Aussie winemakers – those who make wine in both hemispheres – that greatly improved the whites of the Pessac-Leognan region. At the same time, a number of New World producers are using gravity flow, foot treading, basket presses and other traditional winemaking techniques to improve their wines.


Distinctions between Old and New World will become more evasive with time as winemakers trade ideas in a global setting. Perhaps the most important point is not to avoid the more obscure classic wines, as they have endured for centuries.

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