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Old World vs New World Wines

While most people understand that the wine-making regions of the world are broadly split into two camps – Old World and New World, not everyone is au fait with what the differences actually are. It can be a confusing and contradictory subject to understand, but here I outline the main differences and compare the two styles.

One way to differentiate between the two is simply geographical. Old World wines are produced in Europe, while New World wines are produced everywhere else (including Australia, New Zealand, California, Argentina, Chile, South Africa.) In general, the climate in the Old World will be cooler than in the New World meaning than the wines produced in the Old World will usually be lighter bodied with higher acidity and lower alcohol. The flavours and aromas will often be herbaceous with a noticeable minerality and a less pronounced fruit flavours. In contrast, New World wines are likely to be much fuller bodied with higher alcohol levels and lower acidity. They are famed for their pronounced fruit flavours which can often be quite jammy. Of course, there are many exceptions to this, for example, Italy produces from very full-bodied and fruity wines despite being Old World and while Canada is a New World region, it is very much a cool climate.

Another noticeable difference between the two worlds is the labelling system that is used. In the Old World, wines will usually be labelled with just the region in which the wine is produced, and consumers will be expected to know what the grape variety is. Bordeaux, Chianti and Rioja are good examples of Old World wines that are labelled in this way. The consumer needs to know that wine from Bordeaux is most likely to be a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Italian Chianti is made mainly using the Sangiovese grape and Spanish Rioja will be made predominantly from the Tempranillo grape. New World winemakers make it all much less confusing for the consumer as they will usually clearly state on the label what grape the wine has been made from as well as the region in which it was produced.

Of course, many of the most common grape varieties are grown in numerous different regions across both the Old World and New World. Consider the white grape Sauvignon Blanc which originates in the Loire Valley in Northern France. Sauvignon Blanc is an aromatic grape with high acidity and pronounced herbaceous flavours such as green pepper and asparagus. Wines produced using Sauvignon Blanc in the Loire Valley which includes the famous appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly- Fumé, will exhibit these aromatic and herbaceous notes along with flavours and aromas of crisp green apples and grapefruit. New Zealand has recently become famous for its version of Sauvignon Blanc wine, but these wines and quite different to those produced in Loire and will display more tropical and stone fruit flavours such as peach and passion fruit.

Syrah is a black grape that originates in the Rhône Valley in France. A wine produced here will typically be medium bodied with flavours of fresh blackberries and black cherries. It will also display flavours and aromas of herbs and black pepper. In Australia, Syrah is known as Shiraz. Due to the warmer climate, Australian Shiraz wines will be much fuller bodied with flavours of cooked black fruits and liquorice.

While there are many differences to be noticed between Old World and New World wines, it is unfair to pit them against each other. Wine is a very personal choice and I urge you to try both in your journey towards discovering which style is for you.

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