New World vs Old World - Defining the Difference

You might’ve read us referencing wines as “Old World” or “New World” - But what do these terms really mean?  The answer is not exactly a short one, but knowing the key differences can help you more easily understand diverse wine styles and better articulate what you enjoy drinking.

In wine terms, the ‘Old World’ includes the winemaking regions found in Europe, The Middle East, and North Africa. The ‘New World’ encompasses the winemaking regions found in the rest of the world - namely, the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa as well as newer regions to winemaking such as China, Japan, Thailand, etc…

But the difference is far more than geographical - Old/New World referrs to winemaking styles and flavour profiles that are prevalent in these respective parts of the world. Old World wines tend to be lower in alcohol, lighter in body, with brighter acidity and less overt oak. Old World wines also often have herbaceous, mineral, or earthy notes. New World wines tend to be bigger, bolder, with more spice from oak and more powerful fruit notes. Why the difference? Technology is a big reason, with the new world quickly adopting modern winemaking techniques and equipment that help to preserve and highlight the fruit character of a wine. Terroir is also a big reason - traditionally, ‘Old World’ wine regions are cooler, and struggle to achieve ripeness, whereas the ‘New World’, being warmer, has the reverse issue of over-ripeness.

Keep in mind though, that this is a big generalisation, and far from a hard and fast rule. With climate change warming the planet, Old World wines are quickly becoming riper and richer in style. Also, the prevalence of traveling winemakers sharing ideas across the globe means styles are shifting and there are plenty of new world wines made in an old world style.

]Machine harvesters are an invention from the new world that are now widely used across the globe.

At Yatbui, we stock wines from across the world, but are certainly ‘New World’ oriented, as these wines are hugely underrepresented in Hong Kong. But we also love ‘Old World’ style, and many of our wines from the USA and Australia are made in this style - see below for a couple of wines to help you explore:

Out-and-Out New World

2019 Charlotte Dalton ‘Aerkeengel’ Semillon

Semillon has really only found its feet as a single-variety table wine in Australia, where it is most famously grown in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales, but some great examples are being consistently produced in South Australia. ‘Aerkeengel’ from Charlotte Dalton is a perfect example - barrel-fermented and aged, this has lashings of tart, bright fruit, and a rich, creamy texture from the wood. Like a love-child of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay

2018 Maison Noir ‘In Sheep’s Clothing’ Cabernet

From the enigma Andre Mack, this is bright, fresh and punchy Cabernet. Although not super full-bodied, or high in alcohol, this wines core of intense, ripe raspberries and blackcurrants is what ‘New World’ wine is all about

New World, but Old World touch

2019 Owen Roe ‘Ex Umbris’ Syrah

Give us this blind and you’d have to guess Rhone Valley. Lots of dark, black fruits, black olive, leather, spice. Aged in oak barrels but the wood is subtle on the palate. Just an outstanding wine for the price, really.

2019 Hither & Yon Nero d’Avola

Nero d’Avola calls Sicily home, but has shown enormous potential in Australia. Hither & Yon have been leading the way producing outstanding wines from alternative varieties such as this, which manage to capture the essence of the grape, even on a completely different continent. Expect black cherries, red plums, dried rosemary (a classic Nero d’Avola note), and finely grained tannin structure that holds it all together. 

So with all this ambiguity, why bother talking about Old vs New at all? Well, even though styles are changing, Old World and New World are still one of the simplest ways to define a style, which in turn helps expand your horizons as a drinker, and allows you to discover more regions and styles of wine. So while it is another piece of wine jargon, it can be a useful entry point when ordering wine at a shop, or restaurant - allowing the staff to better understand what it is you like to drink and to point you in the right direction for something new.

Words by Brett Goss


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