Old World vs New World Wines

Old World vs New World Wines

What Is ‘Old World’ Wine?

We can credit the Romans for a lot – aqueducts, paved roads, Russell Crowe’s speech in Gladiator. However, their most significant addition to the modern world is viticulture. Everywhere the Romans went, they planted vines. And France, Italy, Spain, and the rest of Europe have been making wine ever since. These areas are known as the “Old World.”

The Old World is rooted in tradition, with wine having been made on the same land in the same style for generations. That style tends to favor acidity and earthiness over bold fruit and high alcohol. Any discussion about “textbook” examples of most wines will inevitably lead back to the Old World– pinot noir to Burgundy, riesling to Germany, sparkling wine to Champagne, and so on. The Old World is the standard bearer.

What Is ‘New World’ Wine?

Everywhere else - a.k.a. “not Europe'' - is known as the “New World.” These regions, most notably the USA, tend to produce fuller-bodied, higher alcohol wines with lots of ripe fruit flavors. While New World regions and producers may not have the same history as their Old World counterparts, they also aren’t constrained by tradition. If they want to make ribolla gialla in Napa or chardonnay in Patagonia, there are no laws or disapproving ancestors standing in their way.

4 Old World Wines & their New World Counterparts

Old World: Maison de Montille, Bourgogne Rouge 2019

New World: Day Wines, Pinot Noir 'Johan Vineyard' 2018

The Similarities:

Comparing other pinot noir to Burgundy is like comparing other HBO shows to The Sopranos - you treat it as a benchmark rather than a contest. With that said, the Willamette Valley is as close as it gets. This cool part of Oregon shares a similar latitude to Burgundy, and produces earthy, savory pinot noir. That’s especially true of the Willamette’s windiest, latest-ripening areas, like where Brianna Day makes wine at Johan Vineyard.

The Differences:

There are some geographic and geological differences - the Pacific’s influence on the Willamette, and the limestone soils in Burgundy - and then there are the less clear-cut ones, like Burgundy’s mythical vineyards, generational producers, and established reputation for world-class wines.

Old World: Comando G, Garnacha 'Bruja de Rozas' 2020

New World: Jolie-Laide, Grenache ‘Provisor Vineyard’ 2019

The Similarities:

Both producers make grenache, and both do so using organic, painstaking practices in the vineyard and winery. Their wines are big enough to stand up to steak, yet still bright and juicy enough to be served lightly chilled. Like a bunch of our favorite American producers, Jolie-Laide turns the New World stereotype on its head, opting for spicy and floral flavors rather than oaky and jammy ones.

The Differences:

Madrid and Sonoma aren’t exactly neighbors. Comando G grows its grapes on rugged Spanish mountaintops, while Jolie-Laide harvests theirs near the coast in northern California. The result, however, is the same, with cool climates leading to fresh wines.

Old World: Château Pradeaux, Bandol Rosé 2021

New World: Buona Notte, Rosé 'Rosa' 2020

The Similarities:

Each of these bottles take red grapes known for hearty reds - mourvèdre and grenache in the case of the Padeaux, and sangiovese in the case of the Buona Notte - and turn them into bright, crisp rosé by steeping the powerful, pigmented skins in the pressed juice for just a short while. Each of these rose’s is refreshing thanks to the vines’ proximity to water and breeze - the Bandol comes just off the Mediterranean, while Oregon’s Hood River Valley acts as a wind tunnel, cooling Buona Notte’s vines each day and night.

The Differences:

First, there’s the history: Château Pradeaux has been owned by the Portalis family for longer than the US has been a country, and Jean-Marie-Etienne Portalis helped draft the Napoleonic Code. Buona Notte is only a few years old and far less bound by tradition. In terms of what’s in the glass, the Pradeaux is is a perfect Provençal pink and well-suited to salads and seafood; the Buona Notte, thanks to a tiny splash of proper red sangiovese, is a couple shades darker and flavorful enough to stand up to grilled chicken and margherita pizza.

Old World: Pierre Morey, Bourgogne Blanc 2019

New World: Mayacamas, 'Mt. Veeder' Chardonnay 2017

The Similarities:

Both of these 100% chardonnay wines come from legendary producers. Unlike a lot of California chardonnay, this one from Mayacamas isn’t buttery. Limited oak, no malo, and high elevation vineyard sites in Napa lead to a wine that, like great white Burgundy, has citrus and earthy flavors to balance the richness.

The Differences:

It’s not the most exciting topic in the world, but soil is important again here. Burgundy is famous for its limestone, while Napa is a mishmosh, containing one-third of all soil types on earth. Burgundy thus tends to have more chalky, earthy flavors and refreshing acidity.

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