Old World and New World wines, what makes them different?

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Old World and New World wines, what makes them different? The difference between Old World and New World, by definition, is fairly simple. Old World wine-producing countries are the regions where the Vitis Vinifera grape vines originated. The New World wine-producing countries are those which imported the Vitis vinifera grape vines following the Exploration Era. While this is relatively easy to understand, wines made in the Old World vs. the New World can be complex.

The Old World Wine-Producing Countries

The Old World includes the following wine-producing countries:

These are the traditional countries which fall under the category of Old World, however, there are lesser-known countries in the Old World which have also been making wine much longer than those just listed, like Armenia, Georgia, Israel, Turkey, Moldova, Romania, Lebanon, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Hungary.

The New World Wine-Producing Countries

The New World wine-producing countries include:

Up until the last couple of decades, other countries previously not recognized for a traditional or historic wine culture began making wine as well. The newer countries that fall under this category include; Uruguay, Bolivia, China, Japan and India.

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Now that the countries have been introduced for both the Old World and New World, we can delve into the differences in winemaking practices and the style of wines that each produce.

The Differences Between New World Wines and Old World Wines

In the Old World, many of the countries, especially those that are included within the European Union, have very specific regulations which must be followed. They are limited to the grape varieties permitted to grow in their region, yield limits, and there are restrictions in how the wine is made and refined. While these regulations limit what some would argue as creativity, these wines hold a sort of uniform code for both quality and value and have so for generations.

Wines from the Old World are known for having lower alcohol content, making them lighter-bodied wines with more apparent acidity. These wines are also more focused on the land where the grapes are grown (the terroir), rather than their fruity character.

In contrast, the New World tends to allow more "freedom" in how their wines are made. While there are some regional "rules" for labeling and the marketing of wines, many vintners have free-reign when it comes to crafting their wines. There are no restrictions on what varieties they can grow, and it is often that one can experience a single varietal wine outside of the traditional climate zone than where they would be found in the Old World. There are no wine hierarchies as in Europe and winemakers of the New World are often looked upon as innovative artists.

Wine styles in the New World are known for having higher alcohol content in comparison with their European and Eastern European counterparts. Thus, these wines are full-bodied, noted for their fruit character and the refinement processes that transforms the natural body and structure of wines.

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Written by Christie Kiley
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International Sommelier and Chef Christie Kiley has over a decade of combined experience in both restaurants and wineries. While working in kitchens under talented chefs, she spent nights off serving guests in the dining room.

Her passion for food began overflowing into the wine industry and while laboring during wine harvests in Napa, she learned the nature of the product from soil to bottling. Experience working the back- and front-of-the-house in restaurants, wineries in sales, and as a food and wine educator, Christie has vast knowledge of the two industries.

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