Old World

Definition - What does Old World mean?

Old World is a term used to divide wine into one of two groups: Old World or New World wines. The term is used to describe the general differences in viticulture and winemaking philosophies. The two main concepts adhered to in the Old World is tradition and terroir. Tradition focuses on using the experience and knowledge passed down throughout the long, storied history of the area; while terroir focuses on using the best climate, geography, soil and more to create a grape that is typical to the region.

The Old World, in its historical and archaeological definition, consists of Afro-Eurasia (Africa, Europe and Asia); however, in the wine world, the Old World mainly consists of European wines. The distinction between Old World and New World wines is changing with the advent of wine globalization and flying winemakers.

WineFrog explains Old World

Old World focuses on tradition and terroir. Winemakers are less likely to implement new scientific advances in the vineyard and winemaking process. But this isn’t because they’re raising their noses at modern technology.

Tradition is an emphasis on the tried and tested methods of vineyard management, winemaking and production that have been passed down over the history of the region. Winemakers believe that their ancestors have honed the process and developed the best way to produce quality wines in their region.

Terroir is an emphasis on expressing the characteristics of the region through the wine, rather than trying to emphasize the characteristics of the wine itself. A varietal grown in two different regions will taste different even if the process of that wines growth and production is exactly the same. So a Riesling from Mosel will always have the mineral characteristics of the slate soil.

That is one of the main reasons why Old World wines usually have the region on the label, rather than the varietal; and why Old World winemakers tend to avoid scientific advances.

Old World regions must follow strict rules governing the types of grapes used, the maximum area for the vineyard, as well as vineyard and winemaking practices. These regulations vary from country to country and appellation to appellation. In general, wines labeled with a specific appellation must:

  • Be produced within, and contain grapes only grown within, the specified appellation.
  • Use only permissible grape varieties and adhere to specified varietal amounts.
  • Produce less than the specified maximum yield of grapes per hectare.
  • Contain between the designated minimum and maximum alcohol percentage.
  • Adhere to predetermined vineyard practices, winemaking practices and aging techniques.
Old World includes:
  • Albania
  • Armenia
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Cyprus
  • England
  • France
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Moldova
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
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