Old World vs New World
Have you ever been in a wine circle where you hear Old World vs. New World being tossed about? What is the big deal anyway? Here are our two-cents on the topic.
For starters, let's separate the countries for Old World and New World. The typical Old World wine producing countries are: France, Italy, Spain, Germany. The New World countries are: Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, United States. The separation of Old World and New World really made wine confusing for everyone! For instance you are looking at a bottle of Rioja, Tempranillo, Barolo, or Nebbiolo and you have no idea which of those names are grapes and which of those are physical locations, don't beat yourself up (answer key at the bottom for those competitive or curious souls). It is confusing! The Old World typically names their wines by the region for where the wine is produced, such as a Burgundy, Bordeaux, Chianti, or Rioja. Now you just have to have extensive wine knowledge to then be able to infer what grape those regions produce. If you care, that is. Each region in the Old World produces a handful of grapes and that is it; and the wine is about the blend of those approved grape varietals.
The New World decided to spice things up and confuse folks further. New World wines are typically named by the grape varietal itself, such as Malbec, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, or Shiraz. If you are ever looking at a bottle and you have no idea if it is a grape or a location, start by looking if it is a New World or Old World wine country, and if nothing else, discretely google it on your phone. There is no judgment here. Unless it is a Cabernet Sauvignon - then you should know it's a grape.
Another difference between the two (beyond the naming) is the style of wine. While there are exceptions to the rule, Old World wines are typically more reserved, lighter bodied, and lower in alcohol. This is ultimately because these countries are typically cooler climates. New World wines on the other hand come from warmer climates and thus produce fuller bodied, higher alcohol content wines. Just look at a 15% wine from Australia and you will get the idea. If you wanted to personify these wines, Old World would be the middle aged classy man with his chin in the air reading a book and smoking a cigar. New World would be the frat boy dancing to 80s music hoping to get drunk.
But in the end, let's be real. Wine is wine. Be it Old World or New World, drink what you like and don't let anyone scoff at you if you prefer your $5 bottles of New World wine. Did I mention that New World wines are typically cheaper?
Answers: Rioja - location in Spain, Tempranillo - grape variety used in Rioja, Barolo - location in Italy, Nebbiolo - grape variety used in Barolo