In the world of winemaking, no two wines are created the same but did you know they are created in different worlds?
Geography plays a large part in the flavour profile of wines but tradition also influences the approach winemakers take when deciding on what sort of craftsmanship they employ and ultimately what sort of wine style they aim to achieve.
Known as the “Old World” and “New World”, both these approaches give life to two very distinctive styles of wines.
There’s two worlds?
Wines made in the “Old World” style are associated with the traditional winegrowing regions in Europe such as France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. These regions are famous for their early history in wine production, with their style of wine often displaying a degree of elegance and finesse sought out by the global wine connoisseur.
Conversely, wines produced in the “New World” are from countries where winemaking is a relatively modern industry. Places like North America, Australia and New Zealand who have a winemaking history that is only 100 to 200 years old. These wine producing countries are more often than not climatically diverse to those of their European counterparts. Often these ‘New World’ regions experience longer, warmer summers that result in riper fruit with more overt varietal characters.
What’s the difference?
Steeped in history, the Old World winemaking approach evokes images of age old, traditional wine practices where, because of the climate, the varietal expression is subtle so the winemaker will focus more on crafting a wine that has wonderful structure and texture. The Old World style utilises softer, more subdued oak flavour profiles – to ensure balance with those subtler varietal expressions. These wines tend to be defined by the winemaker’s knowledge of blending theory where the winemaker aims to create a ‘seamless transition across the palate’, from start to finish.
Winemakers in the New World tend to be blessed with a warmer climate and so their approach will often focus on emphasising the overt primary fruit characteristics, delivered naturally by Mother Nature. Again, to ensure balance, the winemakers may employ stonger oak influences and will create wines that are noticeably fuller bodied than their European counterparts. These factors are most notable in the highly regarded big & bold Shiraz style for which Australia is most famous.
Which style is better?
That’s entirely up to you, your palate, and how you’re aiming to enjoy your wine.
Wines crafted from the Old World style are often designed with the intention of cellaring, allowing the further development palate structure and texture over time. For some this approach is considered the hallmark method of crafting exceptional wines – particularly the long-lived Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux, France.
Intentionally withheld from release for a few years after bottling, ‘The Visionary’ Cabernet Sauvignon from Taylors is an unusual example of a New World winemaker adopting the Old World approach. This icon wine has recently been recognised as the World’s Best Cabernet in France at the Concours International des Cabernets (International Competition of Cabernets), selected by a panel of France’s top sommeliers who tasted more than 250 wines from around the world.
In comparison, New World wines display generous and vibrant fruit characteristics that some drinkers may prefer to enjoy young. Often robust and full-bodied, these wines don’t need to wait around and are perfect accompaniments to enjoy in the moment with food, friends, and family.
Often these terms of Old World and New World can take on broader associations in winemaking, and frequently spark debate about the impact of modernisation on the traditions of winemaking. Whether you prefer to live in the moment, or bide your time, winemakers and wine lovers will continue to be delighted by the diverse richness and approachability of all styles from across the world of wine.