Knowing the difference between Old World and New World wines can be helpful. There are so many wines that it helps to be able to break it down a bit so you can discover the wines you love.
Old World wines come from places that have been making wine for centuries — France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal. These wine regions often have generations of traditions, practices and even laws that ensure their wines personify that region. New World wines come from countries with less winemaking history that have, in most cases, cultivated vines from the Old World regions — the U.S., Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Chile. New World styles can be similar to their Old World counterparts. In fact, this is the sole motivation of some New World winemakers. However, many New World explorers can offer “out of the box” thinking with their winemaking styles as they are not regulated by their countries the way Old World producers are.
For a wine explorer, this may not be the most important factor in deciding what wine to choose, but to an enthusiast developing his or her palate, selecting wines to fill the wine fridge or creating an impressive food and wine pairing, it matters a great deal more.
The place where a wine is made has the most influence on the taste. The soil, sun, changing climate and time at which the grapes are picked all play a role in the taste of a wine. These are the virtues the Old World values, and it's why regulations are set: to ensure their wines reflect the land from which they spring forth. This sense of place is the most telling of an Old World wine. Generally, Old World wines have more herbaceous, earthy and mineral tastes while New World wines tend to show off the varietal of grape. It’s a bit of an over simplification to say New World wines tend to be more fruit forward, but it is a common trait, especially in climates that have an abundance of sun like California, Argentina and Australia. The sun produces more sugars in the grape, which makes the wine taste more jammy, fruity or sweet.
One is not better than the other; it’s a matter of taste or preference. But, I do suggest knowing which you prefer. So, I’ve asked a couple of our Nashville wine experts to suggest comparisons so you can conduct your own taste tests.
Katie Grussing at The Wine Shoppe at Green Hills suggests Giornata Fiano from California and the Cantina del Barone Fiano from Italy (pictured) for comparison. Paul Patel at Midtown Wine & Spirits offers a fantastic way to experience Old World and New World cabernet sauvignon with Château Pontet-Canet from Bordeaux and Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain from Napa. For a white wine contrast, try Saint Cosme Condrieu — a pure expression of Viognier sourced from the granitic soils in Northern Rhône — and then the bold yet graceful Darioush Viognier from Napa Valley.
My personal favorites to compare are Merry Edwards sauvignon blanc from Sonoma and Château Carbonnieux from Bordeaux; Ramey chardonnay from Sonoma’s Russian River and Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne from Burgundy; Williams Selyem Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir from Sonoma and Domaine Parent Premier Cru Pommard Les Epenots from Burgundy; and Schramsberg Vineyards Blanc de Blancs and Champagne Delamotte Brut. These are just a few options to compare, allowing you to explore the world of wine from the comfort of your home.