John Wilson: How do you like your wine? New World or Old World, or is there much difference now?

How to Drink Better: European wines more likely to come from cooler climates, lighter in alcohol and fruit

Q. What is the difference between New World and Old World wine?

A. Old World generally refers to European wine, and New World to wine from everywhere else. Both are slightly patronising terms, although they do serve a purpose. Europe has a long viticultural tradition stretching back centuries. Over many years, countries such as France, Italy, Spain and Germany have worked out the best sites for vineyards, the most suitable grape varieties to grow and developed unique local techniques.

However, until recently, many wines were made by small producers who had little or no technical education other than what they picked up from their parents. While there were some great wines, there were also plenty of uninspiring bottles too.

In general, European wines tended to come from cooler climates. Typically, the wines were lighter in alcohol and fruit, more tannic or acidic, and generally better with food — which is how Europeans drink wine.

By contrast, countries such as Australia, Chile and the US, have warmer climates. New World wines tended to be more full-bodied, riper and fruitier. The New World may have less history and tradition (although wines were first produced in Chile in the 16th century), but producers were often very dynamic, unafraid to experiment and use very modern technology. Californian and Australian producers pioneered varietal labelling, making wine easier for the consumer to understand.


Over the years, both groups have learned from each other and differences are far less now. European winemaking is now at a very high standard, and producers are far better educated. New World wines often come from cooler sub-regions and are more subtle and elegant than in the past.