ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

Who initially coined the phrase “New World wine”?

—J.R., Texas

Dear J.R.,

Amerigo Vespucci? Seriously, the term “New World” (or “Mundus Novus,” as the Latin kids call it) was first used by the Italian explorer and his contemporaries in the late 1400s and early 1500s. Since then, the terms “Old World” and “New World” have been used as a way to give context to differences found between the Old World (Europe, Africa and Asia) and everywhere else, particularly when it comes to crops and animals. Lentils are an Old World crop; llamas are a New World animal.

Wine has been produced in North and South America, Australia and New Zealand for hundreds of years, but it wasn’t until the industrialization of wine—and subsequent exporting—that the use of the terms “New World wine” and “Old World wine” really started to take off.

As I’ve written before, the terms started off as a way to not only describe the origin of a wine, but also to indicate a style based on climate expectations—namely, that New World wines were typically grown in warmer climates, with riper flavors. But these days, the terms are more muddied than ever, with a more diverse set of regions, winemakers, methods and changing climates that makes these words more and more confusing. The rule of thumb held by Thomas Matthews, our executive editor, is that Old World wine regions grow mostly indigenous grapes, while New World regions rely mostly on imported grapes. This puts Greece, for example, into the Old World, but Israel into the New World, counterintuitive as that may seem.

—Dr. Vinny


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