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,

By looking at a wine, how can you tell if it is New World or Old World?

—Rochelle B., San Jose, Calif.

Dear Rochelle,

Well, there's an easy answer to this question and a more complicated one. The easy answer is about geography. Old World wines are from Europe, and New World wines are from everywhere else—the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. That should be pretty obvious on the label.

The more complicated answer is that "Old World" and "New World" have come to denote differences in style. Old World wines tend to be more subtle, and New World wines tend to be bolder and more fruit-centered. So, there are Old World wines made in New World regions these days, and vice versa. Some people think of Old World wines as being "traditional" and New World wines as "modern." And it's unlikely you'd be able to tell the difference just by looking at the bottle. For that, you'd need advice, whether it be from our editors' tasting notes, from a retailer you trust, or from a knowledgable friend. Or you could just take the plunge, try the wine, and decide for yourself.

—Dr. Vinny


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