What's the difference between New World and Old World wines?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Can you help me differentiate between New World and Old World wines?

—Devendra K., Mumbai, India

Dear Devendra,

The most basic difference between Old World and New World wines is geographic: "Old World" refers to the traditional winegrowing regions of Europe, while "New World" refers to everything else.

These distinctions can also refer to differences in style. The climates of New World wine regions are often warmer, which tends to result in riper, more alcoholic, full-bodied and fruit-centered wines. These wines are often made in a more highly extracted and oak-influenced style. Old World wines tend to be lighter-bodied, exhibiting more herb, earth, mineral and floral components. While these are gross generalizations, that's how these terms are commonly used.

These days, the terms "Old World" and "New World" can take on even broader connotations and spark debates among wine lovers, usually about tradition vs. modernization. "Old World" implies tradition, history, and an "if it's not broke, don't fix it" mentality, while the term "New World" invokes technology, science, corporations and marketing.

—Dr. Vinny

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