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

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

What is the difference between Old World and New World? And the difference between Neo-Europe and Europe?

—Justin, Canada

Dear Justin,

I’ve answered this question before, but it’s been a few years, so I thought it would be good to freshen up my take.

Geographically, “Old World” refers to Europe and “New World” refers to the rest of the world’s winegrowing regions. Today, though, I think these terms are more often used to refer to different styles of wine. Old World wines tend to be lighter-bodied, with more earthy, herbal, floral and minerally characteristics, while New World wines tend to be riper, more fruit-forward, concentrated and extracted, with higher alcohol. (If you can’t tell, these are huge generalizations.) Climates in many parts of the New World are warmer than climates in many parts of the Old World, and these terms are a way to distinguish the difference, since warmer weather typically means riper flavor and higher alcohol.

These terms also invoke the ideas of tradition vs. modernization. There are Old World wineries who are trying to make more fruit-forward wines, which I imagine is the “Neo-Europe” tag you’re asking about, though I hadn’t heard it before. There are also New World wineries that are making lower-alcohol styles, which one of my colleagues refers to as “neo-classical.”

Since I last wrote about these terms, the wine world has become even more diverse. I get how tempting it is to label wines into different categories to try to make sense of all the choices. But with new winemakers, new methods, emerging regions and changing climates, I feel that the wine world has become too nuanced to be broken down into these terms.

—Dr. Vinny

How to Taste Tasting Descriptors Winemaking Techniques Explained Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Should wine bottles be regularly rotated?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the riddling process for sparkling wine, and why …

Jan 24, 2020

My wine fridge has an odor. Is it safe to store my wines inside plastic bags?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers tips on cleaning a wine cooler and bottle storage.

Jan 22, 2020

What's the best way to warm up a cold glass of wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers tips for warming up a glass of wine.

Jan 20, 2020

What is a "grower" Champagne?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what a récoltant-manipulant is, and what makes …

Jan 17, 2020

How do you identify flavors in wine?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains how.

Jan 15, 2020

How long does an open bottle of red wine keep?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains oxidation, and how to delay it.

Jan 13, 2020
WineRatings+

WineRatings+

Xvalues

Xvalues

Restaurant Search

Restaurant Search