I love to answer your questions about wine. I’ve been soliciting them on Twitter and Facebook, with the hopes of making wine more approachable once they’re answered. A recent question came from my friend Joe who asked “What’s the difference between New World and Old World?” Great question, and one I’ll answer simply. When people refer to Old World wine, they usually are referring to wines from traditional wine making areas in Europe, such as France or Italy, among other places. On the other hand, New World wine comes from regions such as the US or New Zealand, in addition to many other places.
The palate, or taste, of Old World wine is usually a bit less fruit, a bit more earth or vegetables, leather, and tobacco. Whites and reds of course will vary, with white wines perhaps showing more minerals, grapefruit or citrus than a New World wine with tropical flavors, including stone fruits or tree fruits. Additionally, the nose, or bouquet of Old World wines will frequently mirror the palate, a bit more earthy for reds, a bit more mineral driven and austere for whites. In contrast, New World wines usually show a bit more fruit on the nose or palate, and can be more easy drinking and approachable. Many Old World wines are food wines, and while they can be sipped on their own, food tends to bring out their qualities. New world wines, on the other hand, are often good without food, though it’ll be find with food as well!
To compare a specific grape, we’ll take Chardonnay. An Old World example is Chablis, which some have called the purest expression of Chardonnay. There’s rarely any oak or malolactic fermentation, and all that shows is the grape. However, the expression is often mineral driven, a little grapefruit and acidic, which is much different than a Chardonnay you’ll see from California, for example. I enjoyed a bottle of Christian Moreau 2008 Chablis, a Frederick Wildman selection. The nose was crisp and clean, showing a mineral focused bouquet. The palate bursts with lemon and grapefruit notes, and it had fantastic acidity. Awesome on it’s own, we paired it with mussels and clams steamed in white wine with garlic, and it was fantastic. Robin found it a bit austere on it’s own, but with the food, she found the two were a great pair.
In contrast, the New World version of Chablis would be the Passaggio Unoaked Chardonnay I wrote about previously. The nose and palate are markedly different, and you may almost believe they’re two different grapes. The nose was a mixture of of pears and fresh fruits, and the palate was a very nice tropical pineapple and pear flavor. Perfect on it’s own, easy to drink and enjoy, the Passaggio also went well with Shrimp Scampi, proving to be food friendly similar to it’s French cousin from Chablis.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule of Old versus New World wines. Oregon, for example, makes some great Old World style Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, leaning towards Burgundian in style in many cases. Cameron comes to mind, a winery I visited in May 2010. Additionally, you’ll find some New World styles coming out of France or Italy, as the world market changes.
And of course, New World doesn’t only mean The US or New Zealand. You’ll also have the opportunity to experience New World wines from South America, such as Malbec from Argentina, or Chile. It’s polar opposite from Malbec from Cahors, France, which I’ll discuss in a future post. What do you think about New versus Old World wines? Where does your palate live?