Old World, New World – The “Secret Weapon” of Blind Tasting

Beaujolais...Totally Old World

Beaujolais…Totally Old World

Whew!!  Preparing this CWE Preview is really taking over my life…but it has led to some interesting blog posts as well (or so I’d like to believe…)

Today while starting to write my study tips and design my presentation about the Varietal/Appellation Identification portion (aka the “Blind Tasting,” which is actually a semi-blind tasting) of the CWE Exam, I began to consolidate all of my notes about what constitutes the “Old World” style as opposed to the “New World” style.

While it almost pains me to make sure generalities about wine (really, what in what other field could we get away with spouting such obvious prejudice?), I thought I’d share my notes with you, in the hopes that either you can benefit from it – or, if you totally disagree – could enjoy letting me know why I’m wrong! Here goes:

Old World, New World – The “Secret Weapon” of Blind Tasting

This technique helps you identifty a wine’s place of origin – or at least narrow it down – based on some basic style parameters.

In a nutshell:  the prevailing style of “Old World” wines is subtle, while the prevailing style of “New World” wines is bold. The root causes of these stylistic differences include vine growing conditions, including climate and soil quality; old world tradition vs. new world innovation; the styles of the local cuisines; and the concept of old world terrior-driven wines vs. new world fruit-driven wines.

In an even smaller nutshell, the “Old World” of wine is Europe and includes France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Hungary, Croatia, Austria, Bulgaria, and Romania.  The “New World” of wine includes The United States, Canada, Australia, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Old World Wines:

  • Are subtle, elegant, and refined.
  • Are earthy, and terrior-driven, and crafted to reflect the character of the vineyard.
  • Are so expressive of the character of the “place” that they are frequently named after the area of origin, as opposed to the grape variety.
  • Are crafted to support and complement the local cuisine.
  • Are accepted as a part of daily life to be enjoyed with every meal, and therefore tend to be lighter in body and alcohol.
  • Are protected and regulated by Europe’s vast system of wine regulations.
  • Are based on the trial-and-error experience of countless generations that developed the ideal combination of grapes, viticultural practices, and wine making techniques that yield a particular wine style.
  • Have established reputations and market recognition.


Artesa Winery - Totally Gorgeous

Artesa Winery – Totally Gorgeous

New World Wines:

  • Are bold, lush, and opulent.
  • Are fruit-driven, fruit-forward, and often named after the grape variety.
  • Are crafted to complement the bold flavors of New World Cuisines.
  • Are driven by research, experimentation, and innovation.
  • Have very little regulatory limitations compared to the Old World (we’re the wild wild west…)
  • Have little in the way of tradition to dictate styles.
  • Are still struggling with the concept of what grapes grow best in which areas.
  • Often make the choice of grape variety based on market-driven as opposed to terrior-driven forces.
  • Are often expressions of the winemaker’s unique style.
  • Have been accused of being  “splashy” in order to garner market attention (how else can you explain “Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush?”)

When it comes to Asia, while grape-based winemaking is certainly a new industry in many part of Asia, the roots, while rather obscure, go back a long way. The wine world can’t really decide how to label this up-and-coming wine powerhouse. Some are calling Asia the “New New World,” some are calling it the “Third Wine World,” and some think we should just stick to  calling it “Asia.”

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

7 Responses to Old World, New World – The “Secret Weapon” of Blind Tasting

  1. Duff's Wines says:

    Reblogged this on Duff's Wines and commented:
    This post by The Bubbly Professor is a great description of the concept of Old World versus New World. I ramble on about it but this breaks it down and simplifies it, I think. Good read and there will be a test.

  2. Duff's Wines says:

    Great simplified, yet thorough, discussion. I hope you don’t mind but I reblogged it to my peeps.

  3. Excellent information. Thank you for sharing!

  4. TheWineCellar says:

    One thing I found really helpful in determining Old vs New world, and it’s not my original rule of thumb, is that if there is any doubt, the wine is probably Old World. That’s borrowed from an MS who taught a class I took.

  5. Steve Houston Smith says:

    Excellent information! Thanks bunches!

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