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Inside Knowledge: what is the Old World?




What is the Old World?




In Short:
The terms New World and Old World divide typically traditional and historic wines from famous regions with newer, perhaps more experimental, styles from more newly established winemaking regions.


Old vs New – so what's the difference?  


After centuries of producing wine, many of the Old World wine-producing countries – think France, Germany and Italy – are steeped in tradition with heavily regulated laws, leaving little room for experimentation. You’ll often see Old World wines being labelled with their regional name rather than grape variety. Think Rioja, Sancerre and Chablis.


New World wine countries – like Australia, Chile, U.S.A – have less documented history and, usually, fewer rigid regulations, allowing winemakers to be much more experimental. New World Wines commonly feature grape varieties on their labels, too.


The difference goes beyond winemaking techniques and rules – soils and climate play a big part. It’s impossible to replicate the flinty soils of Chablis or Bordeaux’s gravelly Left Bank. In the same vein, it’s hard to match the warm sun of the Barossa valley.


To keep things simple, we’ll be focusing on the most famous French grape varieties and comparing them with the New World.  


Syrah/Shiraz


The Rhône valley is an extremely important Old World region with a wealth of viticultural heritage. It’s also the spiritual home of Syrah, which here are full-bodied meaty wines with a range of dark fruit and black pepper flavours. 


Barossa has become the modern home of New World Shiraz, which thrives in the warm climate. It produces big, bold wines with ripe tannins and an abundance of jammy red and black-fruit flavours and peppery aromas. 


Many New World Syrah wines made in this style adopt the name Shiraz to differentiate between Old World Syrah, which is typically lighter in body and more 'elegant'. 


Climatic variations between the Old and New World affect the wine’s style but winery choices also make a difference. Winemakers can choose to allow the grapes to ripen longer on the vine, use more intense extraction techniques for colour and tannin or oak age for longer. 

Taste the difference between these fantastic examples.


Chapoutier Crozes Hermitage Les Moniers

Peter Lehmann 'The Barossan' Shiraz, Barossa



Chardonnay


Chardonnay is the most important white grape in Burgundy, where it comes in a number of styles. Usually light with mineral, ripe apple, citrus and peach flavours, the inexpensive expressions are rarely oak-aged. 


Top Burgundy vineyards, such as Montrachet, produce rich and complex Chardonnay wines with mineral and earthy qualities that suit oak ageing. Further north, Chablis’ cool climate brings refreshing acidity, and its ancient soils produce a distinct flinty character.


In the 1990s, like everything else, big and bold was fashionable, and Australian Chardonnay was famous for its intense butter and vanilla flavours from long periods of oak ageing. Winemakers would also stir the spent yeast cells (lees) in the barrel – an Old World process known as Bâtonnage – to add even more texture. 


Now, Australia, Chile and many other New World regions produce stellar examples of Chardonnay. Many of them will show much riper fruit flavours, higher alcohol levels and less acidity than their Old World counterparts. But many New World producers in Chile and Argentina seek cooler sites to replicate the fresher Old World style.

Try a lean, fruity Chardonnay against its big, oaky New World counterpart here. 


Rijckaert F. Rouve 'Haute Cuvée' Viré-Clessé 2019/20, Burgundy

Penfolds 'Max's' Chardonnay 2018/19, Australia



Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon’s Old World home is the iconic region of Bordeaux. Here, it produces wines that, in youth, have fresh flavours of red and black fruit, menthol and allspice. Wines are often conservatively oaked and have firm tannins that are great for food pairing. 


Some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Bordeaux’s Left Bank, where gravelly soils impart distinct mineral flavours and retain heat, aiding ripening. 


Cabernet Sauvignon has found its feet in many New World regions, noticeably in the Napa Valley, where Cabernets are big and powerful, with rich, ripe fruit flavours. Grapes are picked later and spend a long period in oak, resulting in heady flavours of allspice, vanilla and chocolate.

You can read more about Napa’s claim to fame in the battle between Old World and New World here


Taste the difference between two Cabernets here.

Château Marsac Seguineau 2016/17, Margaux

Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Napa Valley






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