Old-world wines v new: what’s the difference? | Wine

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Someone on Twitter recently asked if it was it appropriate to use the term “new world” in relation to wine. Over the past couple of decades, it’s been a useful, if lazy, shorthand for the mainly southern hemisphere countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Chile and South Africa that provide much of our more affordable drinking, but I don’t think most people who use the term see it as derogatory, or would want to imply that new is inferior to old.

It’s more a way of telling consumers what to expect from a wine. By “new world”, they’re essentially talking about the modern wine industry, rather than those countries and regions where things are done in much the same way as they always have been, as well as wines that are generally fruitier, more full-bodied and have higher ABVs than traditional old-world wines. But the term’s critics do have a point: at the end of the day, it doesn’t bear a whole lot of scrutiny.

For a start, most of these so-called “new-world” countries also have old vines, as well as winemaking traditions that go back at least 100 years (New Zealand’s achievement, however, is all the more remarkable, because it doesn’t). Australia’s grenache and shiraz, South Africa’s chenin blanc (which used to be known as steen) and pinotage, Chile’s carignan and pais, which was introduced by Spanish missionaries in the 16th century, still produce remarkable and distinctive wines. (South Africa’s Old Vine Project, for example, has done a great job of highlighting the value of that country’s older vineyards.)

Tastes have also changed, so you now find some “old-world” producers making wines in a bolder, more “fruit-forward” (that’s winespeak for “fruity”) style, while many “new-world” producers are embracing more traditional methods such as the use of amphoras, natural yeasts and foot treading, while the natural wine movement is almost as popular in the new world as it is in the old.

Even regions as traditional as Bordeaux and Rioja will have exponents of different styles. In Rioja, for example, you can find bodegas making classic, oaky gran reservas and other producers, such as Roda, who use names rather than classifications for their top cuvées.

This can cause tensions with producers who feel that the regulatory bodies are too restrictive and no longer represent the way they want to make wine. So much so, in some cases, that famous appellations such as Saint-Émilion and Cava have seen member producers split away, most recently Château Angélus from Saint-Émilion.

So how can you tell who is in the “old” camp and who’s “new”? Ask your local wine merchant. Look at the imagery and description on the label. Or just buy it, try it and make up your own mind.

Four new-world wines that could be old-world

Pais Viejo Bottle
Photograph: Tapa Roja Old Vines Monastrell 2019 13.5% £7 Marks & Spencer, Ocado

Bouchon Pais Viejo 2020 £11.84 Weavers of Nottingham, £12.10 Nickolls & Perks, 13%. A vibrant, juicy red you’ll enjoy if you’re into beaujolais.

Marea Syrah Valle de Leyda 2019/20 14.5% £12.99 at Majestic

Marea Syrah Valle de Leyda 2019/20 £12.99 (on mix-six) Majestic, 14.5%. A dark, savoury, spicy red that’s more Rhône syrah than shiraz.

Found White Grenache 2020 £8 (by the case) Marks & Spencer, 14%. A dry, savoury, full-flavoured South African white of the kind you more commonly find in southern French blends.

Block 1A Chardonnay The Lane 2019 £14.75 Corney & Barrow, 12.5%. Tasted blind, you could easily mistake this seductively creamy Aussie chardonnay for burgundy.

And one old-world red that tastes new-world

Tapa Roja Old Vines Monastrell 2019 13.5% £7 Marks & Spencer, Ocado

Tapa Roja Old Vines Monastrell 2019 £6 (by the case until 31 January, £7 thereafter) Marks & Spencer, £7 Ocado, 13.5%. This fruity, modern, Spanish red gets mixed reviews on the Ocado website, but I think it’s pretty good for the price. Rich, spicy and plummy – spot on for the time of year.





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