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Old World, New World… what differences?

What difference does it make?

· Wine Culture

After thousands of years of development, wine is now classified in a dizzying array of categories.

In addition to wine by region or flavor type, did you know that there is also a distinction between Old and New world wines?

This week, let's see what hides behind these two concepts.

Old World vs. New World

Archaeologists have dicovered that the earliest vine cultivation and wine making began in the territory of present-day Georgia and Armenia.

The spread and popularity of wine is atrributed to Ancient Greece. The ancient civilization of Greece expanded the area of grape cultivation through colonization and developed both viticulture and winemaking techniques in Western Europe.

Then along with the influence of religion, wine quickly spread throughout the whole Europe. Nowadays, Old World wines are those of the traditional wine producing countries, represented by: France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Germany, Greece and others.

In 1989, The Story of Wine, written by the famous British wine critic Hugh Johnson, was published. It was the first time that the concept of "traditional wine-producing countries" and "emerging wine-producing countries" was mentioned in the book, which is widely regarded as the beginning of the division between the Old and New World wines.

The New World wine countries include regions where vines were started to be planted more recently in history (roughly from the 16th century), such as the US, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, China and other countries. It is worth mentioning that Chinese wine is now also a very important part of the New World, and has won several awards on the international wine competitions.

Having understood what Old and New World wines are, the question arises, what are the differences between them?


The majority of the world's grape-growing and wine-making regions are located between 30 to 50 degrees of latitude, both in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres of the Earth.

In traditional Old World wine regions, the climate is generally milder in regions such as Bordeaux, South-East France, or most of Greece. Some regions can also have cooler climates, such as Burgundy, Piemonte, or most of Germany.

New World wines, on the other hand, often include regions with more extreme climates. There are hotter climates in Australia and South America, colder climates in Canada, high altitude regions such as Cafayate in Argentina, and even Yunnan in China. The special geographical conditions often give these New World wines more body, powerful flavors or higher alcohol levels.

Grape varieties

The Old World wines, a blend is usually made, i.e. different varieties of grapes are used to make the wine.

In the New World, it is more common to make wines from a single variety. This is why in the New World, wines are almost always named after their grape, as it makes it easier for customers there to buy wine by simply selecting the grape variety they prefer. 

Wine labels

In Old World wines, the name of the winery/brand and the region are the most important. With the European guideline of PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), these Old World wines are often named after the region, which accounts for a specific style of wine.

In the early days of New World wine labels, the same naming rules were followed than those for Old World wines. It was not until the 20th century that a Californian winemaker marked the grape variety on the label as a distinction, with great success. This method was then commonly used by New World wine producing regions.

Closure systems

Most of the Old World wines that we see on the market are still sealed with natural corks. This traditional closure system enables the wine to evolve over time, and are perfect for what we call "vins de garde" (wines to be stored before consumption). 

In 1970, an Australian winery acquired the license to produce Stelcap-vin, a wine closure system first developed by a French company called Le Bouchage Mécanique, and simplified it to Stelvin for their domestic market. This wine cap is the very design of the screw cap, and is now a common packaging system used in Australia and for many New World wines.

Legal restrictions

New World wines are generally less controlled in terms of viticulture techniques or winemaking processes (choice of grape varieties, pruning systems, irrigation, use of oak chips/staves vs. use of oak barrels...) than those wine producers in the Old World under a PDO appellation, which have to follow many more rules.

Both Old World and New World wines play an essential role in the development of wine. But whether new or old, choosing a wine that suits your taste is the most important !

Founded in 2018 by Matthieu Ventelon, Hedonia is the first institution in China combining professional Wine and Etiquette expertise in the same training offer.

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