Or, the Christopher Columbus view of the wine world.
That’s because Old World refers to European wines – primarily those made in France, Italy, Germany and Spain. New World wines are those made mostly in Columbus’ New World – California (and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the U.S.) and South America, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
How does New World differ from Old World? In style, and styles are different because the Old World differs from the New World in climate, soil, and approach. Or, in other words, terroir. (And yes, one of these days, I’ll get around to the terroir discussion.)
Generally, when someone talks about New World vs. Old World, they’re talking about these main style differences. One important caveat – these are general differences, and may not apply in every situation. New Zealand sauvignon blancs are more fruity and more acidic than their French counterparts, while parts of Italy and Spain are just as warm as regions in the New World.
Having said that:
• New World wines are more alcoholic than Old World wines. This is a function of two things: A preference among New World winemakers to make more alcoholic wines, and warmer temperatures in the New World. This helps the grapes get riper, which increases the sugar in the grape, which means more sugar to convert to alcohol.
• Old World wines are less fruity and more acidic. Some of this, again, is winemaker preference, but much of it using what nature makes available. If it’s cooler, the grapes don’t get as ripe, and there are less pronounced fruity flavors. Acid, meanwhile, is a function of cool temperatures. Wines made with gapes in warmer climates are less acidic.
• New World wines taste cleaner and fresher. This is neither good nor bad; just different. It stems from the New World’s efforts to improve wine making technology, like more efficient yeasts and stainless steel tanks.