Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 26th 2015 Contents |WINE|
10 | WOW MAGAZINE
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt April 26, 2015
I AM SURE that most of you have used, or at least
heard bandied about, terms such as 'Old World' or
'New World' when talking about wines. What do
these terms really mean? How did they originate?
Do they matter? I have been asked this question
many times before, and once again in the last week:
What is Old and New World wine...and what is the
meaning of the terms?
The term 'New World' wine is used quite literally to
describe wines coming from New World wine-pro-
ducing countries, such as the United States, Aus-
tralia, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa or Argentina;
essentially all wine producing countries outside of
Europe. The rationale being that these New World
countries only started producing wine in the fif-
teenth, sixteenth or seventeenth Centuries, follow-
ing European exploration or colonization. In contrast,
wine has been made in Europe and along the
Mediterranean for several millennia.
Figuratively, the terms 'New World' and 'Old World'
are widely used to imply a style of wine or winemak-
• Old World wines are traditionally more 'terroir' and
• In contrast, New World wines are typically more
'fruity'; modern, squeaky clean, fruit-forward and,
in general, more varietal driven.
Old World winemaking philosophies emanated from
a sense of place, and the primordial role ascribed to
'terroir' refer to the growing environment that is soil
and climate, as well as referring to 'mother-nature'
in determining wine quality. In contrast, the New
World philosophy generally places less sanctity on
the pre-eminence of 'terroir', and more on the
preservation of varietal fruit character, believing that
the appropriate harnessing of scientific and techno-
logical best practices in the vineyard and in the win-
ery could iron out any 'terroir' imperfections. That is
the theory, and while retaining certain truisms,
today the dividing line is more blurred, as New World
wine producers discover 'terroir' and Old World pro-
ducers discover 'fruit', adopting many of the techno-
logical advances developed in the New World.
What About Quality?
Qualitatively, there is no reason to suggest that Old
World wines are better than New World wines or
vice versa, although the term New World is some-
times used condescendingly by some who narrow-
mindedly believe that Old World wines are superior
to New World wines. Certainly, some of the world's
greatest and most age-worthy wines such as Bor-
deaux, Tokaji or Port come from the Old World, but
the New World has also produced its fair share of
outstanding icons, such as Penfold's Grange, Opus
One or Screaming Eagle.
What is true is that they are different. No matter
how much the styles seem to converge, Old World
wines tend to retain a more obvious minerality or
savouriness, no matter how 'fruity' they become.
Likewise, New World wines retain their more for-
ward fruit, no matter how strongly they portray
their sense of 'place'.
High alcohol is a term often used to differentiate Old
and New World wines, the latter typically being the
higher alcohol culprit. While it is true that many New
World wines reach 16% average and above, there are
also many that lie between 13% and 14%. Moreover,
as a consequence of warmer vintages and viticul-
ture and winemaking improvements, many Old
World wines are also hitting the 15% alcohol mark.
Regulatory wise, a big difference between Old and
New World wines lies in the laws governing how
they are made. In the New World, very few restric-
tions exist, and winemakers are free to plant what-
ever grape varieties they wish and make the wine
however they deem appropriate.
In contrast, every designated Old World wine region
(such as any French AOC, Italian DOC or DOCG,
Spanish DO, etc.,) has to adhere to a detailed set of
rules that govern what can be planted, density of
planting, training and pruning methods, minimum
ripeness at harvest, maximum yields, winemaking
techniques and use of oak. While these rules were
established to ensure a minimum standard of qual-
ity, some producers complain that they are too re-
strictive today, advocating that changes in climate
as well as viticulture and winemaking advances ne-
cessitate some liberalization of rules. But that is al-
together another topic for another day's writing.
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