A World of Wines: Old, New & Ancient – Mercato

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A World of Wines: Old, New & Ancient
Most of the time, but not always, hear me out…

I will be the first to admit, I am new to the wonderful world of wine. The system of rules, classifications and terms are confusing for us newbies but I love love love the idea of ‘Old World’ wine and ‘New World’ wine so please enjoy my exploration and explanation of both (and the bonus material on ‘Ancient World’ wine). There are stylistic, taste and geographic meanings but it really comes down to where modern winemaking traditions originated from.

The most simplistic explanation is that Old World wines are from Europe; the established ‘homes’ of wine: France, Italy, Germany, Greece, Portugal and Spain. New World wine captures pretty much everywhere else, namely: Australia, South America, South Africa and New Zealand.

Photo by Madeline Puckett from Wine Folly

In collaboration with the geographic location, there’s the technique in winemaking that is used. Old World wines are made, as you might guess, using traditional techniques with very strict methods and definitions. The winemaker almost becomes second to the terroir – which has had much longer to prove itself as prime ground, elevation and climate for vine growing and consistently creating great grapes. New World celebrates the science alongside the part the winemakers play. New technologies are used, especially around the perfecting of controlled fermentation.


Flavours and temperatures

Old World wines tends be lighter in body, have lower alcohol percentages, higher acidity, and are more often than not, less fruity and more earthy in flavour. Conversely, New World wines tend toward being fuller bodied, have higher alcohol percentage, lower acidity, and celebrate fruity flavours. Looking back to geographically where the two worlds sit, there’s something glaringly clear that will be effecting these elements of the wine: warm northern hemisphere climates and cool southern hemisphere climates, they’re effecting the flavour.

I can say all of this but we need to remember: there are some incredible fruity wines coming out of warm-climate Italy and some gorgeous acidic drops made here in Australia. So, yes, there is a pretty simple explanation to what makes Old World and New World wines taste the way they do, but there are definitely exceptions.

Photo by Pieter Biesemans from Unsplash


Making rules, not following them

Old world wines and winemakers have influence over the industry. The wines have been tried and tested, they have lasting relationships with buyers and reviewers and there’s more mystique over something which is so rich in history and tradition.

France and Italy are kings here, but we also include in the short list: Portugal, Spain, Greece and Germany.

French wine IS wine in many a connoisseurs opinion. French wine is so intermingled with French history that you can’t really separate the two. France is the original home to Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Three heavy hitters right there. French blends (namely Bordeaux and Champagne) have bought balance to wine for the last few centuries and they remain the tastemakers of wine worldwide.

Right alongside the French, Italy’s winemaking influence has spread to every corner of the globe (what a silly saying!) and it’s been Italy’s traditions and processes which have helped guide the New World wines. A healthy collaboration between Italian Old and Californian New has created a huge wine industry in the most unlikely of places.

Photo by Amy Chen from Unsplash


Breaking rules, snubbing traditions

As winemaking spread, the rules changed and winemakers infused their own traditions and culture into the process while borrowing elements from other countries and for the most part, leaving the old behind. The old ways and processes travelled the world with colonisation, but it was the colonised who took hold and made wine their own. The European colonisers who landed in Australia, New Zealand, South America and countries in southern Africa brought with them a vast knowledge and long history of working with the good grapes.

Creativity, ingenuity and modern ideas developed those old ways into new, and New World wines were cultivated. Multi-layered, fruity wines have taken centre stage to win awards alongside the earthy tannins of Old.

Here in Australia, our climate couldn’t be less like that of our European settlers and yet our wine industry is strong, determined and a testament to new thinking. A period of mimicry at first, yes, but then: innovation!

Photo by Mikael Andreasson from Unsplash


There’s always someone and something older than the status quo

Despite a widespread opinion amongst the wine connoisseurs, Italy and France are not the parents (and be all and end all) of wine making. Before the Old, came the Ancient, and it is this part of the world which first cultivated grapes and made it into wine.

Far Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa are the birthplaces and original engineers of wine. These countries include Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Cyprus.

Today, these countries aren’t necessarily known for wine making as we know it now, but their traditions and methods have filtered through even to the New World wines we enjoy here in Australia.


To me, it’s all a journey through time and the many beautiful wine regions around the world. A sip here, a whole bottle there: the Old World creates some amazing wines, as does the New, so enjoy them all – just pair them with the right food for the best culinary results! See my post here for some tips in that area!

Photo by Alexandra Dementyeva from Unsplash

Sara Best

Traveller of Places, Lover of Wine, Eater of Food, Teller of Stories