Have you ever been in a wine shop or looking at a wine menu, noticed that the wines are separated into “New World” and “Old World” sections, and wondered what the hell was going on?
Are new world wines like “New Age” religions? Does it mean some hippies invented them in the ’70s and some cults drink them today? Do old world wines dive into the religious debate landing in the “earth is 10 thousand years old” camp? Well, we did, so we decided to get to the bottom of it, and our findings may surprise you!
The answer is music. Yes, you can explain old and new world wines through music. When you think of music, what do you think of? Probably the genre, the instruments used, where the artist/band came from, or how old the style of music is. Turns out, that those are the same thoughts that should go into your mind when you are thinking about wine!
When you are thinking of wine instead of the genre, think about red, white, or rose’ wine. Instead of instruments, think about the type of grape in the wine or what the winemaker used to make it (we will explain). Instead of comparing Tupac and Die Antwoord, think American vs. South African wine. Finally, instead of comparing traditional Italian folks songs with Weezer songs, think of a wine made somewhere it has for thousands of years and then somewhere that started making wine not long before 1992.
Sure, those are some great artists, but what does this have to do with old world and new world wines you ask? We are getting there.
First, answer this question: When you think of “old” music what comes to mind? I don’t mean classic rock, but actual old styles music. I bet the first thing that comes to mind is classical music (wasn’t it?). Now think of what part of the world is known for classical music… Europe! Now, guess where almost all old world wines come from? Exactly, Europe! See, now the music thing is starting to make sense.
Now, classical music didn’t stay penned up in Europe. Musicians from all over the world began to learn the styles and techniques from European musicians and bring them back to their home countries. Once, back in their home country each of these musicians put their unique spin on the music, using instruments they had available and adding their own cultural flair. This is precisely how winemaking in the new world began as well. Initially, winemakers attempted to emulate European techniques, but over time almost all new world producers started adding their own twists.
However, (just as with music) as technology progressed, winemakers in the new world began experimenting with new technology in their winemaking. While new world winemakers were experimenting, old world winemakers continued with their traditional ways. This type of new world exploration has led countries like Australia to produce fantastic wines that are very different from their old world counterparts. These wines range in style as widely as AC/DC, Tame Impala, and Keith Urban (all Australian music icons). While on the flip side old world countries, like France, for example, are still producing large amounts of wine in traditional ways (similar to a symphony at the Paris Opera House), but at the same time beginning to embrace “David Guetta style” modern winemaking techniques of the world.
These are of course are broad statements, but for the most part, you will find that new world wines are more similar to the exploring music artists looking for their sounds and not bound by any tradition. On the other hand, old world wines are the musicians who were classically trained as children and may or may not go on to play that style of music the rest of their lives.
There are of course always exceptions, just as there are rockstars in Rome and classical pianists in LA. But, as a rule of thumb, using music as a guide on your new vs old world wine journey will steer you in the right direction. It has worked for us, and we are looking forward to hearing how it works for you!
Until next time… Cheers!