The great debate of New World versus Old World has captured ardent followers of both camps within the wine industry. For reference, the New World encompasses those countries that are relatively new to the global stage, including Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, the United States (aka ‘Merica), Canada (yes, they produce more than kindness and hockey- even some of the best dessert wine in the world), and South Africa. The Old World is focused tightly in Europe and includes France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, and Portugal.
With this global divide now shown the question that gets asked more than any is “which is better?”. The short answer is neither, as is the constant perspective of this blog, the best wines are the ones you enjoy the most! However, there are some differences and similarities as well as price variance between the areas that can make some regions of either the New or Old World attractive to certain buyers. There are trends in production, with exceptions, that tend to promulgate (fancy word alert) certain characteristics of the New World. As most are located in hot climates, and even irrigated desserts (such as Barossa, Australia), they tend to have riper fruit, more alcohol, and a fuller body. Now this gross generalization is not always true, for example colder climate areas of New Zealand and Oregon provide wonderful freshness and minerality that mirrors some of the best Burgundies.
This is the second point of New versus Old World: Value. Oftentimes New World wines have a better value from a cost per quality-bottle perspective than their Old World counterparts. Take for instance a well-developed cool-climate Pinot Noir from Central Otago, New Zealand, Oregon, USA, and Burgundy, France. A quick search shows that the Felton Road Pinot Noir from Central Otago, NZ with a rating of 96/100 from Wine Spectator is $57.99. Similarly, the Adelsheim Pinot Noir from Willamette, Oregon with a rating of 92/100 from Wine Spectator is $27.99. Compare this to a wine of similar characteristics (minerality, freshness, fruit-acid balance, sugar, and alcohol) and the Domaine Faiveley Nuits-Saint-George Les Damondes Premier Cru, with a rating of 92/100 from Wine Spectator is $139.99. Certainly, this is a small sample size and all three wines are delicious, but as will be a trend in this blog we will aim to highlight both quality, rationality, and value.
From the perspective of this blog, neither Old World nor New World is “better”, both offer their distinct advantages and it is a nuance we will continue to explore in detail.