Ask Tom – wine styles

Dear Tom,

What do people mean when they refer to the New World and the Old World in wine ? Are these the main styles now ? I thought it was Bordeaux or Burgundy ?

There are almost as many styles are there are wines, but some broad-brush categorisations are possible.

The Old World is cool-to-moderate-climate Europe and styles here are traditionally more restrained and food-friendly.

There is traditionally more emphasis on the texture and structure of the wines, than on ripe, up-front fruit flavours here.

By contrast, the New World (everywhere apart from Europe) is warm-climate and styles there tend to be more fruit driven, resulting in crowd-pleasing quaffers with lots of ripe fruit aromas and higher alcohol levels.

Of course, there are cool-climate regions of Chile, New Zealand and even Australian which produce steely whites or concentrated reds, just as baking inland Spain, Southern Italy and the south of France can produce fruity quaffers.

So these days, New World vs Old World is more a stylistic term about the fruit and alcohol levels of a wine, than a reference to its place of origin

When considering the place of origin of a wine, we need to think about terroir – that untranslatable French word which refers to the unique combination of spoil, sun, aspect and climate conditions which result in specific qualities in the resulting wine.

For example, clay soils in Bordeaux do not drain so freely as gravel thereby retaining moisture and suiting earlier ripening grape varieties such as Merlot.

In Austria, the eastern end of the Wachau valley enjoys warm southerly breezes whilst the western end is cooled by northerly winds resulting in a cooler climate and steelier white wines there.

Chile, Argentina, Greece and Styria all have high-altitude vineyard areas leading to extended growing seasons with lighter, paler, but more intensely flavoured and crisp whites, whilst reds from altitude will feel more restrained and concentrated.

Copyright Tom Lewis 2011

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About Tom Lewis

Tom Lewis is a wine writer and educator from Cambridge with a particular interest in Austria and France. His comments have been published on, Local Wine Events, as well as in the local press in his hometown of Cambridge, UK. When it comes to buying wine, Tom’s philosophy is to buy as close as possible to where it comes from. He writes a regular blog, the Cambridge Wine Blogger which launched in 2009 and is a presenter for the Cambridge Food and Wine Society. To read more of Tom’s work, please check out
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