By Adam Teeter
Updated September 25, 2014
© Bon Appetit / Alamy

This piece originally appeared on

The terms Old World Wine and New World Wine are ones that you might have encountered on the wine-soaked lips of your peers, yet as simple as they may seem, understanding what it actually means when someone describes a wine as being Old World or New World can be quite confusing.

Before getting into the different characteristics that are unique to wines in either of these categories, let’s first breakdown what causes a wine to take on the Old World Vs. New World label in the first place. The simplest explanation we can offer is that the label is attached to the wine depending on the country in which the wine was made; it all comes down to remembering who was a colonizer and who was colonized. Those countries that struck out across the globe seeking new land (e.g., Spain, Italy, France) are the Old World, while their colonies (e.g., the US, Australia, South Africa) are the New World.

So if a wine was made in Italy, it would be called an Old World wine, yet if it was made in Napa Valley, California, it would be a New World wine.

Now that you have a basic understanding of what causes a wine to be categorized as Old versus New World, you can begin to understand the other characteristics that are attached to the wine depending on the category the wine falls under. Broadly speaking, an Old World wine relies much more heavily on tradition, rules and regulations when it is created, while New World wines, in true colonial fashion, are much more open to experimentation and doing things differently.

Our chart of old world and new world wines allows us to examine the different characteristics associated with each category more closely: