I started writing this little blurb about what actually constitutes old and new world wine a couple of days ago. Then I woke up a day and a half later, starving and with a million messages from my family, facedown on the keyboard having suffered a self-induced boredom coma that left me drooling on my desk… But now I’m back! And, after adjusting my premise to avoid passing on more of the aforementioned blackouts to anyone, have come up with a few thoughts that I think should be safe for public consumption.
What makes a wine “old world” or “new world?”
Mostly it is the country from which it is made. But, there’s more in the bottle than just that. (If you want a more standard definition of what it means to be old or new world Click Here)
The best analogy that I can think of is that “old world” wine tends to be derived from deeper tradition and have a more nebulous nature, like classical music. Whereas “new world” tends to be more overt and scientifically driven like that of more modern music. I’m talking since the invention of modern recording nearly 100 years ago. Of course there are exceptions to everything I’m going to say – but isn’t that the nature of both wine and music – seeking surprises and perfect moments of imperfection?
Classical music (let’s say orchestral, for the sake of this argument) is composed of much more ethereal tones and timbres that flow in and out of each other, drawing emotion from their listeners with nuance and subjective interpretation. It’s best expressed in live performance that allows for slight human variation while the field of sound is all encompassing and dense.
More modern music has a precise and scientific separation in the stereo (sometimes more like 5 or 7.1 sound) field where each instrument, like each flavor and aroma in wine, can be clearly identified. Also, the use of lyric has guided a more succinct and pointed interpretation of what emotion the music is trying to elicit. This doesn’t necessarily make it better. It’s just different. This comes with modern recording techniques in music as it does with modern winemaking technique in wine.
Classical music usually sits very happily within the constraints of traditional western music theory, while experimentation and invention using all degrees of modern tech are staples in more modern “new world” music.
Modern methods of “post-production” have changed the way both music and wine are produced. Bottle/performance variability has lessened and the production of both has become more sterile and easily achievable.
I think its really important to remember that all wine and music was “new” at some point. And it’s only a matter of time before generations are looking back at any style with nostalgic appreciation for its infancy and emergence.
Drink well and better.
Your friendly neighbourhood Sommelier,
J Corey Evans