New and Old World Designations

A new world wine is a wine that is produced anywhere other than Europe and an old world wine is a wine produced in Europe. To further complicate matters old world wines and new world wines are classified differently.

Old world wines are classified by the region they are produced in, with strict laws governing what varieties may be planted based on the terroir (soil type, location, climate, etc.). There are six main regions in France producing wine, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Loire, Alsace, and Champagne. Wine labeled Bordeaux is actually red wine using a mixture of the grape varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petite Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. Wine labeled Chateauneuf-du-Pape is produced in the Rhone region and is made from Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Cinsaut varieties. Italy has over twenty wine regions, three of the most important are Piedmont, Tuscany and Veneto. A wine labeled Barolo would be produced from the Nebbiolo variety in the region of Piedmont, Valpolicella is a wine produced in the Veneto region with Corvina, Rondinella and Moliara varieties, Amarone wines produced in Veneto use the same varieties as Valpolicella but the grapes are semi-dried.

The governing of these old world regions are further classified and appear on the label as appellations with the first being premier.

France Italy Germany Spain
Appellation Contrôlée (AC or AOC) Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) Qualitätswein mit Prädikat (QmP) Denominacíon de Origen (DO)
Vin de Pays Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA) Vino de la Tierra
Vin de Table Vino da Tavola Deutscher Tafelwein Vino de Mesa

Certain regions further this classification scheme by adding designations on the label like Bordeau’s Premier Crus (First Growth), elite, expensive wines Château Latour, Château Margaux, Château Haute-Brion, Château Lafite-Rothschild, and Château Mouton-Rothschild inhabit this classification. The classification continues with Deuxiémes Crus (Second Growth), Troisiémes Crus (Third Growth), Quatriémes Crus (Fourth Growth) and Cinquiémes Crus (Fifth Growth). This is not to say that this listing classification of wines is entirely accurate as to quality, some of the nicest and most affordable wines come from lesser growths like the Cinquiémes Crus’ Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste. Other French definitions give clues as to quality, including; cave, which means cellar, usually a co-operative cellar as in Cave de Grenelle, Château means castle but with wine it denotes a registered wine producer with a building on-site, Clos means a wall, or enclosed vineyard, used in Burgundy. Domaine means a wine bottled by a producer from their entire vineyards, Grand Crus is an over used term in Burgundy but usually denotes a wine from one of the finest vineyards, Premier Crus is as vague as Grand Crus but it usually refers to a superior vineyard just under the Grand Crus status. Villages and Communes denote small areas that produce wine. A good rule for French wine is the smaller the area the wine is from the better the quality of the wine.

New world wines are classified by the grape variety used for producing the wine. Canada has the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) it is an Appellation of Origin system, there are two distinct wine-producing regions in Canada, the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. The VQA recognizes three Designated Viticultural Areas in Ontario, and four in British Columbia. In Ontario, the three DVAs are: Niagara Peninsula; Pelee Island; and Lake Erie North Shore. In British Columbia the four recognized DVAs are: the Okanagan Valley; the Similkameen Valley; the Fraser Valley; and Vancouver Island. For varietal designation, wine must contain at least 85% of the variety named on the label, and must exhibit the dominant character of that variety. If a vineyard designation is used, the site must be within a recognized viticultural area and all (100%) grapes must come from the designated vineyard.

The United States has the American Viticultura Areas (AVA), a wine with an AVA designation must contain 85% of the grapes from that AVA. A Vineyard designated wine must contain 95% of its grapes from that vineyard.

In Australia the designation is AWBC and for a label to claim, say Margaret River and Shiraz, the vine variety should be at least 85% Shiraz-sourced and grown 85% in the Margaret River area. For Vintage at least 85% of the wine must be from the stated vintage.