Wine 101: How Wine is Regulated and Labeled

by tarynlachter

As we mentioned in last week’s article, wines are labeled and named differently in the Old World and the New World areas of wine production.

Let’s start with what these two names even mean.

They really refer to the location in which the wine-producing region is.

As we mentioned in last week’s article, wines are labeled and named differently in the Old World and the New World areas of wine production.

Let’s start with what these two names even mean. They really refer to the location in which the wine-producing region is. The Old World encompasses the more traditional, long-standing wine regions particularly within Europe and the Middle East. New World wine regions are more modern and are typically part of the US, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, and South America.

A very large difference between the two is how they categorize and regulate wines. In the Old World, wines are named from the regions in which they were produced, and there are very strict rules about what can be in that wine. There are designations, or labels assigned to the type of wine based on where it came from, that tell you right off the bat what to expect from your bottle.

These are typically related to the designation of origin and although they’re titled different things in different countries (Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) in France, Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) in Italy), they are specifically referring to the confirmation that this wine was made in the region that is listed on the bottle.

An Old World label might not tell you what’s in the bottle, it’s telling you where it was made. In the New World regions, you’ll know what grapes are inside, and possibly even what percentages of each grape were included. You might see the name of the geographical location on a New World bottle which, in conjunction with the listed varietal, could tell you the style of the grape. You might see “Finger Lakes Riesling” on the bottle which of course tells you that it was produced in the Finger Lakes, however, that is also a reference to the flavor profile of this specific Riesling as the Finger Lakes are known for their particular Riesling style. 

There are folks who argue over which system is “better,” although it really is up to the preference of the drinker. You may have an easier time understanding the types of grapes and how they taste by starting with New World wines as they’re more specific with what’s inside the bottle. Once you’re comfortable with the types of wine that you like, you can lean more into the Old World to understand the geographical regions and how they affect the grapes themselves. 



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