As we know, wine is an uncountable noun in English. I was reading the news and in the news the reporter has used the phrase "old wine". Being an Indian everyone knew that the reporter was talking about Narendra Modi (the Prime Minister of India). So my question is, should the reporter have used the definite article the before the phrase "old wine".

In the news

To his critics, though, much of this is old wine in a new bottle, minor cosmetic tweaks that betrayed no signs of the paradigm shift in India’s destiny that Modi promised.

As per my opinion:

To his critics, though, much of this is the old wine in a new bottle, minor cosmetic tweaks that betrayed no signs of the paradigm shift in India’s destiny that Modi promised.

  • 2
    You don't give a link to the source, but I see no reason to think it's not written by a native speaker. Why do you (presumably not a native speaker) think the word the should be included? As a native speaker myself, I can assure you that article would be a strong indicator of NNS status. Personally, I'd normally expect neither article ("much of this is old wine in new bottles") – FumbleFingers Jun 24 '14 at 3:43
  • @FumbleFingers English is not our first language in India. I also notice some mistakes in Indian newspapers, novels etc. Should I read newspapers and novels of the USA and the UK to avoid these mistakes or is it okay to continue with them? – user62015 Jun 24 '14 at 3:50
  • I know that at least some things that look like "mistakes" to US/UK Anglophones are actually "normal/correct" in Indian English, so it's a job for me to say. Though I doubt the presence or absence of either of those articles is related to IE as such. But I should also point out that there are subtle nuances whereby either or both articles can "reasonably" be included (though doing so precludes the possibility of using the idiomatically more common "uncountable wine + plural new bottles"). – FumbleFingers Jun 24 '14 at 4:03
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    ...to expand on just one such nuance, in the old wine in new bottles, I understand the as being an explicit reference to the clichéed old saying. Somewhat akin to "old wine in new bottles, as the saying goes". That's to say when we ask which particular wine are we supposed to understand the as referencing, the answer is it's the wine in the saying. But normally we just use the saying - we don't simultaneously call attention to the fact that we're using it. – FumbleFingers Jun 24 '14 at 4:11
  • Aw...you still practice As per my opinion! – Maulik V Jun 24 '14 at 4:46

Firstly, wine is not always uncountable. It's a count noun as well.

For other cheesy dishes, a light, fruity red wine is sometimes better.

Now the sentence in concern.

Old wine in new bottles is the idiom, as pointed out by FF. And, it is used as it is without any article. COCA gives 13 results with exactly those words. On the other hand, the old wine in a new bottle and the old wine in new bottle returns no result.

If you search for old wine in a new bottle on Google News, the results are mostly from the Indian Dailies. I think it's common here in InE or probably in AsE.

  • About the only way I can think of to use 'the old wine in a new bottle' is if a dinner host offered me a choice between an old wine in a new bottle, and a new wine in an old bottle. I could say 'I'd like the old wine in a new bottle, please'. Using 'the' means 'specific wine', which you and I either know about, or are specifying now. – Sydney Jun 24 '14 at 7:57
  • @SydneyAustraliaESLTeacher: Per my last comment to the question, we all know the "original", so it's quite natural to read just the same old wine in a new bottle as both a reference to "that" wine and a use of the [slightly adjusted] saying. In OP's specific context it's also reasonable to switch from plural to singular a new bottle in order to emphasise that Modi is just one man/one party (that maybe doesn't represent/encompass all Indians). – FumbleFingers Jun 24 '14 at 11:56

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