Here is a bit more information about some of the grape varietals & special wines.
Old Vine Wines
What is an “Old Vine” Wine?
There is no international labeling or official age for ‘Old Vine” wine. A few countries have some specifics, but most do not, so finding an “Old Vine” wine can be tough. In the US, often, but not always, old vine wines are labeled as such. However, this is more of an honor system than a rule. Wines from France may be marked as ‘vieilles vignes,’ if they are from old vines. Old vine wines from Spain come from two areas northeastern Spain near Zaragoza, Calatayud and Carinena,, which grown the native Garnacha grape. Most of these vines are over fifty years old.
It takes around three years for a grapevine to produce fruit after it is planted. Vines that are around seven to eight years are considered in their prime and a mature grapevine is from 12-25 years old. While there are regulations in labeling ‘old vine,’ most are around 25 to 50 years old and some up to 100 years old.
So why are ‘elderly’ grape vine wines a big deal?
Margaret Rand states this about grape vines, “When they're old, they have less energy but more wisdom.”
Old grape vines have far reaching roots, thus pulling nutrients and water from consistent sources. Because of this, they are able to handle climate variations from year to years, thing such as drought or too much water have little impact. Over time, aka age, vines lose their productivity. This increases the concentration of the fruit that the vine produces, each grape has more flavor and will provide a concentrated flavor.
In wine, an unripe grape produces unripe tannins, which tend to produce undesirable flavors of astringent and green. Old vine grapes seem to not have this issue. Another big deal with ‘old vine” wine is that old vines produce far less than mature vine, so there is less production and less wine to sell from the same planted space.
Where do Old Vines grow?
There are several regions in the world where ‘Old Vines” grow and amazing wines are produced. This is not a complete list by far.
Lodi, California. Zinfandel was first planted in California around mid 1800’s and boomed soon after that. By the end of the 19th century, Zinfandel, was the most widely planted variety in California. California also grows Trousseau, Touriga Nactional and Tannat grapes that are also from the early 1900’s.
Languedoc, France. Here you will find some of the oldest grape vines planted in France. Carignan grapes are some of the oldest vines in France and are considered by many to produce some of the best wines known to man.
Barossa Valley, Australia. This region is one to have an official Old Vine Charter, designating old vine wine. Their designation breakdown is: ‘Old Vine,’ 35 + year old vines, ‘Survivor Vine,’ is a vine 70+ years, ‘Centurion Vine,’ is 100+ years and ‘Ancestor Vine’ is 125+. and
Santori, Greece. On this island grows a unique wine grape, the Assyrtiko. The vine grows low to the ground and is used to make rare wine call Nykteri. This wine is very similar to fine a white Burgandy wine. This grape is indigenous to the island and there are many vineyards well over 80 years old
South Africa. Again, one of the few countries to designate legally ‘old vine.’ Wines. A certification for Old Vine wines are labeled with a “Certified Heritage Vineyards” and the planted date.
Here are a few for labeling designations. None of these countries have a designation as to what an ‘old vine’ is.
In Germany, old vine wines are labeled as ‘Alte Reben.’ In Portugal, ‘Vinhas Velhas,’ on the label is ‘old vine.’ Spain’s designation is ‘Vinas Viejas.’ Italy labels old vine wines as ‘Antico Vitigno.’
Finally, as with all wines, consider what the vine has been through, surviving disease, fire, drought, human neglect and so much more, yet produces this wondering drink called wine, which we should savor where-ever we are. Dig into the wine you’re drinking; you will always find a great story.
The Assyrtiko grape vine
FUN FACTS the Oldest & the Largest
The oldest known living grapevine still being fruit is in Moribar, Slovenia at a vineyard called Stara-Trta. It is a rare red grape called Zametovka or Blaufrankisch.
The vine is over 400 years old. Think about what this vine has been a part of; it has survived the Ottoman invasion, which ravaged the area; has survived phylloxera around 1870, which devastated vineyards in Europe; it has survived a dam being built nearby which caused the nearby river to rise three meters, which almost drowned the vine. In addition, it was neglected and was poorly cared for years. However, the gnarly old vine was noticed by agriculture experts who realized the value trying to preserve it. They concentrated efforts restoring the vine to new life. It is now a Slovenian landmark and is in the Guinness World Record as the old vine in the world. Graphs from the vine have been shared around the world. 163 grafts in 24 countries now have a part of this Old Vine. There is an “Old Vine” Festival in Maribor, Slovenia in September, celebrating this vine and all the other wines grown in this rich grape producing area. I have read you can buy wine from this grapevine, but I have not yet found out where.
Another old vine is the Great Vine at Hampton Court Palace, it is a Black Hamburg grape vine that is now 250 years old. It is the largest grapevine in the world, but is a mere youngster compared to the Slovenia vine. It was planted in 1768 for King George III. The Black Hamburg grape is a dessert grape which really isn’t suitable for wine.
The Stara-Trta grape vine in Slovenia
The Hampton Court Palace grape vine.