Old vines: Why you should care

You may have seen the term “old vine” or “viei­lle vig­nes” on your wine label and won­de­red why it mat­ters. Though there’s no legal defi­ni­tion, it usually means the vines are older than 25 years, but pre­fe­rably over 50 or even 100.

The­se wines are rarer becau­se the older a vine gets, the less fruit it pro­du­ces. Far­mers often rip up their older vines to plant new, young ones, which will pro­du­ce more gra­pes, lea­ding to more wine and more inco­me. But the fact the term is  high­ligh­ted in mar­ke­ting means that, des­pi­te the redu­ced out­put, the wine is felt to embody supe­rior characteristics.

Old vines make great wine,” says Sarah Abbot, Mas­ter of Wine and co-foun­der  of the Old Vine Conference.

This is partly becau­se the balan­ce, inten­sity and com­ple­xity of the gra­pes, and the­re­fo­re the wine, from old vines can be so much bet­ter. It’s also partly becau­se the­se heri­ta­ge vine­yards attract the grea­test talents in wine. The­se ancient vine­yards are like muses to winemakers”.

Abbot co-foun­ded the Old Vine Con­fe­ren­ce, which ran in Lon­don last week, along­si­de Alun Grif­fiths MW and Leo Aus­tin with the aim of crea­ting a new cate­gory for wine from heri­ta­ge vine­yards as well as sup­por­ting far­mers and pro­du­cers who nur­tu­re older vines.

It’s tem­pting for wine geeks to assu­me that viti­cul­tu­re is too tech­ni­cal to be inter­es­ting to nor­mal human,” she says. “But part of the value of old vines is that they embody the sto­ries of natu­re, fami­lies and makers in a way that is living, and relatable.

Heri­ta­ge and cul­tu­re have beco­me more pre­cious after the frac­tu­red time of the pan­de­mic: we value our roots. The mark that we make on our land as we live our lives and grow our food con­cerns so many people”.

Old Vine wines can ran­ge from the pre­mium pri­ce points of Bode­ga Numanthia, Ter­manthia 2012 (£250, Great Wine Com­pany) to the more affor­da­ble. One of my favou­ri­te wines to get a party star­ted is Ken Forrester’s Spar­klehor­se (£26.50, Great Wine Com­pany), a spar­kling Che­nin Blanc making use of South Africa’s old vines left over from their brandy days, and the exce­llent Cate­na Zapa­ta, Mal­bec Argen­tino 2018 (£76, Har­vey Nichols).

Tho­se pas­sio­na­te about old vines feel they repre­sent the futu­re of wine, becau­se they con­tain gene­tic mate­rial that can help com­bat cli­ma­te chan­ge, ensu­re resi­lien­ce and pro­tect biodiversity.

The IWSC Foun­da­tion (the cha­ri­ta­ble arm of the Inter­na­tio­nal Wine & Spi­rit Com­pe­ti­tion) has awar­ded a grant to the Heri­ta­ge Vines of Tur­key to help it recu­pe­ra­te some of its more geria­tric vine­yards, whi­le South Afri­ca and Chi­le have already seen suc­cess­ful initia­ti­ves to mar­ket wines with a desig­na­ted ‘heri­ta­ge vine­yard’ category.

All old vine wine pro­jects bene­fit the far­mers who tend the­se vine­yards using tra­di­tio­nal tech­ni­ques that would other­wi­se die out,” says Abbott. “So there’s a sen­se of doing good, whi­le drin­king good”.

Wines of the week

Domai­ne des Tou­re­lles Old Vines Carig­nan 2019, £18, Flagship Wines

Too often Leba­ne­se wine flies under the radar but the­se 70 year old, orga­ni­cally far­med, old Carig­nan vines crea­te a struc­tu­red, sophis­ti­ca­ted and slightly aus­te­re wine of cran­be­rries, figs and liquo­ri­ce. Deli­ciously grown up.

Storm Pinot Noir, Rid­ge, 2019, £29, Jus­te­ri­ni & Brooks

South Africa’s Hemel en Aar­de pro­du­ces many excep­tio­nally ele­gant wines, but Storm Wine’s Rid­ge is a par­ti­cu­larly spe­cial site. This com­plex Pinot Noir is an unfol­ding plea­su­re from start to finish.

Pal­mer & Co, Grand Terroirs 2015, £74, The Finest Bubble 

I feel like Cham­pag­ne Pal­mer & Co can do no wrong at the moment. This latest relea­se is another silky, creamy treat with deli­ca­te citrus notes dan­cing over warm brio­che and refi­ned, effer­ves­cent bubbles.

Journey’s End Des­ti­na­tion Char­don­nay 2019,  £25.50, Noble Green Wines

Only pro­du­ced in the best years, this lovely rich, roun­ded whi­te wine takes me back to sun­nier months with its ripe pea­ches, oran­ge blos­soms and whis­pers of vani­lla spi­ce. Take a sip, clo­se your eyes and be whis­ked off to sun-war­med South Afri­can vineyards.

Domai­ne Bous­quet Came­león Orga­nic Mal­bec 2021, £15.99, Majestic

Argen­ti­na makes great Mal­bec and it’s crowd-plea­sing for a reason. This sum­ptuous red is orga­nic and slips down a treat with its ripe red fruits and spi­ce. A per­fect win­ter war­mer for tho­se chilly evenings.

Sour­ce: https://www.cityam.com/old-vines-why-you-should-care/

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