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Inside Knowledge: Old Vine Wine: the details



Old Vine Wine: The Details





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You’re reading a wine label, or walking through a vineyard. Someone is talking about old vines. An image of gnarly, haggard looking trunks spring into your mind, fruit carefully drooping from branches as old as the hills. It sounds attractive, ancient and clearly worth a couple of quid more. But how old is old? And how old can they get? And does it really matter? It’s a debate which goes to the heart of winemaking. And, typically, creates as many questions as it can answer.

 

How old is old?

You’ll have seen the term ‘Old Vines’ on bottles both New and Old World, perhaps Veilles Vignes, Viñas Viejas or similar. The term has no real legal definition, and seems to scale in comparison to a region’s history. Many countries consider a vine to be ‘old’ from the 25 year mark onwards, but old vines around the world range dramatically with many of the vines of the Barossa valley, Australia dating back as far as 1843. 

 

Old vines are often seen as a badge of honour; an anchor to the winemakers of the past and a mark of quality. Often widely proclaimed, here’s a list of benefits which set old vines apart; 

 

Greater concentration of fruit. 

Less energetic and productive than their younger counterparts, older vines produce considerably less fruit as they age. Less commercially attractive, those producers with the patience to tend to older vineyards, have noted a distinct concentration of fruit with a range of complex flavours.  

 

An expression of place. 

Many winemakers believe that older vines,  often spanning generations of vineyard ownership, have an increased ability to express their vineyard site. 

 

Deep roots. 

With roots extending several metres below the ground, old vines have access to increased nutrients and water. This is especially useful in times of water shortage or even floods. 

 

Disease resistance. 

Having stood the test of time, old vines are particularly hardy. Thicker leaves and trunks are said to keep pests and diseases to a minimum. 

 

Tapestries of the past. 

Many argue that old vines are about so much more than the fruit they produce. They are living, growing tapestries of the past – a tangible permanence between the now and times gone by

 


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The oldest vine in the world resides in Maribor, Slovenia. 

 


The record breaker 


The oldest vine still producing fruit in the world resides in Slovenia and has survived centuries of change. The vine – a  Zametovka – produces just 100 250ml bottles of wine each vintage, and could date back as far as the 16th century. Found in the town of Maribor, Styria, the vine is a key tourist attraction and emblem of viticultural history (it even has its own museum and drinking anthem). And quite rightly too – the vine has survived everything from Ottoman invasions to World War Two shelling. Yet still stands proudly. 



There are parts of the world today where you can buy wines made from vines which predate the turn of the 20th century. From the gnarly, storybook vines of northern Spain to the ancient vines of Australia’s Barossa valley, here’s a selection of old vine wines we think you’ll love. 






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