What the F*** are Old Vine Wines?
Old vines are something a lot of winemakers and growers are very proud of. There is an idea that old vines make better wines. We often cannot help ourselves and when we see "old vine" emblazoned on a label we clamor for the juice it holds within. We swear we love it, but do we really know why, and do we really know what old vine wines are?
So what are old vine wines?
Old vines are a pretty common site on wine labels from around the world, but there is no legal definition for what constitutes an old vine wine. It is generally accepted that old vines are any vines considered to be over fifty years old. So to see it on a wine label means that the wine has been made with grapes grown off vines that are considered fifty plus years old.
So what makes old vine wines so special?
Other than the fact that they are old, it is pretty amazing that a fruit tree and still be bearing fruit when it is half a century and older. As the vines get older though, their yield declines. So the grape clusters carry fewer berries and they get a lot more attention from the sun, rain, and other forces of nature. The juice becomes more concentrated so in the right hands old vine wines can be exceptional. It is almost as if the vines have become expert craftsmen at making the wines, and require a person with just as much expertise and skill to handle them.
That's pretty awesome, so what are some old vine wines to seek out?
Yes old vine wines can be really awesome and prized for the exceptional fruit that gave birth to them. You will see a lot of old vine Zinfandel from California and we absolutely adore old vine Carignan. We consulted the Oracle (Wikipedia) and found that the oldest known vine still making grapes is the Great Vine in Hampton Palace, England that was planted in 1769. However that vine makes grapes to eat. The oldest known wine producing vines are located in Turkey Flat, Barossa, Australia where the Shiraz vines were planted in 1847. Old vines exist just about everywhere in the world, and you will know that a culture has a real appreciation for a specific wine by its sheer existence so when you see "Old Vine" on a label you know that people have an affinity for the wine.