It takes 2-3 years for a vine to establish itself and producers would expect to get the first commercial crop soon after. Assuming the vine isn’t affected by disease or extreme weather, as it matures it moves into a balanced productive phase, which lasts perhaps 30-40 years, after which time the yield starts to decrease but is thought to produce fruit that is more concentrated.
Although there isn’t a legal definition, generally ‘old vines’ are recognised to be more than 35 years old. The stewardship of a vine into old age shows care that is rewarded with wines of great intensity and power.
Arguably the greatest advocate for old vines is South Africa’s Rosa Kruger who founded the Old Vines Project. “Old vines, and the wines they make, are a monument to the farmer’s love of his land,” she said. In Australia, the Barossa is home to some of the oldest productive vines in the world and in 2009, the Barossa Old Vine Charter was created in recognition of this.
The increase in demand, and subsequent rise in prices, for established wines such as red Burgundy is really a blessing in disguise as it forces wine lovers like you and me to explore unfamiliar regions.
I continue to be amazed by the quality and value of Spanish wines: Rías Baixas for mineral-edged, crisp albariño and Bierzo for aromatic mencía grown on schist soils. Even Rioja can surprise. Bodega Castillo de Cuzcurrita lies in one of the very coolest subregions and makes profound, perfumed tempranillos, a world away from the traditional oaked styles.
If you can’t live without high-quality pinot noir, give German spätburgunder a chance.
Beaujolais nouveau, made by carbonic maceration, was invented as a fruity, uncomplicated primeur wine that could be sold as soon as it finished fermenting. Launched on the third Thursday in November, its appeal was driven more by marketing than intrinsic quality. Seems curious now but in the 1980s, the annual release caused much excitement and English wine merchants would race from France overnight to be the first to hold “Nouveau Breakfasts”. The Northern Hemisphere vintage is normally September/October and most wines, however simple, wouldn’t be released until the new year.
Some wine merchants persevere, but perhaps the effort of shipping a simple wine across the world doesn’t seem worth the cost.
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