Do old, gnarly vines make better wine? The answer is “maybe.” In Eurpoe, “Old Vines” are classified as 40 years or older (keep in mind, grape vines can live for a hundred years!) But there is science behind why older vines may produce better wine. So if you see “old vine” on a wine label, what should you think? Let’s dive in.
What do Vines Do?
In short, grape vines are the powerhouse of grape development. They feed the grapes and are responsible for all the water, sugar, flavor and aromas that grapes develop. When grape vines are injured, damaged, or weakened, the grapes suffer too. Vines need an adequate amount of water and nutrients to supply the grapes with everything they need to produce amazing wine.
What are “Old Vines?”
Most vines are middle-aged, between 10 and 40 years old. Younger vines aren’t super great in quality because they are just getting started and need to figure everything out. But just as wisdom follows old age, old vines hold the secret key. Older vines sometime struggle to keep up, but that struggle can pay off. They don’t always produce a ton of fruit, but the fruit they do produce is often considered top notch.
When vines are young, they produce a plethora of “modiocre” grapes. The water and nutrients needed to make quality grapes and wine have to be fairly-distributed amongst all the grapes, and they all have to split up the sugar.
But old vines only produce a few grapes, meaning all the sugar and water are split by just a few berries. Those few bunches are highly concentrated, sweet and flavorful. It’s like being an only child receiving all the love and attention to develop heavily-concetrated grapes with tons of flavor. (It’s like a parent having to divide their loving between one or 6 children.)
“Old Vine” Labels
If you want an old-vine wine, be sure to read the labels. You’ll see these wines listed as “Old Vine,” “Vielles Vignes,” or “Viñas Viejas” to name a few. But beware! The label of “old vines” can be a bit misleading. It’s often haphazardly used, there’s little regulation on the term, and many producers know it’s a selling point. So take the labeling with a grain of salt!
But if you choose the right “old vine,” you may just stumble upon an exquisite, ancient masterpiece!
Follow me for more wine education and tips!