Many bottles of wine particulary from Australia and France have the short phrase ‘Old vines’ or ‘vieilles vignes’ on the label, this is to let us know that the vines from which the wine has been produced are consider of an Old age, the problem is, that in general, there are no real rules about how old vines must be to be called Old Vines. This is similar to the problem with calling a wine reserve, which with the exception of Spain, also does not have any real guidelines. But why bother with adding this information is it just another line to bamboozle wine drinkers or is their an actual reason for it. Well yes their is a belief that becuase older vines yeild less fruit the flavours and expressions of terrior will be greater. But the question of how old is old no rears itself again.

If most people had to guess as to where the oldest vines are, we would naturally say france however we’d be wrong, most of French and indeed other European vines where destroyed by that most devious of bugs Phylloxera (if what they did wasn’t bad enough, their name is hard enough to pronounce with out feeling like you made it up, “fill-oxer-a”). Any way back to the old vines some of the recognised oldest vines still used in production are in the Barossa Valley in Australia, and there would be more if during the 80s the Aussies hadn’t ripped them up to plant fruit!

Now the Aussies appreciate their Old Vines and in the The Barossa they have established their own classification based on vine age. A specific name applies to the vines based on their age:

  • Old vine: 35 years or older
  • Survivor vine: 70 years or older
  • Centurion vine: 100 years or older
  • Ancestor vine: 125 years or older

So next time you open a bottle with Old vines on the label consider the fact that those vines maybe older than you!!