Old Vine

Definition - What does Old Vine mean?

Old vine is a labeling term used to indicate that the grapes used to produce the wine come from vines that are considered exceptionally old. Wines made from old vines tend to be concentrated and intense. There are no restrictions placed on the use of this term.

Wine producing vines can grow and produce berries for up to 120 years; however, after 20 years, the crop and average yields decrease. This decline in production results in fruit that is more concentrated and intense, creating wines with these qualities. The vine expends more energy and effort into the fewer berries. Another theory is that the older the vine, the deeper and stronger the root system. This means the vines are able to reach different nutrients in the soil, which can change the flavor of the grape.

WineFrog explains Old Vine

The definition of "old vine" is not legally defined nor is there a generally accepted definition. Some winemakers believe that 50 qualifies as old, while others say 80. The general understanding is that, so long as the wine is over the 20 - 30 year hump, where it starts producing smaller yields, then the vine can be considered old.

The term might or might not reflect any varied characteristics in the wine itself; it could be used for marketing purposes. If you see the term on a wine bottle, check if the estate is reputable and/or has included the age of the vine on the label as well to verify if the vine is, in fact, old.

Old Vines around the world have different names that are basically translations of the term into the respective languages:

  • Vieilles Vignes in France
  • Alte Reben in Germany
  • Vinhas Velhas in Portugal
  • Viñas Viejas in Spain
Some of the most notable old vines in the world are:
  • Turkey Flat Vineyard’s Shiraz (Barossa Valley, Australia); oldest commercial vines/planted in 1847
  • The Zametovka (Maribor, Slovenia); oldest grape-producing vine/alive in the 17th Century
  • Grandpere Vineyard’s Zinfandel (Amador County, California); oldest New World vines/planted in 1865
  • Domaine Henri Marionnet’s Romorantin (Loire Valley, France); oldest French vine/planted in 1850
Modern science developed a way to prolong the production of youthful fruit on the vine. The "Cordon Renewal," used mainly in California, allows vineyard managers to keep older vines more productive by selectively pruning the branches of a vine (called the Cordons) closer to the trunk.
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