Do old vines yield better grapes and wine? Matt Kramer, writing in WINE SPECTATOR addressed this issue in a June 15, 2010 column. Read that column HERE.
Mr. Kramer answers that opening question with “Yes,” and makes several interesting points:
1. The age of “old vines” (how old is old?) varies by region. What’s “old” in a recently-established wine country like New Zealand is different than in a long-established wine country like Spain.
2. Fifty years and older feels about right to Mr. Kramer when thinking about “old vines.” I like thirty-five years and older … after the vine has past its yielding peak, and its annual production begins to decline in clusters per vine and tons per acre.
3. Old root systems are really the key, rather than just big, gnarly above-ground vine architecture. While those gnarly vines are dramatic, most of the self-regulating attributes that are a key to old vine quality come from the old root systems.
4. Old vines usually require a lot of nurturing, and their yields may be too low to be economical. Which is why they are a bit rare. Younger vines and bigger yields are usually more financially viable.
5. Old vines are usually steady and dependable. They’re going to yield what they’re going to yield, both in quantity and quality. There’s a bit less vintage variation in old vines.
6. A deep, old vine root system is able to tolerate both wet seasons and dry seasons better than a shallower, younger vine root system.
7. Wine aging can reveal the true character of old vine wines. The fleeting fruitiness of youth dissipates with time, to reveal more complexity in an old vine wine.
8. All things being equal, and barring the possibility that the grape grower is pushing old vines to increase their naturally lower yields, old vine wines will be “better” than young vines of the same variety and terroir.
9. My own observation: “Old Vine” means something a bit more rare, and therefore worthy of special attention. It isn’t necessarily “better” … just as Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa isn’t necessarily “better” than Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma. But old vine sourcing does tease with the possibility that you’ll have a wine out of the ordinary. And the sense of history, why those grapes were planted there and then, and by whom, adds a layer to my enjoyment of what’s in the glass.Share on Facebook