Old V New, this debate has been going on for some time on numerous topics and we will explore old and young vines.
Is one better than the other?
I am currently in love with a 2014 old vine zinfandel from Lodi by Ravenswood wines, its got beautiful characteristics of leather and and blackcurrants and a jammy mouth feel. It got me thinking about the term “Old Vine”. What does it actually mean? What constitutes old vines? Is everything else young Vines?
The term Old vine wine is most typically associated with the zinfandels from california, but they are also used in other wine making, South Africa has a history of producing old vine Chenin for example. Old vines are exactly what they say they are, vines which are old. There is no actual qualification on how old means old! Some countries and regions consider old to be over 30, and others over 50 and even 100. A lot of it is just down to marketing! You wont see new vine wine on your bottle label.
So what is so special about old vines? During our trip to champagne, we visited a favourite producer of ours, Jean Dumangin who on their information cards printed the average age of the vines that the grapes came from. Why does this matter? Well they told us that older vines produce grapes with a more intense depth of flavour that you dont get from younger vines. This is down the the roots and their length. Younger vines do not typically produce grapes for the first 3 years, and have smaller roots that do not penetrate deep into the ground, usually around 2 meters. Older vines can have a root length of up to 8 meters. These deep and long roots are able to push further into the ground, travelling through many different layers of earth. each layer will impart a different flavour into the vine, and the grapes. All of this results in a quite regal wine, often with lower tannin and soft dark fruity flavours.
Another big difference between young vines is the yield, younger vines produce larger quantities of grapes, meaning that their production value is quite high. Old Vines on the other hand have a lower yield. The vines now pushes its energy in to concentrating flavour into fewer grapes. The result is fabulous.
Old vine wines, especially Zinfandel are not rare, as one of the most widely planted grapes in California they have plenty to go around. Meaning you get a delicious jammy, smooth bottle of wine for a reasonable price.
No wonder the wine world tends to agree that old vines make better wine. There is no current standard for labeling wines with the ages of their vines, but if you do see an old vine label, buy and try. Old vines can impart such intensity into the wines that it will certainly have you going back for more. Me? im not letting this Old vine Zin out of my sight for now.