Today's episode takes a critical look at the fashionable and fascinating subject of old vines, some extremely old, how they got so old, how they perform and the wines they produce. Do they make better wine than young vines?
The Wine Thieves ask two world experts from South Australia to weigh in: Prue Henschke, viticulturist for the renowned Henschke winery, including two of Australia’s most iconic ancient vineyards, Hill of Grace and Mount Edelstone, and Dr. Dylan Grigg, author of the doctoral thesis “An investigation into the effect of grapevine age on vine performance, and grape and wine composition”. Grigg studied five shiraz vineyards in the Barossa with genetically related ‘young’ and ‘old’ plantings in close proximity. The average age difference between these adjacent young and old blocks was an astonishing 97 years, the greatest spread of extreme of vine ages to be subjected to scientific scrutiny.
And it's a study that couldn't be reproduced elsewhere; South Australia is home to some of the world’s oldest vineyards, including some of the oldest producing vines on the planet.
And the Barossa Valley in particular is rather unique in the world with large areas of surviving pre-phylloxera vines, some with continual production that dates back 180 years.
In 2009 the Barossa Valley instituted the ‘old vine charter’ to register vineyards by age, so that older vines could be both preserved and promoted. The charter classifies vineyards into 4 age categories that include Barossa Old Vines , equal to or greater than 35 years of age, Barossa Survivor Vines, at least 70 years of age, Barossa Centenarian Vines 100 years old or more, and Barossa Ancestor Vines 125 years old or more.
With a glass of fine shiraz in hand, Join the Wine Thieves for this perspective-changing discussion about what it means to be old. You'll have to suspend your beliefs about old vines and the wines they produce. The conversation might very well reset your beliefs!