I am in the process of compiling a list of things that should never be attempted.
As a winemaker once commented, “If you’ve got old vines it’s critically important, if you don’t then it doesn’t matter a damn.”
I trawled back through my records in search of geriatric vineyards. The oldest vines I came across were Gewurztraminer planted in Te Whare Ra’s Marlborough vineyard 40 years ago with Riesling a year after that.
Ata Rangi and Martinborough Vineyards have Pinot Noir vines that have recently celebrated their 39th birthday.
Weighing in at 38 years (if my records are correct) are a Framingham Riesling vineyard from Marlborough, and Valli “Old Vine” Riesling from Central Otago.
Grant and Helen Whelan told me many years ago that they had the country’s oldest Pinot Noir vineyard in Canterbury that would be over 38 years old if it survives today. “They were dog tucker clones but vine age allowed us to make some pretty good Pinot Noir” enthused Grant.
Rippon Vineyards planted Pinot Noir, Riesling and other varieties 37 years ago while Stonecroft’s 35 year-old Syrah is reputed to be the country’s oldest Syrah.
I believe that vine age does make a contribution to wine consistency, flavour intensity and complexity. Expect to see more “old vine” wines on the market as producers acknowledge the contribution that vine age makes to wine quality.
We need to follow Australia’s lead by developing a “NZ Old Vine Charter” to guide producers and consumers.
How’s this for a start?
• Mature vine – 25 years of age or more
• Old vine – 35 years of age or more
• Very old vine – 50 years of age or more