City Vino’s weekly tasting on Friday, November 19, and Saturday, November 20, features two wines labeled as “old vine” wines; one wine that is not labeled as such, but is; and one, just for fun. Let us delve into the meaning of “old vine” winemaking.
Grapevines usually don’t produce any useable grapes until after what is termed their third or fourth “leaf,” meaning three for four years after they are planted. Some winemakers will not use the grapes until about five or more years.
A vine is said to reach “adulthood” about seven to ten years after planting. One might call a grapevine “mature” in the twelve-to-twenty-five-year age range. “Old vine” is often used to denote vines that are more than 25 years old. All these terms are not legally defined, so it is at the whim of the winery owner or winemaker to use the term on their labels, or in their technical notes.
What does “old vine” on a label mean, if it isn’t legally defined, and what does it mean to me – the wine consumer? As vines age, the size of the harvest off those vines decreases, berry size gets smaller, and the root of the vines dive deeper into the soil seeking moisture and nutrients. These changes tend to show in the more consistent ripening of the fruit as the vine has adapted to its surroundings for a couple of decades. Deeper roots mean that the vine has protected itself from droughts or other climatic conditions that could impact grape production. Less fruit on a vine and smaller berries mean more concentration of flavors yield more pleasing wines.
Now, lets get to our two examples of “old vine” wines and our other two tasters for this coming week. The first “old vine” wine is the 2019 Kobal Furmint Šipon Old Vines Selected, from Styria, in Slovenia. This wine is produced from old vine Furmint in the Podravje region of Slovenia. The grape Furmint is known as the grape used to produce the famous and luscious, sweet wine Tokaj in Hungary. The Kobal is dry but quite aromatic with notes of white flowers, tropical fruit, and freshly picked herbs. On the palate, the aromas are echoed, along with granny smith apples and a beautiful salinity. For pairing, try this with seafood or a bright salad.
Our second “old vine” wine is the 2020 Thistledown Wines Gorgeous Grenache Old Vine No. 1 Small Batch, from South Australia. This wine is produced from the Grenache grape, and is both sleek and powerful. On the palate, expect berries and spice, along with zingy acidity and a long finish. Game meats would be a great partner for this wine.
Our third “old vine” (but not marked on the label) is the 2019 Natte Valleij Cinsault, from Stellenbosch, in South Africa. This wine contains grapes from four different sites, where there are old bush Cinsault vines. The term “bush” means that the grapevines are free-standing, without poles or guide wires, and they indeed look more like a bush than what we are used to seeing as a grapevine. This wine has some perfumy notes, with a meaty-type savory quality that is typical of Cinsault.
Finally, the outlier – the non-old vine wine in the mix. We present the NV Fracchia Voulet Malvasia D'Asti Rosé, from the Piedmont in Italy. This wine is made from the Malvasia grape, and is an off-dry wine, with aromas of rose petals and ripe grapes, and flavors of fresh raspberries. This is a great wine on its own, but try it with some dark chocolate.
Join us this weekend to go “old vine!” Cheers!