All about... old vines
This week's wine has "Vieilles Vignes", or "Old Vines" as part of its name. So what does this entail, and how does it affect the wine being produced?
 
When a vine is newly planted it takes a few years before it starts to produce the quality and quantity of grapes needed for wine-making. Then the vine, providing it remains healthy and well managed, should yield well for the next twenty-ish years, after which the quantity of grapes begins to decline. The decline continues over the next twenty-to-thirty years until the yield levels out and is approximately the same year on year. At this stage of the vine's life it is known as an "old vine".

The oldest (known) vine in the world is in Hampton Court, known as "The Great Vine". Planted in 1768, it's also the world's largest vine and yields around 600 bunches of grapes every year. However this vine is allowed all the nutrients and water that it needs and therefore the grapes are for eating rather than making wine out of. The oldest known wine-making vine is in Slovenia, but its yield is now tiny - and makes about 100 miniature bottles of wine a year.

Grapes that grow on "old vines" have a greater concentration of flavour, due to the lower yields as well as thinner canopies (leaves etc) that allow more sun through to ripen the grapes. Older vines have larger trunks and roots and this allows them to store more carbohydrates which the vine can call upon in times of stress (e.g. lack of enough sunshine). Roots have also had time to extend further and can find deeper water and nutrients.
 
There's no legal definition or requirement for using the "old vine" label on a bottle, but good quality wine from a reputable producer is likely to fit the ages described above. Our Carignan example this week certainly shows off the potential of making wine from these types of vine.

Paul


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