Circle of life
The life span of a grapevine might be compared to a human: its first ten years full of vigour with unrepressed and misdirected growth, and then beginning to produce workable yields and quality in its teenage years. Once reaching its adult age of twenty years, grapes reach the summit of their quality and production. In subsequent years the yields will diminish but the ongoing quality of the grapes will continually improve depending on the year’s growing season.
Consider some grapevine senior citizens:
- The oldest known vine, Zametovka, is grown in Slovenia outside the Old Vine House in Maribor. This vine is around four hundred years old: it has witnessed the rise and fall of Napoleon, the breakup of the Austrian Empire after World War I, and survived occupation by Germans and bombing raids by the Allies in World War II.
- Halfway across the world, during the Californian Gold Rush (1848 -1855), the beverage that sustained and slaked the thirst of the prospectors was not whisky but wine. Spanish Dons and Franciscan Friars, along with Italian immigrants, had long before planted the vines that produced this wine. (Amador County, in the middle of Gold Country, continues to boast the oldest Zinfandel vines in existence.)
- Following European colonization around the globe, we find the oldest Shiraz vines in Australia.
All these examples thrive in the ideal growing conditions for their specific varietal. Location, latitude and climate are crucial to vine productivity.
The difference between young and old vines is substantial. Young vines produce crops that are “fruit driven” while older, more mature vines produce fruit that display intense minerality. As vines mature, their fruit is reserved for the finer topdrawer wines. Unfortunately “Old Vines” on a wine label really has no bearing on the age of the vine—there is no exact legislation defining how old vines need to be in order to merit the branding. You really have to love modern marketing.
THIS WEEK’S PICK
Before I left to visit my mum, I made a point of tasting the 2015 Karlo Estates Pinot Noir. This wine benefits from the passion of Derrick Barnett, who brought this wine to its position of excellence by overseeing all aspects of its development— from harvest to bottling.
The nose is an earthy, deli, flinty, black raspberry and cherry delight. The palate is a silky mouthful of cherry cola, raspberry and Aztec chocolate. Prevalent yet guarded tannins provide a superb finish.
At $35 this wine is available at the winery, located on Danforth Rd.