Old vine project

The end might not seem like a logical place to start, but the nine wines presented at the culmination of the recent Old Vine Project seminar spoke to what the whole morning’s discussion was about.

Old Vine Project seal

In order, these were: L’Ormarins Ou Bosstok Chenin Blanc 2020; Cape of Good Hope van Lill & Visser Chenin Blanc 2017 and Laing Groendruif 2020;

Bellingham the Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2021; Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2019 and 2009; AA Badenhorst Family Wines Keller Steen 2021, Klipkop Steen 2021 and Raaigras Grenache Noir 2021.

Each has a sense of effortlessness, being comfortable within its own identity and a compelling one too.

The winemakers, Mark van Buren, Richard Duckitt, Gottfried Mocke and Adi Badenhorst with Hanneke Kruger respectively, play no small role; they respect the fruit from these old vines, letting the wine express itself without unnecessary adornments. Winelovers are not buying just an old vine wine but an individual.

This tasting closed the circle on the many topics presented and discussed during the morning to the 120 attendees present; a full house. The mix of farmers, winemakers, marketing folk, retailers and a few media confirmed the broad interest in old vines and the work being done by André Morgenthal, Rosa Kruger with their team.

There’s Interest too from members of the OVP, which started with eight in 2017, increasing to 130 today. The area under vines over 35 years, the qualifying age for old vines, has also increased to just over 4000ha (the total area under vine around 92 000ha), though it might come as a surprise to many that Stellenbosch rather than Swartland boasts the greatest area of old vines – 958ha vs 778ha.

Rosa was her usual forceful self when discussing climate change, how to manage and prune old vines, do’s and don’ts of vineyard design when planting new vines ‘to grow old’. As it should, water is pivotal. The wonderful tools, such as Cape Farm Mapper, now available to help farmers plan their farms to best advantage. The selection of specific vines from old vines, multiplying and eventually making them available for planting,

The work being done at the UCT Business School by Jonathan Steyn and others gave valuable insight to how old vine wines are viewed in the market. The words Old Vine on the front label suggests a discount wine, on the back label it adds a premium. The seal itself is an attribute which adds to price of the wine, according to area of origin.

Bellingham’s The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc has carved its own reputation in the category with many awards, both local and international since the maiden 2002 when named The Maverick. Andrew Harris, Marketing Manager of DGB, producer of Bellingham and Old Road Wine Company, confirms the seal ‘helps to get the ear of the gatekeeper’, in retail, tavern etc but is aware of the need for ongoing leverage of the value of the Old Vine seal.  Certainly, the Old Road wines deserve to be better known and appreciated.

Old Vine Project seal

Which brings me to Francois Rautenbach, General Manager of Singita’s Premier Wine Direct and someone who sells important quantities of premium South African wines to the group’s wealthy and high-profile guests. The point he made after scrolling over 20 websites of wineries who have Old Vine wines in their range, is that not one had anything about the project or how it benefits these wines. After the other detailed presentations covering such a wide spectrum of issues associated with the OVP, this was a gap that shouldn’t have caused much research.

Would such a section dedicated to the OVP leave the other, non-Old Vine wines in the range seen as lesser quality, as someone suggested. Lesser because the vines aren’t old, or lesser in quality? There are many high-quality and frequently awarded wines from vines under 35 years. A well-designed website, with an explanation of the OVP and details of the OV wines alongside the others should leave no suggestion of lesser quality; Ian Naudé’s site is an excellent example.

Until Francois’s presentation, the vital piece missing from this seminar was the consumer, without them all this effort would be without meaning.

2 thoughts on “Old vine project

  1. Thank you Angela, an excellent and interesting read.

    Hope you enjoy your trip to Kenya (I have no doubt you will 🙌)

    Mark

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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