Celebrating Heritage: 5 Old Vine Wines of 2023

Age isn’t just a number when it comes to vines. Old vine wines promise depth and character. Let’s uncover the allure of wines from venerable vines.

When it comes to winemaking, the age of the vine plays a significant role in the quality and character of the wine produced. Old vine wines are known for their depth, complexity, and intense flavors.

The term “old vine” refers to vines that are at least 50 years old or more. These vines produce fewer grapes but tend to have deeper roots and thicker trunks that can withstand droughts and extreme weather conditions.

Definition of Old Vine Wines

Old vine wines refer to wines made from grapevines that are at least 50 years old or more. These vines produce fewer grapes, but the grapes they do produce are highly concentrated with complex flavors and aromas. Old vine wines tend to have depth and intensity that cannot be found in younger vines.

Importance of Old Vines in Winemaking

Old vines play an essential role in winemaking because they offer a unique character and flavor profile that cannot be replicated by younger vines. Due to their age, old vines tend to produce smaller yields, but this results in a higher concentration of nutrients, sugars, and flavors within each grape. The longevity of these ancient plants also gives them deep roots that can reach water sources far below ground level.

With access to deep water sources, these older plants can better withstand droughts than younger vines. Old vine wines represent a rich history and heritage dating back centuries as some of these vines date back even further than 100 years ago.

Overview of the 9 Old Vine Wines To Be Discussed

This article will explore nine different types of old-vine wine: Zinfandel, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo, Cinsault, Syrah/Shiraz and Chenin Blanc. Each grape has a rich heritage and history that is reflected in the unique flavors and aromas of the wine produced. We will delve into the history, characteristics, and notable examples of each old vine wine to show why they are so highly sought after by wine aficionados.

1. Zinfandel

A Taste of California History: The Origins of Zinfandel Vines

Zinfandel is a grape variety that is native to Croatia and was brought to the United States in the mid-19th century. The grape is known for its versatility and ability to produce a range of styles, from robust reds to sweet rosés. In California, Zinfandel has become an important part of the state’s wine industry, with some vines dating back over a hundred years.

The history of Zinfandel in California is somewhat shrouded in mystery. It was long believed that the grape had originated in Italy and then made its way to California via immigrants.

However, DNA testing carried out in the 1990s revealed that Zinfandel was actually related to several other grapes grown in Croatia, including Crljenak Kaštelanski and Tribidrag. This discovery helped explain why Zinfandel vines had struggled to grow well in Italy but had thrived in California’s warm climate.

Characteristics That Make Old Vine Zinfandels So Special

Old vine Zinfandels are known for their rich texture, high alcohol content, and intense fruity flavors. The term “old vine” refers to vines that are at least 50 years old, although some can be much older than that – even up to 100 years or more.

These older vines tend to produce fewer grapes but with more concentrated flavors due to their deep roots which draw nutrients from deeper soil layers. Old vine Zinfandels also tend to have softer tannins than younger wines made from the same grape variety.

This is partly because older vines produce grapes with thicker skins which contain fewer tannins – providing an overall smoother taste. Additionally, old vine wines are often aged longer before release – sometimes up to several years – which further softens the tannins and allows the flavors to fully develop.

Examples of Notable Old Vine Zinfandel Wines

Some of California’s most famous wineries produce exceptional old vine Zinfandel wines. Turley Wine Cellars, for example, is known for its “Hayne Vineyard” Zinfandel, which is made from a vineyard that was first planted in 1902. The wine has a deep, dark color and strong flavors of blackberry and raspberry with subtle hints of vanilla and spice.

Another notable winery producing old vine Zinfandels is Carlisle Winery & Vineyards which features the “Montafi Ranch” Zinfandel made from vines that are over 90 years old. This wine has a bold, full-bodied taste with notes of black cherry, plum, and black pepper.

The History and Origin of Grenache Vines in France and Spain

Grenache, also known as Garnacha, is a red grape variety that has been cultivated in France and Spain for centuries. The exact origins of the grape are unclear, but it is believed to have originated in the Aragon region of northern Spain, from where it spread to other regions in Spain and then into southern France. Grenache vines are known for their ability to grow in hot climates with low rainfall.

They thrive in arid conditions, which makes them ideal for regions with Mediterranean climates like Southern France, Northern Spain, and California. Grenache is a vigorous vine that grows well on poor soils with good drainage.

It has thick-skinned berries that can produce high sugar levels when exposed to plenty of sunlight. This high sugar content translates into high alcohol levels during winemaking.

Characteristics of Old Vine Grenache Wines

Old vine Grenache wines are renowned for their depth of flavor and complexity. The vines used to make these wines are often 50-100 years old or more, which means they produce fewer grapes but with greater intensity and concentration. Old vine Grenache wines typically have a medium-body with moderate acidity and tannins.

They offer aromas of dark fruits like black cherry, plum, blackberry, raspberry coupled with notes of spice such as cinnamon or black pepper depending on the soil compositions where grown. These wines develop complex flavors over time due to extended aging periods – some producers choose to age their old vine Grenaches up to several years before releasing them to the market.

Examples of Notable Old Vine Grenache Wines

The Chateau de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Hommage à Jacques Perrin is an example of an old-vine Grenache wine produced by one of the most renowned wineries in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The wine is made from a blend of 60% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache, and 20% Syrah aged between 16-18 months in French oak barrels. Another notable old vine Grenache wine is the Domaine de la Vieille Julienne, which is a single vineyard wine produced from vines that are over 100 years old.

The grapes are hand-harvested and fermented using indigenous yeasts before being aged for up to three years in oak barrels. The resulting wine has a complex bouquet of dark fruits and spices with an elegant structure and long finish.

Old vine Grenache wines are prized for their depth of flavor, complexity, and longevity. They are exceptional examples of how traditional winemaking practices can produce some of the world’s most remarkable wines.

2. Carignan

The History and Origin of Carignan Vines in France and Spain

Carignan is a red grape variety that originates from northeastern Spain, specifically the regions of Aragon and Catalonia. The grape has been grown since the 12th century, but it wasn’t until the Phylloxera epidemic in the late 1800s that Carignan became a popular choice for winemakers.

This is because the grape has high resistance to Phylloxera, which made it an excellent replacement for other varieties that were destroyed by the bug. While Carignan originated in Spain, it quickly spread to France where it gained popularity as a blending grape.

It was planted extensively throughout southern France, including in Languedoc-Roussillon and Priorat. Today, Carignan is still grown in these regions as well as in other parts of the world such as California and Australia.

Characteristics of Old Vine Carignan Wines

Old vine Carignan wines are known for their deep color and intense flavors. The vines are typically over 50 years old which means they produce lower yields but more concentrated fruit.

The flavor profile can vary depending on where the grapes are grown, but common characteristics include dark berry flavors such as black cherry and blackberry, along with spicy notes. One unique aspect of Carignan is its high tannin content.

This can make young wines quite harsh if they are not properly aged or blended with other grapes to soften the tannins. However, when done well, older vintages can be incredibly complex with layers of flavor that develop over time.

Examples of Notable Old Vine Carignan Wines

One notable example of an old vine Carignan wine is Clos de l’Obac from Priorat, Spain. This wine is made from a blend of Carignan, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon and is aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. The resulting wine is deep and complex with aromas of black fruit, spice, and smoke.

Another excellent old vine Carignan wine is Château de Gaure from the Languedoc region of France. This wine is made entirely from Carignan grapes that are over 60 years old.

It spends 24 months in oak barrels which adds to its depth and complexity. The resulting wine has intense flavors of dark fruit along with hints of leather and tobacco.

The Mysterious Origin and Rich History of Mourvèdre Vines

Mourvèdre is a red grape variety that has a long and complex history. The exact origin of the grape is unknown, but it is believed to have originated in Spain or the Mediterranean region. It was then brought to France, where it became an important component in the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend.

The grape was also introduced to California in the 19th century, where it is known as Mataró. Mourvèdre vines are notoriously difficult to cultivate due to their low yields and susceptibility to disease.

As a result, they were often replaced with more commercially viable varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. However, old vine Mourvèdre wines are highly prized for their complexity and depth of flavor.

The Unique Characteristics of Old Vine Mourvèdre Wines

Old vine Mourvèdre wines are known for their rich color, full body, and high tannin content. They often exhibit flavors of blackberry, black cherry, leather, earthy spice, and gamey meat notes.

These wines have a great aging potential that can last for decades without losing their structure or complexity. One reason why old vine Mourvèdre wines possess unique characteristics is because the vines produce fewer grapes per cluster than young vines do.

This results in more concentrated flavors and a greater intensity overall in the resulting wine. Additionally, old vine Mourvedre grapes have thicker skins which provide higher tannin levels which add structure to this wine making them ideal for blending with other grape varietals.

Examples Of Notable Old Vine Mourvèdre Wines Worth Trying

There are many notable old vine Mourvèdre wines worth trying. One such wine is the Domaine Tempier Bandol Rouge from Provence, France. This wine is made from 100% Mourvèdre grapes and has a complex mix of flavors including spices, leather, and black fruit with a long finish.

Another example is the Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs from California, USA. It is a blend of Zinfandel and Mourvèdre grapes that produce a rich and complex wine with bold tannins, dark fruit flavors and spicy notes.

3. Tempranillo

History And Origin Of Tempranillo Vines In Spain

Tempranillo is a red grape variety that is considered the backbone of many of the finest wines produced in Spain. The Tempranillo vines have been growing in Spain for centuries, and their exact origins are still debated by historians and wine experts.

However, it is generally believed that Tempranillo originated from the Rioja region in northern Spain, where it has been cultivated since at least the Middle Ages. Over time, the Tempranillo grape has spread to other regions of Spain, including Ribera del Duero, Toro, La Mancha, and Penedes.

In each region, the grape has adapted to its unique terroir and climate conditions. Today, Tempranillo is widely recognized as one of the most important grape varieties in Spain and is used to produce a wide range of high-quality wines.

Characteristics Of Old Vine Tempranillo Wines

Old vine Tempranillo wines are known for their depth of flavor and complexity. One of the key characteristics that sets old vine wines apart from younger vines is their low yield.

As a vine ages, it produces fewer grapes but produces them with more concentration and intensity. In addition to being more concentrated than young vine wines, old vine Tempranillos also exhibit a greater level of maturity.

The grapes ripen more slowly on an older vine and have longer exposure to sunlight before being harvested. This results in higher levels of sugar content as well as deeper coloration.

Old vine Tempranillos also tend to have more tannins than younger vines. Tannins provide structure to wine by creating an astringent sensation on the palate that makes it feel dry or rough while also giving it longevity.

Examples Of Notable Old Vine Tempranillo Wines

There are many excellent old vine Tempranillo wines produced in Spain, but some of the most notable examples come from the Rioja region. One such wine is the Marqués de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial, which is made from grapes grown on century-old vines.

Another notable old vine Tempranillo wine is the Termanthia Toro, which comes from a vineyard that was planted in 1870. This wine has been described as having notes of blackberry, cassis, and wild herbs with a long and intense finish.

The Dominio de Pingus Ribera Del Duero is another example of an outstanding old vine Tempranillo wine. It is made from grapes grown on 70-year-old vines and has been described as having flavors of black cherry, licorice, and tobacco with a velvety texture.

4. Cinsault

History And Origin Of Cinsault Vines In France

Cinsault, also known as “Cinsaut,” is a red grape variety that originated in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. It has been used for centuries to produce light, fruity wines that are often blended with other varietals.

Today, it is grown in various regions around the world, including South Africa and Australia. In France, Cinsault is primarily grown in the Southern Rhône Valley and Provence regions.

It was introduced to South Africa by French Huguenot settlers in the 17th century and has since become a popular varietal in the country. The grape is also used to make rosé wines due to its low tannin levels and high acidity.

Characteristics Of Old Vine Cinsault Wines

Old vine Cinsault wines are known for their light body and delicate flavors. They typically have aromas of cherry, raspberry, and strawberry with a hint of earthiness. Due to their low tannin levels, they are easy-drinking wines that pair well with lighter fare such as fish or chicken.

One unique characteristic of old vine Cinsault wines is their ability to age gracefully when stored correctly. Over time, the wine develops more complex flavors such as leather and tobacco while still maintaining its fruit-forward nature.

Examples Of Notable Old Vine Cinsault Wines

One notable example of an old vine Cinsault wine is from Bechthold Vineyard in Lodi, California. The vines were planted in 1886 making them some of the oldest surviving vines in California.

The resulting wine is light-bodied with notes of raspberry jam and white pepper. Another notable example comes from South Africa’s Swartland region and is produced by AA Badenhorst Family Wines.

The wine is a blend of old vine Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah and has aromas of cherry, black currant, and cinnamon. It has won numerous awards for its quality and unique flavor profile.

5. Syrah/Shiraz

History And Origin Of Syrah/Shir

Syrah or Shiraz grape vines are believed to have originated in the Rhône Valley region of France. The grape is named after the city of Shiraz in Iran, which was a major center for wine production during the medieval period.

This grape variety is now cultivated in different parts of the world, including Australia, South Africa, and California. Syrah is known for its dark color and full-bodied flavor profile with notes of blackberry, plum, pepper and spices.

Old vine Syrahs are particularly noteworthy because they produce concentrated flavors that reflect the vine’s deep roots and low yields. The wines produced from old vine Syrahs have a rich complexity that develops over time.


Old vines play an essential role in producing high-quality wines with depth and complexity. They require more attention to detail and care but result in a much richer flavor profile that reflects the heritage of these ancient vines. In this article, we’ve explored nine old vine wines that showcase rich heritage – Zinfandel, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre , Tempranillo , Cinsault , St. Laurent , Mencia , and Syrah/Shiraz .

These wines illustrate how deeply rooted traditions can still be prevalent today. As wine enthusiasts continue to seek out unique flavors with a rich history behind them, it’s important to recognize the importance of these old vines in preserving an authentic legacy for future generations to enjoy.

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