This Wine Wednesday, let’s continue with what differentiates a good wine from a great wine.
#1 – TERROIR
#2 – THE AGE OF THE VINES
The age of the vines can directly influence the quality of the finished product. Generally speaking, older vines produce grapes that make better wines. Why? A 50-year old vine will yield less fruit than one that is ten years old. And as we learned in Part One of this series: less yield = less wine = higher prices. That explains why wines made from grapes grown on old vines can be more expensive.
But it doesn’t explain why they are often better.
Consider this, vines with more fruit soak up the same amount of nutrients and water from the soil that vines with less fruit do. This means that these nutrients must be shared with all the grapes on the vine. There is only so much to go around! The fruit on older vines doesn’t have to share the nutrients with as many other grapes. Therefore, the older vines produce fruit that has more concentrated flavor which results in a deeper, more complex wine.
The quality is often superior.
The only problem?
There is no regulated definition for “Old Vines” on a label.
Because of this, you may even see $8 wines labled as “Old Vine”. Old to them may mean ten years! How do you know? You don’t always. But you can read the back label or check the wine’s website for additional information. Vineyards and winemakers that use grapes from truly Old Vines don’t mind revealing the age. In fact, they’re proud of it! Even if you don’t know how old the vine is or it says nothing of the sort on the label, just know that it can be a factor in explaining why a wine of the same grape, vintage and location is more expensive.
As an example, one of the wines I market at my Wine Tastings does not say “Old Vine” on the label:
“A delicious take on California’s signature grape, this Zinfandel comes to you straight from Amador County vineyards spread over the lower Sierra Foothills – an area known to produce gutsy reds from old (often pre-Prohibition) vines. For this release, we wanted delicious accessibility with just the right amount of heft. (That’s why it has been in development for close to a year!) From tasting notes carefully jotted as far back as November 2010, our winemaker worked tirelessly to craft the most concentrated grapes he could find into a Zinfandel with unique fruit and spice components – robust, peppery, and bursting with ripe fruity currant, cranberry, cherry aromas and flavors.”