In all the winelands of the world, old vines get proudly mentioned on labels, in many languages, such is the value everywhere accorded to old vineyards and the wines they produce. But only in one country, South Africa, is it possible for that claim to be certified by the regulatory authority. Here, members of the Old Vine Project (OVP) can now put a Certified Heritage Vineyards seal on bottles of wine made from vineyards of 35 years or older, together with the planting date. This is a guarantee to the consumer of authentic wines grown according to the OVP viticultural and winemaking guidelines.
The first wines bearing the seal are now starting to appear on retail shelves around the world. Together with dozens of other wines celebrating the Cape’s rich heritage of old vines, they will be showcased at a function in Stellenbosch on 20 April 2018, where the Certified Heritage Vineyards seal will be introduced to trade and media.
This is a crucial step forward for the OVP and its mission to preserve Cape vines older than 35 years – which also means, of course, developing the culture of caring for younger vines too, so they can look forward to a healthy and productive old age. The OVP wants to focus the minds of winegrowers, winemakers and all wine drinkers on the benefits that come with age in vines.
Some of the most exciting new wines in South Africa have come from noble old vines, the fruit from which had mostly been disappearing into huge anonymous tanks, the farmers receiving little reward for the low yields. Says Rosa Kruger: “We also believe that the renewed focus on the quality that old vines in South Africa can give will help to raise the price of grapes in our country.”
Now these wines – and the vineyards that produce them – are receiving both local and international acclaim.
In 2016, the OVP was formalised, with sponsorship from Johann Rupert. André Morgenthal (and, briefly, Jaco Engelbrecht) joined Kruger to take things forward. The OVP team has presented many tastings of some of the wines coming off these fine old vineyards, at home and abroad – from London to Dubrovnik(!) to New York – attracting interest and acclaim.
And, for the second year, the OVP presented old vine tastings as part of the University of Stellenbosch (US) Woordfees festival programme. One of the events was filmed by CNN, who were in the Cape for two weeks to shoot a documentary on the work of the OVP.
With traction gained and awareness spreading, more projects are being launched to augment the OVP footprint. “The time has arrived for the feel-good stories of vineyards and heritage to be complemented by tangible initiatives to add value to the old vine custodians and the greater industry,” says Morgenthal.
Already research has commenced to ascertain consumer perception of old vine wines, through a joint venture between the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, Winetech and the US. The Stellenbosch University’s Institute for Wine Biotechnology in collaboration with the Chenin Blanc Association is researching the unique qualities of old vine Chenin with Winetech, while Vititec has started massal selection on significant old vine blocks in order to clean the cuttings from virus and then propagating plant material for renewed planting.
It’s always been a dream of the OVP team to be able to give back to the workers who tend these special vineyards. Felco, the Swiss-based pruning shears manufacturer, has made this dream come true by sponsoring specialised old vine pruning courses for OVP members’ vineyard workers.
Later this year, the OVP stand will no doubt be one of the star attractions at Cape Wine 2018. And the number of wines bearing the Certified Heritage Vineyards seal will be growing. Look out for the seal. A bottle of wine that carries the authenticated date when the vines that bore its fruit were planted is worth exploring.
Issued by the Old Vine Project. For more information contact Andre Morgenthal at firstname.lastname@example.org or +27 (0)82 658 3883.