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 were showcased at a function in Stellenbosch where the Certified Heritage Vineyards seal was 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 celebrated viticulturist 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. 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.
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 the OVP’s Andre 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 University of Stellenbosch. 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.
For more information, visit www.oldvineproject.co.za.