Thursday, 07 November 2019 12:43

Any Old Vines? — Bob's Blog

Written by  Bob Campbell, MW
How old is too old? How old is too old?

How important is vine age to wine quality? 

As a winemaker once commented, “If you’ve got old vines it’s critically important, if you don’t then it doesn’t matter a damn.”

I trawled back through my records in search of geriatric vineyards. The oldest vines I came across were Gewurztraminer planted in Te Whare Ra’s Marlborough vineyard 40 years ago with Riesling a year after that.

Ata Rangi and Martinborough Vineyards have Pinot Noir vines that have recently celebrated their 39th birthday.

Weighing in at 38 years (if my records are correct) are a Framingham Riesling vineyard from Marlborough, and Valli “Old Vine” Riesling from Central Otago.

Grant and Helen Whelan told me many years ago that they had the country’s oldest Pinot Noir vineyard in Canterbury that would be over 38 years old if it survives today. “They were dog tucker clones but vine age allowed us to make some pretty good Pinot Noir” enthused Grant.

Rippon Vineyards planted Pinot Noir, Riesling and other varieties 37 years ago while Stonecroft’s 35 year-old Syrah is reputed to be the country’s oldest Syrah.

I am sure there are older vines and vineyards in the country and invite anyone who wishes to update or amend my “old vine register” to email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with “Old Vines” in the subject line.

I believe that vine age does make a contribution to wine consistency, flavour intensity and complexity. Expect to see more “old vine” wines on the market as producers acknowledge the contribution that vine age makes to wine quality. 

We need to follow Australia’s lead by developing a “NZ Old Vine Charter” to guide producers and consumers. 

How’s this for a start?

• Mature vine – 25 years of age or more

• Old vine – 35 years of age or more

• Very old vine – 50 years of age or more

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