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Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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vine age, easily observable by the girth of the vine’s trunk (unless it is multi-trunked, as many very old vines are), is widely considered a factor affecting wine quality. Many believe that, in general, older vines make better wine. Although there is no agreement and certainly no legislation as to what constitutes ‘old’, vines more than 50 years old could justifiably be described as such. appellation contrôlée legislation in many cases specifically excludes the produce of vines less than two or three years old, although this probably represents a bias against the fruit of very young vines rather than an affirmation of the qualities of older ones, and it is unusual for vines to crop before their third year. Some French producers deliberately exclude wine from vines under a certain age from their top bottlings, and put it into second wines. The concept that older vines make better wine is much used in marketing wine in the Old World (see vieilles vignes) and has more recently been adopted in the New World, notably by some California and Barossa and Eden Valley producers whose ungrafted vines remain alive and producing after more than a century. Conversely, some winemakers observe that young vineyards produce their highest-quality wine in the first year or two of production. For example, in the world-famous blind tasting in Paris in 1976 which first pitted California Cabernets and Chardonnays against top-quality red bordeaux and white burgundies, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon 1973 came out on top, scoring more highly than Ch mouton rothschild 1970 and Ch haut-brion 1970, even though this was the first vintage of this Napa Valley red and the vines were only three years old. Both of these apparently opposed viewpoints may be correct, as will be discussed below.