Friday, January 12, 2007

What does 100 year old vine mean?

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a few bottles of Montevina Terra d’oro Zinfandel 2003 with my customers. The wine labels printed “Deaver Vineyard, 100 year old vines” and this sparked off an interesting discussion on the significance of the age of vines. I shall take this opportunity to explore the viticultural aspects of wine growing and I hope it will help in the understanding towards winemaking.

When one mentions that terroir determines the wine’s flavor and style, this term has a multi-dimension meaning. It consists of the climate, soil, landscape and a composition of factors such as hours of sunlight, slope, drainage, rainfall distribution .. etc.

A winegrower is one who cultivates grapes and makes wine from them. He/She understands that wine is made in the vineyard, is familiar with the latest viticultural practices, employs sustainable procedures to optimize the grape-growing environment for good quality grapes. The flavor, color and palate of the finished wine is largely dependant on the grapes and the environment that they are cultivated in.

Having said this, the age of vines is a health indicator of the plant’s root system and potentially a measure of its resilience to diseases. The soil that the vine grows on consists of a 3 to 4 sub-layer profile which facilitates the roots with the necessary nutrients for plant growth. Theoretically, the deeper the root system travels, the more minerals will be absorbed. This however, is not a golden rule and varies with the condition and quality of soil available. Vines that thrive under a harsh condition usually have a deep root system. As the vine ages, its root system is developed and become more resistant to diseases and climatic changes. Therefore, a vine which survived through a hundred years should be hardy and therefore carry a greater chance of producing healthy fruits.

This is a statistical assumption and I will use this extra information on the label as a data point when tasting the wine. Fortunately, this wine reflects the healthy soil and the warm climate has left its signature on the palate composition of the final product. It is a full-bodied red with an upfront nose of blackberries and plums. It is filled with black fruits on the palate. There is cinnamon and spices as well, making it a rich and powerful wine. The long finish and a trace of heat at the back of the throat suggest that the wine is indeed made from rather ripe fruits. Overall, the 100 year old vines did not disappoint this tasting!

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By Cher Lim
Wine Treasures Pte Ltd



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