Old Vine Zinfandel. What does that mean? You’ve likely seen it on a label before and maybe you wondered, how old are those vines? Or is it just me who thinks about things like that? Either way, there is no legal meaning for ‘old vines’ being used on a wine label. They could be quite young, but some winemakers have reserved the term for vines that are 50+ years old.
There is a Zinfandel vineyard outside of Sonoma that I drive by often (and sometimes even stop at) that has some very old vines. I know this because of the size of the vines….
These vines are amazingly healthy given their age and are producing some beautiful clusters….
The grapes are still green at this point. The growing is running a little behind schedule just about everywhere. But soon these grapes will go through a process called verasion (vir-AY-zshun) where the green grapes turn red. All grapes go through verasion. The red varietals change color and the white ones stay green, but become more see-through.
I take a closer look at these Zinfandel vines here with this video: You Tube: Sonoma Cork Dork
Yes, I called the vine a “tree trunk”. That’s pretty much what these are at this stage. When a vineyard is this old, it’s likely producing between one and one and half tons per acre. Or roughly half the amount we see off a typical fine wine vineyard.
Take a look at the dirt surrounding these vines….
Most people probably don’t take a second look at dirt (or soil as it may be), but I always take a good gander when I’m in a vineyard. This particular vineyard was full of tiny rocks, but also had a silty top soil. And take note that there is no irrigation for the vines. Mother Nature provides all the water these vines receive. This further concentrates the grapes since there is no ‘added’ water. It also encourages deep root growth. All things that lead to great wine.