I'm often asked if I believe wines made from old vines are superior in quality to wines made from younger vines, and the answer is no.
For me, it's one of the Old World vs. New World myths, with a romantic twist of nostaglia.
Truth is, there are more old-vine wines from areas from Europe, such as the Rhône Valley, and many believe that the character of those wines is superior. Same is true for Syrah in the Rhône, or Shiraz from Australia, where old vines are prized.
Part of me wishes it were true, as a tip of the hat to these 80- to 120-year-old survivors.
I've done many comparative tastings, in blind formats, comparing old vine and new vine wines, and the results are always mixed. Occasionally the old-vine wines shine; sometimes the new-vine wines are better.
There's also the matter of what kind of grape you're talking about. Cabernet vines, for instance, are not as long-lived as Zinfandel or Petite Sirah vines. Many Cabernet vineyards in Napa, for example, appear to lose their vitality early on.
As far as I can tell there is no consensus about old-vine wines any more than there is on the best way to farm a vineyard. Everyone seems to think they know more than the next person.
What seems to be to be an irrefutable truth is that old vineyards have survived because they were well-suited to the varieties planted and have withstood the test of time.
That is, when you see stumpy old Zin or Petite vines in Dry Creek, Sonoma Valley or Barossa Valley or even Paso Robles, they're there because they were good choices to begin with.
While visiting Paso Robles a few weeks ago, one winemaker offered a perfectly good explanation for why an old-vine Zinfandel vineyard there was still in existence and productive: It's paid for.
Michael Twelftree — Barossa Valley, Australia — November 11, 2010 3:38pm ET
David Rapoport — CA — November 11, 2010 5:09pm ET
Mike — Santa Rosa, CA — November 11, 2010 8:16pm ET
Andrew J Walter — Sacramento, CA — November 11, 2010 11:20pm ET
Bret Heiar — il — November 12, 2010 11:03am ET
Jody Smith — DC — November 13, 2010 3:53pm ET
Peter Lehmann Wines Ltd — Australia — November 14, 2010 10:53pm ET
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