The world’s oldest vines

Hill of Grace Grandfather Vine. Henschke Wines – Dragan Radocaj

Which country has, according to the Old Vine Registry, the world’s oldest grapevine?

My guess would have been Australia, with the Hill of Grace ‘grandfathers’ in the Eden Valley. But at 163 years of age this vineyard is a relative youngster compared to the gelber orleans (grape variety) in the Nahe region of Germany, which is estimated to be over 600 years old. It was, according to its entry in the Old Vine Registry, found on an old abandoned terrace. The grapes taste “terrible, like cucumber”. The registry records 128 vines that are over 125 years old planted in 18 countries. At a glance, Australia and USA seem to be home to the most geriatric grapevines.

What is the Old Vine Registry?

It is a “grassroots, volunteer effort inspired and begun by wine critic Jancis Robinson and several of her colleagues. Robinson first started writing about the heritage of old vines more than 15 years ago, and in 2010 she and writer Tamlyn Currin began compiling a registry of old vines, triggered by a growing sense that these old vineyards were important elements of cultural and scientific heritage as well as the source of some particularly beautiful wine.”

The registry records 128 vines that are over 125 years old planted in 18 countries.

Log on to the Old Vines website to learn more about the objectives and strategy behind the Old Vine Registry, including The Old Vine Conference which hopes to build a credible wine category for old-vine wines.

The entry level to feature in the register is 35 years. The same entry level applies to Yalumba’s Old Vine Charter which they created in 2009 and which has since evolved into an industry-recognised Charter with the help of the Barossa Grape and Wine Association. You will find more details on the Yalumba website.

There are as yet no New Zealand vines listed on the Old Vine Registry and there are certainly vines that were planted 35+ years ago. I have a Wine Review magazine dated Winter 1975 which features a large isabella grapevine on the cover. The trunk measured nearly one meter in circumference. The vine yielded a tonne of grapes each vintage. According to a previous owner the vine was well established when they bought the land with vine 80 years ago. The ‘one vine’ vineyard was planted in the Kauaeranga Valley “about seven miles up the river from Thames” (on the Coromandel Peninsula).

I would start my hunt for elderly vines in Hawke’s Bay, perhaps at Mission Vineyards, Te Mata Estate or possibly Black Barn. Lincoln Road in Henderson, once the main road of the New Zealand wine industry, might also yield some fairly ancient specimens.

Let the hunt begin.

3 thoughts on “The world’s oldest vines”

  1. Huon Hooke
    Huon Hooke says:

    Not the oldest but the biggest is apparently the 255-year-old vine at Hampton Court outside London, which once produced a crop of 383 kg of grapes, admittedly of a table grape, not a wine variety.

  2. Avatar

    While in Milan I had the opportunity to dine at the former palace of the doge. I was told that a section of the garden has been allocated to da Vinci and had been planted with vines that have survived to this day. That would put them at nearly 600 years old

  3. Steve Blandford
    Steve Blandford says:

    Hi Bob,
    I knew of, and had visited, the Old Vine House in Maribor, Slovenia, where they claimed that their grapevine at over 450 years of age was the oldest in the world, though with the caveat “which still bears fruit annually”.

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