Garnacha: Do ‘old vines’ make a difference?
The new can on the block is our full-bodied Spanish old vine Garnacha. This truly special wine has a warming palate of dark cocoa, black cherries and bright strawberry notes. We love it, but does the fact it’s produced from old vines really make a difference?
I’d say let’s start with a definition of what constitutes an ‘old vine’ but that’s a little tricky as there are different classifications around the world and use of the term is unregulated, however it’s generally accepted that a vine can be classed as ‘old’ if it’s over 25 years.
By this time a vine will have developed a deep root structure, sometimes up to 8m long, enabling it to cope better with extreme weather conditions as the plant has access to more stable nutrient sources, whereas the roots of younger vines are much shallower and so they can get water-logged if it rains too much, or equally shrivel up when it’s too hot.
Although ‘old vines’ may be hardy they still take a lot of maintenance and the crop yield will naturally drop, so the vineyard would likely need to be replaced once it dips below a viable level, unless there’s a good reason to keep them – such as quality fruit.
The deep root systems give ‘old vines’ access to rich mineral sources and other organic matter which help produce highly complex and characterful wines. So, although yield may be lower there is a higher concentration of premium quality and better character fruit leading to some truly exceptional wines.
So when we found our old vine Garnacha we had to can whole vintage – it was too good to let it pass us by, but once it’s gone it’s gone!