I WAS reading an article online last week about a plot of 200 year old French vines located in the south of the country which has just been classified a ’Monument Historique’ by the government.
It’s the first time a vineyard has been awarded this distinction and a vintage using grapes from these vines will be made to celebrate the achievement.
How these geriatric vines survived the last two centuries, which included an outbreak of the devastating vine disease phylloxera, would be a story in its own right, I’m sure.
But those of you who know me will not be surprised that what really interests me is how the wine would taste!
Does the wine made from these centuries-old plants show any different characteristics to wine made from the same variety, but a much younger specimen?
Wine is quite a complicated chemical soup made up of more than a thousand flavour compounds; the science has been studied for decades and it’s only recently boffins have begun to understand the true nature of the chemical composition of wine.
What we do know is that young vines are vigorous and can often produce wines that are described as ‘green’ in character; this is largely due to plant immaturity sometimes throwing up some pretty tart flavours.
As vines get older and less productive, fewer bunches are produced and these gnarled old beasts produce increased levels of concentration and richness on the palate.
When wine matures, the flavours become more multi-layered and develop, among other things, what they call ‘secondary fruit’ in the trade,
Ultimately, though, vines become less productive and the fruit they yield loses the oomph to produce a drinkable drop.
Ultimately, when wine gets too old and its flavour diminishes, it too becomes undrinkable.
Although I don’t have an answer for the question posed, the wine from this old vineyard intrigues me and I’m looking for a way to try and get a bottle to sample, so I’ll keep you posted!
Slightly more accessible is The Dead Arm Shiraz from the d’Arenberg in Australia made by the very talented Chester Osborn. ‘Dead Arm’ is a disease which slowly kills one of the branches of a vine, reducing the yield and intensifying the flavour – similar, in theory, to an ancient vine. Worth a bash if you see it!
THE CORK DORK FACT:
Although a red grape and one of the three grapes in Champagne, Pinot Meunier is no relation to
the more famous Pinot Noir.