19 Jun The Magic of our Old Vines
If you’ve ever tried some of our Single Vineyard wines, you might have come across the term ‘old vines’. But what exactly do we mean by that?
It’s quite simple really. We mean vines that are old. And why is this worth writing about? Well, every vineyard is special. But there’s something truly magical about an old vine vineyard. When it comes to old vineyards, a winemaking team starts tending to not only the vines, but the heritage too. And even though the yield may be going down (i.e. less wine) year on year, the fruit of the vine produces wine of great structure, concentrated flavours and aromas worthy of conservation. A further added benefit includes a deep root system, meaning these vines are hardier in extreme weather conditions, such as the current draught we are experiencing. Much like a fully grown adult versus a young teen, the older vines are more self-sufficient, cutting down on vineyard maintenance and costs.
So what counts as old vines? In South Africa, ‘old’ vines are generally accepted as being 35 years or more. In Old World wine producing countries such as France and Italy, that number drastically increases to up to 120 years. The reason our vines are relatively youthful is due to a number of factors, including past viruses and planting more economical crops. Plus, our history of winemaking is way younger than our Old World counterparts (hence South Africa forming part of the ‘New World’ grouping of winemaking countries).
Well-respected old vine specialist, Rosa Kruger, estimates that South Africa has approximately 2,162 hectares that qualify as ‘old vines’. At Fairview, we are fortunate to have a handful of legitimate ‘old vine’ vineyards. For example, we pick our Carignan grapes from the Bassons’ bushvine vineyards in the Swartland side of the Perdeberg Mountain. It is the oldest Carignan vineyard in the country, planted in 1972, and now reaching the ripe age of 45 years. The vines grow on Malmesbury shale soils, which provide elegance and sheer complexity to the final wine. We make our Pegleg Carignan from these grapes, a Single Vineyard wine that has a unique story to tell.
The Basson family, who have farmed at Die Slot for three generations, were one of the first families to plant Carignan in South Africa. At 17 years of age, Cobus Basson was helping his father plant vines when a tractor overturned and rolled onto him, causing the loss of a leg. Being a man of great humour and spirit, he is affectionately known amongst local farmers as “Houtbeen” (Pegleg) Basson. Our Single Vineyard Carignan is named Pegleg as an homage to a man and wine which are both bold and spirited with enormous character and depth.
We invite you to come and taste the difference. Our Pegleg Carignan is available here.