Heritage Vines, as championed by the Old Vine Project in South Africa, represent a vital and cherished part of the country’s winemaking heritage. In essence, Heritage Vines represent a living testament to South Africa’s wine history and culture. They offer the opportunity to produce exceptional, terroir-driven wines and play a pivotal role in preserving biodiversity and sustainability in the country’s vineyards. These vines, often decades or even over one hundred year’s old, carry with them the legacy of South Africa’s wine culture. Here’s a closer look at what Heritage Vines are and their significance:
1. Historical Significance:
Heritage Vines are those that are at least 35 years of age. They represent a connection to the past and the historical roots of South African winemaking. There are well over 10,000 acres of certified Heritage Vines today, with thousands more acres expected to ‘grow into’ the category in the coming decade.
2. Unique Terroir Expression:
These old vines have deep roots that tap into the terroir, capturing the essence of the soil and climate where they grow. This translates into wines with a profound sense of place and a unique terroir expression.
3. Low Yields, High Quality:
Heritage Vines tend to produce lower yields, but the grapes they bear are of exceptional quality. The reduced quantity allows for increased concentration of flavors and aromas in the resulting wines.
4. Biodiversity and Sustainability:
The preservation of Heritage Vines promotes biodiversity in the vineyards, as these vines often coexist with a variety of other plant species. This, in turn, supports sustainable and eco-friendly vineyard practices.
5. Winemaking Diversity:
These old vines are used to craft a range of wine styles, from reds like Shiraz and Cinsault to whites such as Chenin Blanc. They are valued for their versatility and ability to produce various wine profiles.
6. Cultural and Economic Impact:
Heritage Vines contribute to the cultural and economic well-being of South African wine regions. They attract wine enthusiasts and tourists interested in exploring the history and uniqueness of these vines.
7. The Old Vine Project:
The Old Vine Project is an initiative in South Africa dedicated to preserving and celebrating these Heritage Vines. They work with winemakers and vineyard owners to identify, protect, and promote these vines. Their mission is to secure the future of South Africa’s old vines for generations to come.