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The winemakers on the board have previously indicated that it generally takes about 10 years for vines to mature and develop their flavour profile fully.

There appears to be evidence to suggest that as vines age past 10 years the fruit they produce slowly develops more flavour. Any gain in flavour after 10 years tends to be incremental, whereas the gains in quality in the first 10 years are quite marked.

Older vines (50+ years I think) lose vigour and will develop fewer bunches per vine, tending to concentrate the flavour in the grapes.

Once you get to 100+ year old vines the output of fruit is really low, and most vineyards will replant vines before they get this old unless the vines exhibit truly exceptional character that justifies a price premium on their fruit.
TGB,

Pauly hit the nail on the head. However to demythitise the thing a bit, it is not that the wine made from young vines is bad - far from it - but that it may not fit into the flavour profile that the winery conceives as its brand.

This is particularly true of European makers and of New World makers who are attempting to get fruit complexity. On the other hand, if the maker is in the cheap and cheerful market, there is little to gain from Les vieilles vignes, indeed quite the opposite.

For those who do not wish to be confronted with the Politically Incorrect - cease reading at this point.

I would liken it to the nubility of a young woman, the freshness and verve that is so appealing. However as the woman ages so do other, equally appealing traits become evident. A depth of character making up for the lessening of the wham, bang, thank you sir!

So too, in my experience, it is with grapes. In general they yield a commercial crop at 30 months from planting - a fully commercial crop from say 42 months (from planting) onward. The fruit from these initial crops is fresh, fruity, nervy, full of vim and vigour - but tends to be short in the mouth and lack persistence.

As the vines age - say from five to eight harvests - so too does the depth and complexity of flavour increase (in Pinot noir, this is very apparent, perhaps more so than in any other variety); there is then a plateau in this development (the middle years in the previous example, say from 30 to 45), when the plants appear to produce both good fruit and flavour.

At about 20 to 25 years the yield begins to diminish significantly. At this point, most New World wineries wrench and re-plant because the Return on Funds drops away to below a satisfactory point.

Some wineries however (and a surprising number in Australia), have vines that exceed ONE HUNDRED YEARS. The bunches are tiny, the berries within the bunch are tiny - the fruit makes wine of incredible complexity and maturity - as if our woman has now matured in to a stately Lady of (say) 50.

Being somewhat Closer to God than most of the posters on this forum - I have a personal prejudice for maturity in my wines. (sorry DRAB).
Vinserve- thank you for the lesson and the great analogy.

I have a few questions: When a vine gets really old does it start to smell like mothballs or talc? Can a winemaker keep several vines of different ages and treat them differently- for example buy one of them a house but keep the other in an apartment? Do the old vines occasionally find a new younger winemaker when the old winemaker starts to favor the young ones?
The age of the vines is not the only consideration. The terroir and varietal also come into play. For instance, Cabernet vines in Bordeaux can produce until sometime between 25-40. But, the older the vines get, the less grapes they produce. However, their flavors are very concentrated.

In Calif, most Cab vines are replaced before 25 years old. They just do not produce enough fruit to be commercially viable.

As amazing as it seems, some varietals do very well with vines over 100 years old, for instance Grenache grown in Chateauneuf and Zinfandel.

Old vines fruit is more often than not, very concentrated. But great wine has been produced from 3-5 year old vines. So, old vines are a plus, but age of the vines is not enough to ensure great wine can be produced from the grapes.
Grossie, I suspect (!) you are trying to take my analogy too far - One Foot in the Grave I may have - but I'm not THAT old. As to your question in housing, yes, I guess so - but here I defer to your quite evidently greater experience in these matters! And yes, the old vines do favour younger winemakers - those that are more passionate, and discard the boring old farts whose minds concentrate on Returns on Funds Employed rather than character.

The sprinkler - I would disagree about stressing the vine, this is a shibboleth; the truth lies in balance not imbalance; and if stressing the vine was the best way, why are so many wines from "droughty" years so short-lived?

Pommerolvr I think has valuable points, there are many inter-reacting factors; climate is the dominant one and its inter-reaction with the soils; then the TLC (or not), that both the vines and the resulting wine receive.

TGB, I answer yes.
I am conscious that DRAB will answer as resounding No!

Tis in the eye of the beholder. I have 20+ year old table wines in my cellar, made in the old way of high tannin and extract, that are now complex wines tasting of old leather, chocolate, cedarwood. I usually only share them with winemakers as, even if over-the-hill, there is an appreciation of what they are (or might have been), and also, to give a younger winemaker a benchmark to aim for. I have to say though, that most wines should be drunk between ten and fifteen years (IMO).

I am very careful when I am about old flames - very conscious of the fact that here is someone that knows FAR too much.
vinserve,
Damn good to hear your input on this subject. Having spent three days driving through the vineyards of Marlborough, and learning quite a bit about the New Zealand viticulture scene, we appreciate your comments,and respect your opinion. On being closer to the grave, don't underestimate the ability of individuals to hang on long past their time (Keep the 100 year old vines in mind).
Still have fond memories of riding around Blenheim and talking with you....

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