Home Lifestyle Old vines a special feature of the South African wine industry

Old vines a special feature of the South African wine industry

Basil Landau’s Semillon block, planted in 1905, is one of SA’s oldest vineyards.

“An increased focus on South Africa’s old vines has elicited world-wide interest in the country’s wine heritage and the industry itself, with wines made from fruit sourced from these heritage vines proving their mettle,” says André Morgenthal of the Old Vine Project (OVP).

He says that membership of the OVP has grown from 10 members late last year, to over 40 now, including a number of cooperative producers, with over 80% of old-vine wines represented within these systems.  The rising interest in the OVP has also been seen at tastings in London and Canada, supported and organised by Wines of South Africa (WOSA), as well as locally at Klein Karoo Klassique and the US Woordfees.

The OVP was established in 2016 with seed funding from the Rupert Foundation, although the effort to document SA’s old vines was started by viticulturist Rosa Kruger back in 2002. Named International Wine Personality of the Year at the 2018 International Wine Challenge, she’s still the driving force behind the project. Under her leadership, the Certified Heritage Seal was launched earlier in 2018, highlighting South Africa as the first country to certify via a single industry body (SAWIS), vineyard blocks older than 35 years. It is considered an important step in protecting old vines and has become a high-profile marketing strategy, setting a standard and establishing a new category, to highlight the depth of character evident in wines made from older vines.

International wine expert Tim Atkin, states: “It’s no surprise to me that a significant number of my wines and winemakers of the year have an old vine connection, confirming how vital the OVP is to the SA wine industry and why the country’s heritage vineyards are so unique.”

In a recent report on Vinous.com, Neal Martin noted that “SA has one big advantage over much of the New World…old vines.”

Morgenthal revealed that old vine category pricing research, undertaken in a collaboration between Winetech, the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business and the University of Stellenbosch, revealed some exciting results. Co-authors Jonathan Steyn and David Priilaid, from UCT’s School of Management Studies, constructed a pricing model to answer the question of whether, to what extent and how wine price-setters in the supply chain prioritise old vine bottle cues, relative to more conventional extrinsic cues of worth.

Steyn said of the findings: “In addition to the contribution of established cues such as aggregate ratings, exemplar brands, prototypical varieties, and origin, our study confirmed that vine age contributes significantly to wine price.”

He added: “The Certified Heritage Seal is an important step and is likely to sharpen the category boundaries, globally. The sharpening of the value proposition through such objective criteria may inspire greater confidence amongst price-setters in the ability of old vine cues on wine labels and associated marketing to unlock further value. This is crucial in the current global competitive environment.”


Text: Editorial Desk | Images: OVP & On The Marque PR