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As we are looking towards 2020,
we reflect on the highlights of 2019.

Old Vine Statistics in South Africa 

South African Wine Information Systems (SAWIS), which has been a crucial pillar of support to the OVP, showed that the number of old vines has grown from 2 952 hectares in 2016 to 3 505 hectares in 2018

Certified Heritage Vineyards Trading Platform

The OVP is proud to launch the Certified Heritage Vineyards Trading Platform, with the objective to connect the grape growers of old vines and winemakers.  Old vines make wines with a unique character, wines that reflect the vastness of our South African landscape and decades of growing in the same place.  These vines are managed with care, and with sensitivity to their age and fragility. Preserving and understanding the value of the older blocks has been part and parcel of the South African viticultural landscape for decades. By ensuring fair engagements across the value chain, we can create a sustainable business model for all stakeholders. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact us for more information. 

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Old Vine Seminar in Japan

Cathy van Zyl MW arranged an old vine wine tasting and seminar in Japan with the support of Kenichi Ohashi MW and the Wine & Spirit Education Trust office in Tokyo. Rosa Kruger shared the importance of old vineyards and stories of the diversity of the South African winelands. The OVP was received with great enthusiasm by Master of Wine candidates, sommeliers, the wine trade, educators and journalists.

ProWein 2019

The OVP presented at ProWein this year with the generous support of Wines of South Africa. André Morgenthal shared the beautiful story of South African old vines with a full theatre of 50 members of international media and trade. This was also a valuable opportunity to interact with other regions with old vines, for example Barossa, Chile, Lodi and Rioja.

IWINETC 2019

André was invited to attend leading global wine tourism event IWINETC in the Basque Country as a presenter and as part of the press group. He presented the South African wine tourism strategy informed by the Vinpro Wine Industry Strategic Exercise and input from Wesgro, as well as ‘Old Vine Heritage Tours as a Differentiator in Wine Tourism’. 

CBIC 2019

The Chenin Blanc International Conference was held in Angers, France from 1 -3 July 2019.  Chenin Blanc forms a crucial part of the old vine story and represents more than half of all vineyards of 35 years or older in South Africa.  André presented how Chenin Blanc is preserving heritage and creating future value in South Africa.  We are looking forward to the next CBIC, hosted by South Africa in 2021. 

WOSA Sommelier Cup

Wines of South Africa (WOSA) staged the triennial Sommelier Cup this year. The aim of this competition is to drive these important on-trade partners to school themselves about South African wine with the potential of winning an amazing trip to our beautiful country in order to compete in the final round. In doing so they are raising awareness of South African wines in our key target markets while encouraging the distribution of knowledge to key industry players who are often also buyers within their organisations.  The successful group of international semi-finalists visited South Africa from 19-26 September 2019. The  Old Vine Project was selected to present a seminar around old vine red wines at The Vineyard Hotel on 20 September 2019.   

TOPS at Spar The Wine Show

In partnership with TOPS at SPAR The Wine Show, the OVP attended the Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town shows. André presented a special old vine masterclass as part of Jon Meinking’s Wine Theatre. At a neighbouring stand, the OVP interacted with show guests. 

Heritage Tours

A dream in the making for more than a year was realised in March this year when the inaugural Old Vine Heritage Tours by helicopter launched from Cape Town, followed the coastline from Muizenberg and crossed over to the Helderberg, generously hosted by Waterford, Creation and Antonij Rupert Wines.   During 2020 we will further develop our range of Heritage Tours and Experiences.  

Members’ Meeting and Old Vine Wine Tasting

The OVP hosted a general members’ meeting, followed by an old vine wine tasting supported by Amorim Cork, on 13 August 2019 at De Volkskombuis. In caring for its bi-centenary natural forests, Amorim employs the same degree of care, respect and wonder with which viticulturists look after their vines as well as  winemakers who oversee the magic of turning grapes into wine. Reflecting on the partnership between Amorim and OVP, Joaquim Sá comments “With time on our side, Amorim is a proud partner of the Old Vine Project. Because we know the best is worth waiting for.”

“Even though premium wines represent a smaller of the volume in South Africa, it is creating the conversations and making a change in our industry. We as producers, need to support the Old Vine Project’s activities.  It is initiatives like this that will create a buffer during difficult times in our industry.  We are creating stories and these stories need to be celebrated. The Old Vine Project is a fantastic intermediary to share these stories with the world.” Carl van der Merwe, DeMorgenzon.

FELCO Old Vine Pruning

FELCO Africa has been a strategic partner of the OVP since its inauguration. FELCO is actively involved in supporting pruning skill awareness and empowerment through the education of all levels of vineyard workers. The OVP, along with FELCO, aims to focus efforts on having a social, environmental and economic impact and positive influence on the wine industry. FELCO sponsored an OVP training course, consisting of a theory module, followed by hands-on practical experience under supervision in an old vineyard. During 2019, four instructors were trained, who in turn trained 60 attendees. The attendees in turn will share the knowledge of old vine pruning principles with their pruning teams. 

Old Vine Research

Research is an important cornerstone for the OVP. Rosa Kruger shares the following insight: “Old Vines are a wonderful source of knowledge for scientific research in our understanding of plants and the ageing process of vines, especially in this challenging time of climate change.” 

Vititec, in conjunction the OVP and a team of ampelography specialists from France, took samples from some of the oldest Chenin Blanc vineyard blocks in South Africa to include in their clonal garden. 

The chemical profiling of the ‘old vine’ sensory character of Chenin Blanc wines has taken an important step forward in a collaborative effort between the Department of Chemistry and the Institute for Wine Biotechnology at Stellenbosch University (SU), the Chenin Blanc Association and private cellars. Clear differentiation between ‘old vine’ Chenin Blanc wines and those produced from younger vines was demonstrated, and the individual volatile compounds responsible for the differences are being identified. The ‘Aroma of South African Chenin Blanc Wines’ wheel was updated to include the new aromas and mouthfeel attributes.

Research to investigate possible genetic influences on improved wine quality in old Pinotage vines has been conducted by Professor Johan Burger at SU. His team compared both gene expression levels and total microbiomes in old (53 years) and young (seven years) Pinotage vines inter-planted in the same commercial vineyard.Results show a significant difference in the grapes and juice of young vines compared to older vines. Older vines have significantly higher acid at a lower Balling, thus a lower alcohol and better pH.

Some of the most exciting new wines in South Africa have come from noble old vines, the fruit from which had mostly been disappearing into huge anonymous tanks, the farmers receiving little reward for the low yields. Says Rosa Kruger: “We also believe that the renewed focus on the quality that old vines in South Africa can give will help to raise the price of grapes in our country.”

Research undertaken in collaboration between Winetech, the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business and the University of Cape Town concluded that vine age does in fact have a significant influence on the price of wines in South Africa.

Our Vision for 2020

Looking towards the future, Rosa Kruger, says “The foundation of the Old Vine Project will always be in viticulture and vines.  Our aim is to plant now and in future enable vineyards to be able to grow old; vineyards that are sustainable with vines that are healthy and free of  virus.  Our vision is that these vineyards will be tended for by workers that are skilled and trained in the art of viticulture.”

“Wines of South Africa has seen great value in our ongoing partnerships with the OVP. Their continued efforts to save, nurture and preserve some of the oldest vines in the country, which often produce some of our most outstanding wines, has had an immense impact both locally and abroad in the overall recognition of South African wine. Furthermore, the Certified Heritage Seal, being the first of its kind, has benchmarked what we do here in South Africa alongside our international counterparts to add a mark of heritage and quality alike.” Siobhan Thompson, CEO WOSA.
                                                       
The OVP, along with its members and partners, will continue to focus on efforts to have a positive social, environmental and economic impact on the wine industry. By centralising efforts around the triple bottom line, which is truly important, viticultural heritage can be used as building blocks to create future value and ultimately create a sustainable model for farmers.

We are looking forward to building on the success of 2019 and the new opportunities that 2020 brings.

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