July 7, 2023

Professor Attilio Scienza, a viticulture expert at the University of Milan, claims that older vines produce fewer grapes than younger ones do and that the extra work an older vine puts into maturing its fruit results in grapes with higher acidity, less sugar, and a dimmer color.

What makes the difference between old and young vines?

The difference between old and young vines in the context of grapevines lies primarily in their age and how they manifest various characteristics related to their growth, productivity, and the wines they produce. Here are the key differences:

  1. Age: The most apparent difference is, of course, the age of the vines. Young vines are typically those that are newly planted and have not yet reached maturity, generally up to 3 to 5 years old. Old vines, on the other hand, are well-established grapevines that have been growing for 30 years or more.
  2. Root System: As vines age, their root systems become more extensive and well-developed. Old vines have deep and intricate root systems that enable them to draw water and nutrients from deeper soil layers. This often contributes to the vine’s resilience and ability to survive challenging conditions.
  3. Productivity: Young vines usually produce more fruit than older ones. They are in the early stages of growth and are focused on establishing themselves and building resources. Old vines, while producing fewer grapes, often yield higher-quality fruit due to better concentration of flavors and nutrients.
  4. Grape Quality: Old vines tend to produce grapes with more complex flavors, often with greater depth and intensity. This is partly due to the lower yield, as the vine channels its energy into fewer grapes, resulting in more concentrated flavors.
  5. Canopy Management: Young vines tend to have more vigorous growth and require careful management of their canopy to achieve balanced sun exposure and airflow. Older vines are often naturally more balanced in their canopy growth, requiring less intervention.
  6. Vine Health and Disease Resistance: Older vines are generally more resistant to certain diseases and pests, as their matured immune system can better fend off threats.
  7. Vineyard Space and Cost: Young vines require less space in the vineyard and are less expensive to plant than older vines. However, older vines, while requiring more space, can be more cost-effective in the long run due to their lower replanting frequency and potentially higher-quality fruit.
  8. Wine Style: Wines made from grapes of old vines often have a distinct character, reflecting the vine’s age, the specific terroir, and the winemaking techniques used. These wines may exhibit more elegance, complexity, and a sense of place.

It’s essential to note that both young and old vines have their unique attributes and contributions to winemaking. Many winemakers appreciate the diversity they bring, and both types can produce outstanding wines when well-tended and expertly crafted.

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