How old is the vine of an “old vine”wine?Ask The Wine Ladies October 2013

 Dear Wine Ladies,

Over the last couple of years I’ve been enjoying Zinfandel more and more, particularly the ones that indicate coming from old vines. I’ve only ever seen them from California and was wondering if it is a grape that orginate’s from there or if other places make them? Speaking of “old vines” how old do they have to be, to be able to claim that on the label?

Graham, Vancouver.



Dear Graham,

Zinfandel only goes by this name in California. Although many people think it is a grape indigenous to the state some historians believed it was first imported from Hungary in 1852, while still others speculated that it came from southern Italy, as a similar grape Primitivo showed identical DNA. Most recently it has been confirmed with DNA fingerprinting that it is actually an ancient Croatian grape called Crljenak Kasteljanski which translates to “the red grape of Kastela”.

 In terms of labeling a wine “old vine” there is no legal definition however one very well known and respected winemaker considered the “Godfather of Zin” Joel Peterson of Ravenwood Winery maintains 10-50 years is considered middle age, 50-80, old vines and over 80 years, ancient.

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