One of the more recent projects on sustainability in the South African world of wine is the Old Vine Project (OVP), formally founded in 2016 by viticulturist Rosa Kruger. Rosa started collating details of SA’s old vines in 2002 and over the years garnered interest and sparked a passion for the wealth of old vines in SA.
The OVP’s focus is on raising awareness of these national treasures to farm owners and winemakers as well as for those who enjoy the elegant and complex wines that often come from vines older than 35 years. In 2018, the project launched the Certified Heritage Vineyard seal to certify vineyards older than 35 years of age.
They do this by encouraging and guiding the care of old vines as well as supporting vines to reach this revered status. Another focus is to encourage new plantings to carefully consider viticultural practices with the intention to “plant to grow old”.
You may be wondering what is so significant about old vines and do they produce better quality wines. In Rosa’s experience, they often do. There is a combination of factors, most importantly is older vines’ propensity to show cultivar-specific character is slowly overtaken by terroir-specific character. Old vines capture a purity of terroir that tells the unique story of the parcel of vines. Another key factor is these vines have been cared for from a place of sentiment which points to the commitment to the vines often ensuring good health which is more likely to grow quality fruit.
Ken Forrester is a proud member of the OVP with the FMC 2020, Sparklehorse 2019 and Dirty Little Secret Three baring the Certified Heritage Vineyards seal. The FMC is primarily from a vineyard planted in 1974, with no trellis bush vines, based in the maritime region of Stellenbosch, within 7km of the cold Atlantic Ocean. This vineyard produces very limited yields and by passing through the vineyard to make 7-8 selections of fruit across a 4/5-week window, the true essence is captured of this fantastic site.
Sparklehorse is a Cap Classique from a carefully selected cool Stellenbosch vineyard that allows the grapes to mature while maintaining the all-important refreshing acidity. These are mature, irrigated vineyards with controlled yields planted in 1975. The old cordons were removed in 2006 due to an outbreak of the Eutypa fungus. Fortunately, these old vines were saved and retrellised on the Double Perold trellis system.
The Dirty Little Secret (DLS) Three comes from bush vines planted with no irrigation in totally sandy soils of decomposed granite. These vines are at approximately 650m above sea level facing the west coast and Elands Bay in the Piekenierskloof region. Most importantly this vineyard was planted in 1965. These vines grow fruit of exceptional purity and each release of DLS is a blend of vintages that capture a complex and detailed story of the terroir.
These Certified Heritage Vineyard wines from Ken Forrester are ideal for creating more awareness of these auspicious South African vines.