What does the term “Old Vines” mean on a wine label?

Old Vines is another term you may see on wine labels. It sounds like the wine is made from grapes grown on older vines thus making the grapes better and the resulting wine produced from these grapes superior. Theoretically that is what it should mean, older vines produce grapes with more concentrated juice, and the resulting wine produced from such grapes should have richer flavors.

Here’s the rub… There is no regulation regarding the term “old vines” being put on a label.

The original designation old vines came from some of the Zinfandel and Carignane vines planted around the end of the 19th Century and into the early 20th century that are still producing wonderful concentrated fruit. These vines were primarily centered in the Lodi area south of Sacramento, Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley and eastern Contra Costa County.

The term gained notoriety when some of the smaller producers in the Lodi and Sonoma’s Dry Creek areas used it to differentiate the wines they produced that were premium offerings. Buyers would look for these “old vines” wines as superior offerings.

Now we fast forward to 2016 and what we see is a lot of wines labeled as old vine. The problem is that your old vines may be 25 to 30 years old which is an age that truly deserves a designation of “old vines” while my old vines may be 7 or 8 years old. There is no regulation that says even what “old vine” means or how old the vines must be to be classified as OLD.

In today’s market old vines means nothing, it is a term that wineries use to make you think that the wine is produced from superior fruit. This is a case of buyer beware the quality and reputation of the winery should guide you in selection not superfluous terms on the label.