People often ask what “ancient vines” or “old vines” on a label means. Let’s explore that with a discussion of a Cline Cellars wine tasting.
|“Ancient Vines” at Cline’s Oakley Ranch|
Older vines = less fruit and less fruit usually = better fruit. Fruit production begins to decline when the vine is about 20 years old and at 50 most grape growers cannot get enough fruit to make growing economical. Less fruit means more sugars and flavors are concentrated in each grape and fewer leaves allow more sunlight to reach and ripen the grapes. Fewer grapes also mean less wine and doesn’t it always seem better if there is less to go around?
Zinfandel has a rich history in California. It was a hugely popular wine in the years following the initial gold rush and the choice of “home winemakers” during Prohibition. The “ancient vines” grown by Cline Cellars are between 80 and 120 years old. Given the vines’ ages, we are drinking a little bit of the history of California’s signature grape. But does it affect the taste?
You CAN taste the difference in the Cline Cellars 2010 Zinfandel and the 2010 Ancient Vines Zinfandel. The flavor profile differs some and a big difference can be found on the finish. The Zinfandel has a pleasant but quick burst of bright fruit and a shorter finish. The Ancient Vines Zinfandel has an extended finish filled with more complex flavors of toasted oak, vanilla, chocolate and black fruits.
The Mourvedre grape increased in popularity and plantings in California in the 1990s. Few old vines remain in California. Cline Cellars 2010 Ancient Vines Mourvedre comes from some of those few remaining “ancient” vines and offers ripe dark fruit with soft oak, and balanced acid and tannin. It has a lush quality and an extended finish.
Cline Cellars 2011 Cashmere employs the classic GSM blend of Grenache, Syrah, and again old vine Mourvedre to make a dry, but quite fruity wine. Look for more red fruit like cherry, raspberry and a “candied” fruit flavor with a pleasing finish.
These are good wines to have on your “go to” list. They are inexpensive enough (~$12-18) for a weekday dinner – you can catch them on sale too! They are versatile for an appetizer party where people might be drinking them with a variety of foods or even without food. Most importantly they are well crafted wines you can proudly serve and enjoy. In fact, I think I will enjoy a glass of Cashmere now!