THE ADVOCATE 533
VOL. 80 PART 4 JULY 2022
By Michael Welsh, Q.C.*
The juice of the grape is the liquid quintessence of concentrated sunbeams.
—Thomas Love Peacock, Melincourt; Or Sir Oran Hautton
NEW WINE, OLD VINE
Fact or fancy? The best wine comes from old vines.
An increasing number of wineries tout their wines as being “old vine” as
if it were an accepted truth that this makes them better. In this article, I
explore that “truth” and the efforts to save some of the more iconic old vine–
growing areas from tear out and replanting.
Grape plants can live for centuries. The oldest known grapevine is found
in Slovenia. At more than 450 years old, it is the only plant boasting its own
museum: the Old Vine House in Maribor. Named Žametovka or modra
kavˇcina (Bleu de Cologne), the vine is listed in the Guinness World Records
as the oldest in the world still producing fruit. It was planted in Maribor at
the end of the Middle Ages during the Turkish invasions. Today, it is a
tourist destination with its own festival and even its own anthem.1 While
there, you can buy small bottles of nondescript wine made from it. Act fast
if you are ever there, as only 100 bottles are produced each year.
Not far behind is the more famous 250-year-old “great vine” at Hampton
Court Palace, the edifice built by Henry VIII for his sequence of wives.
Planted in 1768 by renowned landscape architect Lancelot “Capability”
Brown for George III, by 1887 the vine was already 1.2 metres (4’) around
* Michael Welsh, Q.C., is a bencher, although he does not write or drink in that capacity. His views expressed here are
entirely his own. Both the author and the Advocate endorse healthy and responsible attitudes toward alcohol.