Mission: Protect old vines
Producers are looking for protection for«Old Vine»
Old vines are a special treasure in the wine world. However, as there are different definitions of what an old vine is around the world, it is not always easy to know the entire life and history of a site.
In South Africa, the Old Vine Project (OVP) aims to eliminate this ambiguity by registering vineyards that are 35 years old or older as Certified Heritage Vineyards. If a wine is made from one of these sites, its label will bear a seal and the year in which the vineyard was planted.
According to SA Wine Industry Information and Systems (SAWIS) data from 2020, there are approximately 9,125 hectares of vineyards in South Africa that are 35 years old or older, spread across different regions with different soil types. Of the more than 80 certified Heritage Vineyards in South Africa, 10 are over 100 years old.
One of these sites, Basson Vineyard in the Wellington Wine of Origin (WO) appellation, is the oldest certified red vineyard in South Africa and one of the first OVP Certified Heritage Vineyards.
The vineyard of just under one hectare was planted with Cinsault in 1900. It was one of the first sites to be replanted after the phylloxera outbreak. The gnarled bush vines are deeply rooted in the sandstone alluvial soils of Table Mountain.
Since 2014, Andrea and Chris Mullineux of Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines have been looking after this particular site.
When they began farming the site, the vineyard was underperforming, even considering its advanced age. However, years of care and restoration by the Mullineuxs proved beneficial. The last harvest of the 2021 vintage yielded 3.8 tonnes, compared to half a tonne at the first harvest.
The grapes produce earthy, mineral wines with structure and rich fruit flavours. The limited harvest was initially only used for the Leeu Passant Dry Red, which was launched with the 2015 vintage. Still, since the 2017 vintage, the site has also been represented by the Leeu Passant Basson Vineyard Cinsault as a single vineyard.