The world’s oldest vines in Australia’s Barossa Valley


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Australia’s Barossa Valley has some of the world’s oldest vines still producing wine, including semillon, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and mouvedre.

Image: Kangaroo at the Old Garden Vineyard, courtesy of Hewitson

Friedrich Koch planted the mouvedre in 1853. It is the oldest surviving version of this grape in the world, based on historical records and family diaries.

Dean Hewitson makes magnificent wine with this mouvedre at his Old Garden vineyard. Until 1998 the grapes were blended or used to make fortified wines. ‘I wanted to see what I could do with a single variety with this pedigree,’ Hewitson said.

In May he offered a vertical tasting in Shanghai and Hong Kong of 15 vintages since 1998. A similar vertical was held in New York in February and Hewitson plans another in London in September.

He noted that the vines had witnessed the entire history of the Australian wine industry. The Barossa escaped the ravages of the phylloxera louse in the 1880s but has endured floods and fires.

‘The roots of these vines are so deep that even on the hottest days, when all other vines in the Barossa have shut down, their leaves are bright. Like sunflowers they track the sun.’

The vines are planted on what was an ancient lake. The Old Garden vineyard grows in two metres of sand over limestone.

‘Mouvedre is a very late ripening variety and these conditions let us harvest at the end of the season with perfect maturity.’ Mouvedre needs a long ripening season because of the thickness of the skins.

The vines are hand-harvested and not irrigated.

Dean Hewitson spoke with video reporter Stephen Quinn about the vineyard site and the origins of the wine.

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