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As we approach the end of August, when it will be time for you to vote on your favourite entry in this year’s writing competition, we’re publishing this account by Chris Howard*, winner of our 2021 competition, of his long-postponed prize: a trip to see South Africa’s cherished old vines in person. Above, Chenin vines dating from 1964 successfully transplanted from the Paardeberg Mountains to the L’Ormarins estate in Franschhoek (photo: Gideon Nel). See alsothis guide to our extensive coverage of old vines and Janciss tasting article on old-vine South African wines.

Home to some of the oldest soils on earth, the Cape of Good Hope is also ground zero for South Africa’s burgeoning Old Vine Project. There I found the determination to preserve heritage vineyards is driven not only by the quality of the wines they produce but a conception of value that takes us well beyond economics and into ethical, aesthetic and symbolic territory. After an outline and update of the project, I offer some reflections on these dimensions and how the growing passion for old vines speaks of and to our times.

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