The odd contradiction about wine is that wine is far more about what’s outside the bottle than what’s in it. The history of the people who made it, of a place, the year it was grown in, and the political machinations that shaped it. Wine is not about a moment of silence, but of bibulous storytelling.
Old vines have stories built into them. They are our viticultural grandparents imparting wisdom, able to communicate the ineffable taste of a place. In South Africa we can boast about vineyards planted as far back as 1900 (and possibly before), vines that have witnessed world wars, political upheaval, the moon landing, climate change, and the advent of the car, aeroplane, television, and the selfie. These heritage sites are more than just old plants — they are the emotions behind the bottle, and, in the words of one third generation grape farmer, the closest we come to understanding immortality and the humanity of ageing.