Plant to grow old

An international research community

The Old Vine Project invites you to join the community of international researchers.  We aim to connect researchers across the globe to collaborate and share knowledge on old vines and the wines that they produce. For specific enquiries, please contact

Research projects on old vines in South Africa include

1. Exploring analytical methods for the detailed chemical profiling of old Vine Chenin blanc wine volatiles. (Ngxangxa, De Villiers, Nieuwoudt & Tredoux, 2018, Stellenbosch University) 

2. Can transcriptomics shed light on the “oldvine” character of wines? ( Burger, Coetzee, Oosthuizen & Mare, 2019, Stellenbosch University)

3. Evaluating the worth of nascent old vine cues for South African wines (Steyn & Priilaid 2018, UCT Graduate School of Business )

Sensory and chemical profiles of Old Vine Chenin Blanc wine

The chemical profiling of the ‘old vine’ sensory character of Chenin Blanc wines has taken an important step forward in a collaborative effort between the Department of Chemistry and the Institute for Wine Biotechnology at Stellenbosch University (SU), the Chenin Blanc Association and private cellars.

A clear differentiation between ‘old vine’ Chenin Blanc wines and those produced from younger vines was demonstrated, and the individual volatile compounds responsible for the differences are being identified. The ‘Aroma of South African Chenin Blanc Wines’ wheel was updated to include the new aromas and mouthfeel attributes.

2. Old vine Pinotage research

Research to investigate possible genetic influences on improved wine quality in old Pinotage vines has also been conducted by Professor Johan Burger at SU. His team compared both gene expression levels and total microbiomes in old (53 years) and young (seven years) Pinotage vines, inter-planted in the same commercial vineyard. Results show a significant difference in the grapes and juice of young vines compared to older vines, with older vines having significantly higher acid at a lower Balling, thus a lower alcohol and better pH.

3. The worth of old vineyard wines

Some of the most exciting new wines in South Africa have come from noble old vines, the fruit from which had mostly been disappearing into huge anonymous tanks, the farmers receiving little reward for the low yields. Research undertaken in collaboration between Winetech, the University of Cape Town (UCT ) and the UCT Graduate School of Business, concluded that vine age does in fact have a significant influence on the price of wines in South Africa. They found that R2.96 was added for every year a vineyard had been in the ground, translating to a R103,60 premium for a 35-year-old vine entering old vine status.

Heritage Selections

The OVP, in conjunction with Vititec, worked to develop virus-free Heritage Selection plant material in order to take the industry into the next phase of ‘planting to grow old’. This is a philosophy of developing vineyards that will continue to deliver grapes of outstanding quality for use in winemaking as they grow older.

To achieve this virus-free status, individual vines were selected in different blocks from the best old vine vineyards in the Cape and ‘cleaned’ of any known viruses that may have been present. This process is known as heat therapy and is conducted under laboratory conditions. The Heritage Selections are now being planted on a one-hectare parcel of land on the Ferreira family’s farm, Pietersklip.

Enrol in the Old Vine Academy to learn more about old vine research.

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André Morgenthal
Old Vine Project Manager

Nadia Hefer
Old Vine Project Consultant