“How old are your vines?” is a common question at cellar door and I usually give the straight answer of 15 years old. Since the vines are vegetatively propagated (stick a cutting in the ground to make a new vine) you could also consider them to be more than 200 years old! The MV6 Pinot clone has a murky history but may have been brought to Australia from the Clos Vougeot by James Busby in 1831; amazing to think that our vines go back to a cutting that traveled to the colonies in a square rigger!
Obviously most people mean how long have the vines been in the ground at our vineyard as this is apparently an important factor in determining wine quality. Not surprising that people spruik what they have as the best and if you ask a vineyard with particularly old vines they will assert that it is a very important factor indeed!
There are, of course, many other factors most notably soil type; in a sandy soil the vine roots will penetrate the soil profile fully after only five years or so…..
For me, a more important factor is how long has the winemaker has been “married” to the vineyard: the longer the marriage goes on the better the winemaker will understand how the vineyard handles different types of seasons.
If the vines are balanced and the crops are moderate it doesn’t really matter how old the vines are, Katnook Estate won the Jimmy Watson in 1998 with a Shiraz off three year old vines!