When Wines Witness History: South Africa's Old Vines, And What They've Seen

Friday, 21 December, 2018
Forbes, Cathy Huyghe
“Thick with emotion.” Do you know this phrase? That’s how my voice feels when I’m talking about certain wines from South Africa, especially those made from old vines that have been rooted in the earth longer than most of us have been alive.

Why such a visceral reaction?

Partly it’s my affinity for the narratives of wine, anywhere in the world. Partly it’s my personal history of time spent on the continent, from Kenya and Tanzania to Ethiopia to South Africa itself. And partly it’s my affection for old vines, which I wrote about earlier this year in the context of zinfandel in California.

Count me in, I wrote then, for the pure pleasure of stingy but exceptional grape production. Count me in for quality over quantity. Count me in too for what old vines say about the history they’ve witnessed over the span of their lives.

Which brings me to the voice that’s thick with emotion, especially when you take all of that and add “in South Africa” to the end of that last sentence.

The line in the sand for an identification of “old vines” in South Africa is 35 years, or more. 

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