The oldest Mourvedre vines in the world come from Australia. The words ‘old vines’ on a bottle have no legal significance. The phrase is used as a marketing ploy. Just know that old vines make better wines. However, in South Australia’s Barossa Valley, ‘Old Vine’ means anything over 35 years, and ‘Ancestor Vine’ means 125 years old or more. S. Australia was able to protect its lucrative wine industry through strict quarantine laws when ‘phylloxera (the vine eating louse’ took out most of the world’s vines. The vineyards of the Barossa Valley were planted in the 1840’s, and Yalumba is the biggest family owned producers. Mediterranean grapes were planted for ‘high sugar accumulation’ to make very sweet fortified wines such as Shiraz and Grenache. But in the 1960’s the Australian market started focusing on less sweet table wines like Chardonnay, so many growers had the replace all of their vines with white grapes. The old sweet vines were hard to even give away at a time, but in 1989 they were becoming more popular again, so any growers that kept those vines were doing well again.
Australia’s states in the 19th century functioned as self-governing colonies with separate laws, railway gauges, and units for measuring beer. Victoria’s vineyards were nearly wiped out by phylloxera, but at Tahbilk (an hour drive from Melbourne), one old vineyard survived because it was protected from the louse by sandy soil. Phylloxera can’t survive in sand. Produced there were tiny quantities of a very pure, intense wine called ‘1860 Vines Shiraz,’ which was planted when Queen Victoria was in her prime. Now that the demand for old vine grapes is high, the ones from them are not cheap. Some really good wines to look out for to try would be ‘Yalumba Old Bush Vines Grenache 2013.’ It’s inexpensive and magical, with fresh and flagrant flavors. Another good one to try is ‘Tahbilk 1860 Vines Shiraz 2006.’ It’s elegant and fresh with pure red fruit, spices, and cloves. It’s really a top quality wine that is sold for around $150. A delicate wine to have is ‘Hewitson Old Garden Mourbedre.’ It’s pleasantly surprising on the palate despite its powerful aromas. If you like big flavors, then try the ‘Rockford Basket Press Shiraz.’ It’s made from vines over 60 years old. You’ll get a full rustic experience with this one. Whatever you decide to try, enjoy it slowly.