An update on The Old Vine Conference from Sarah Abbott MW
Just over four thousand people voted for their Old Vine Hero last week: proof of the power of old vines to move us. The winner, Laura Catena from Argentina, was one of eight on our judges’ shortlist, which comprised champions of old vines from Armenia, Chile, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the USA. The long list, derived from more than sixty nominations, was inspiring. Old vines are a beacon for our most talented and visionary winemakers.
We announced Laura Catena as our first Old Vine Hero during Old Vine Week, at a dinner and tasting held on the 15th March, and attended by trade professionals, wine enthusiasts and journalists. The wines were electric, and gloriously eclectic, from thirty producers and a dozen nations.
Since we founded the Old Vine Conference in 2021, the non-profit has hosted four conferences, seven tastings, and two field trips. Thirty-nine speakers have shared their expertise, and over one thousand six hundred delegates have registered for our events. We collaborated with the South African Old Vine Project to sponsor a prize for the winner of Jancis Robinson’s 2022 wine writing competition with a field trip to the old vineyards of South Africa. Chris Howard, whose prize-winning article on old vines Contra Costa, California is free to view at jancisrobinson.com, is taking up that visit this May.
Our community of sponsor members has grown to just over twenty: their financial support and practical engagement has created a network that is more inspirational, creative and powerful than we had ever imagined. Our next event highlights a collaboration with OVC supporter The IWSC Foundation, and is a masterclass and tasting on The Heritage Vineyards of Turkey, held on 22nd May at Trivet Restaurant in London.
Thanks to the efforts of our nine Regional Ambassadors, who spread the word about the OVC to their network, regional chapters are emerging. We now have eight member wineries in Italy, for example. As well as highlighting those members’ old vine projects in our main program, we are working on creating events in Italy. We are becoming international, which moves us closer to our goal of creating a global category for Old Vine Wine.
Organisations of all types and sizes are joining us: our newest members include generic bodies such as the Consejo Regulador for Campo de Borja in Spain, and Plaimont, the visionary co-operative that is the custodian of some of the oldest vines in France, in Saint-Mont. I am also thrilled that we have a growing community of individual members: these are wine enthusiasts who want to support the growers of old vines. It was great to meet some of them at our tasting on the 15th March.
The Trade must be involved if old vine wine is to become a viable, value-added, category. And many of them are. As Spanish specialists, Alliance Wine are aware of the value and vulnerability of old vines, and they have been a strong supporter of the Old Vine Conference from the start. As a Trade Member, Alliance created an Old Vine Wine trail at their recent trade tasting. They highlight Old Vines as a separate category in their marketing materials, and we are working with them to create an Old Vine Conference Field Trip to the award-winning recuperated vineyards at Bodegas Amaren, whose wines they import. Other major importers such as Boutinot are also supporting our first #OldVineWineWeek by highlighting great old vine wines from their portfolio, and, like Enotria, generously sharing great bottles of old vine wines for our events.
In April we are co-hosting a presentation on old vine value with master pruners Simonit & Sirch at Summa. Hosted by Alois Lageder, this is a wine festival featuring premium sustainable wineries from around the world.
We have a full programme in 2023. Thanks to the generous support of 67 Pall Mall, we are hosting old vine wine masterclasses there in April and June. We continue to collaborate with the IWSC and will be awarding the Old Vine Trophy for wine with them in September. Our next conference in October will be online so that we can involve our global community. We are hosting a further field trip to Asti, Piedmont in collaboration with our supporter, Vinchio Vaglio. We are also working on two major new initiatives that we will be announcing shortly. I remain grateful for and inspired by the support, including our partnership with London Wine Fair, the network, and the incredible wines.
For more information on The Old Vine Conference, and how to get involved, visit www.oldvines.org.