In recent years, South Africa and Chile started a process to rescue old vineyards in their territory, which has brought interesting synergies between rural areas away from cities and consumers, creating a new category of wines that is gaining strength among importers, distributors and international wine critics.
This new trend to produce wines from old vineyards has generated a greater dynamism of the international market, and has reactivated rural areas that were abandoned, all thanks to the support of large wineries, public and private institutions.
In the case of South Africa, highlights “Old Vine Project”, a private initiative whose initial funding came from the South African entrepreneur, Johann Rupert, owner of Antonij Rupert Wines, L’Ormarins, which has among the main promoters, Rosa Kruger, renowned consultant in viticulture of South Africa.
Old Vine Project made an interesting protocol that began with determining what an old vineyard meant for South Africa. In this case, vineyards over 35 years old qualified to be included in this initiative, and in this way, an awareness of the heritage of the old vines is created.
Winemakers can certify their wines as ‘Old Vine’ and the public will knowingly buy wines made from old vineyards that in most cases were abandoned.
According to Old Vine Project: “Ancient vineyards can produce wines with unique character. They are wines that reflect the immensity of the South African landscape, which in most cases is a hostile climate, very fragile ancient soils, with extreme geography. “
The project has generated an interesting promotion strategy in the United Kingdom thanks to the support of the Wines of South Africa office, which collaborates with the convening and organization of wine tastings of ancient vineyards.
In the case of Chile, the Program called Nodo Estratégico Chile Vitivinícola 2.0 was implemented in 2016, supported and promoted by CORFO in coordination with the association Vinos de Chile and the Ministry of Agriculture, where the roadmap was generated for the Chilean wine industry based on a calendar of activities where seminars, talks, workshops and sectorial meetings were highlighted.
According to Maximiliano Morales, former Manager of Nodo Estratégico Chile Vitivinícola 2.0: “Four strategic focuses were defined: Climate Change, (adaptation to the effects and agriculture frontier), Development of New Products, (productive and market development), Rescue of Genetic Material, (heritage, varieties and rootstocks) and Country Image (development of wine culture and national identity), which were the reference framework for various public-private proposals and solutions to be implemented in early actions and medium-sized products in the long term.
These activities involved national and international actors, more than 364 winemakers, agronomists, academics, economists, journalists and wine specialists, researchers and technicians from the PUC, Chile, Concepcion and Talca Universities, the Centers of Excellence UC Davis Chile, Fraunhofer Chile ; INIA, INDAP, CPL, trade associations and groups (Vidseca, Vigno, MOVI, AGEPVVI), INIA Cauquenes, Prodesal de San Rosendo and Nacimiento, Portezuelo, Araucanía Vitivinícola, and CORFO regional directorates from Maule to Aysén, among others.
One of the most important facts after the Nodo Estratégico Chile Vitivinícola 2.0, was the creation of the Wine Extension Center (CEV del Sur), a three-year project led by UC Davis Chile together with INIA and the Faculty of Agronomy of the University of Concepción.
The objective of this new entity is focused on improving the quality and competitiveness of wine produced by vintners of Tutuvén, Itata, Biobío and Malleco areas in the south of Chile (Ñuble, Bio Bio and Araucania Regions), through direct advice in viticulture and vineyard management by winemakers who visit and guide producers.
To open new markets and promote the new brands of old vineyards, ProChile, which belongs to the Chilean Government, has co-financed different presentations in England, Colombia and the United States, which were created specifically for the “Cepas Patrimoniales” segment. Most are wines produced from old country vines, torontel, moscatel de alejandría and other varieties that are slowly being incorporated into the portfolio of Chilean wines as a differentiating factor.
Unlike South Africa, in Chile there are vineyards of 150 years old in full production, and more than 4,000 kilometers that are in the process of exploration and identification.
The challenge for South Africa and Chile, as well as other countries that are beginning to explore this niche, is to consolidate the offer and support small producers so that these efforts generate a better quality of life in rural areas, in addition to continuing in the process of identification of varieties that were thought to be lost.
According to Wine Marketing consultant, Maximiliano Morales: “Chile has a whole territory in north of Chile to explore old vineyards that are one part being used for pisco production (distillation of wine from grapes that belong to the oldest Origin Denomination 1931 in America and the second in the world), and the other is being used for small local production.
More than 4.000 kilometers from north to south to explore and to identify grapes in each transversal valley still needs to be done, grapes are still undiscovered….”