What Makes an Old Vine?
California has zinfandel vines that are more than 140 years old. But when you buy a bottle of "old vine" zinfandel, don't assume that the grapes are from such venerable vines.
There's no legal definition for what constitutes an "old vine," nor are there rules about putting the term on a wine label. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the federal agency that approves wine labels, requested public comment on the matter in 2010, but nothing ever came of it. Other label terms with no legal definition include "ancient vines" and "heritage vines."
The issue of vine age is complicated, says Joel Peterson, founder and winemaker for Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma. Peterson knows a thing or two about old vines: He works with vineyards in Sonoma County that date back to the 1880s -- "we would all agree those are old," he says -- and with other old vineyards in Lodi and the Napa Valley.