Old Vines, Very, Very Old Vines

oldest vineThis is a remarkable story. Maribor, Slovenia is home to the world’s oldest producing grapevine. It is reported to have been planted in the 1500’s, and testing has shown it to be at least 375 years. And is still going strong. ( Most vines produce for 20-40 years with yields dramatically falling after 20, although vineyards 80-100 years old are not unheard of.)

While walking around the old part of the city, you may, however, miss this natural wonder if you walk too quickly past Vojašniška street. There, leaning up against a non-descript pale eggshell house is a lone, ash-colored trunk. A simple, black steel fence protects this branch-like structure, which looks as if it has been petrified and never removed from where it resides.But while the trunk may look ancient and old, as you walk toward the vine and look up you’re greeted by lush, forest green leaves climbing up the wall of the house. A little closer look and you will notice huge bunches of plump grapes hanging from the vine, just waiting to be plucked. Meet “Old Vine,” the oldest grape producing vine in the world that’s still very much alive and well.

The grape varietal is  Žametovka and the vine produces enough grapes to make only one hundred 250 ml bottles each year, most of which is given to visiting VIPs. Unless you can line up a big donation to the good folks of Maribor, the chances of getting your hands on a bottle are slim. At least, Maribor gives away a graft of the vine every year to a deserving city, preserving the gene line of this remarkable vine.

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