Why SA is a world leader in old vines

Lifestyle

Why SA is a world leader in old vines

Refusing to be outdone by bureaucracy, Rosa Kruger spent her own time and money documenting SA’s heirlooms

Michael Fridjhon

The Old Vine story has been gathering momentum for some time. Until recently old vineyards were merely survivors, kept in the ground by growers who couldn’t afford new plantings. There was no recognition that, properly managed and under the right circumstances, they could become the purest expression of place. Survivors with epigenetic “memory” of hard times and years of plenty, they are integrated into their landscape. Conceivably they express not only the conditions of a particular vintage, but of all the growing seasons that have come before.

The big change came when Rosa Kruger, one of the most thoughtful, dedicated and innovative of our viticulturists, set out to find and catalogue our heritage or heirloom vineyards. This project, undertaken in her own time and at her own expense, turned out to be a shape-shifter for the whole industry.

When she started she found the dearth of publicly available information compounded by bureaucratic obstruction. Vineyard record-keeping in SA had been a statutory obligation for most of the 20th century. The authorities had all the information she needed at their disposal, but chose to maintain that it was — and should remain — confidential. So she simply followed the routes opened by anecdotal intelligence and found herself stumbling across what are now regarded as viticultural treasures...

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