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Old Vine Charter: Perth’s Swan Valley to preserve historic vines

Vines as old as 125 years from Australia's second oldest wine region, near the Western Australian capital of Perth, will be protected for future generations in the Swan Valley Old Vine Charter.

Old vines from Western Australia’s Swan Valley will be protected in the soon-to-be launched Swan Valley Old Vine Charter (OVC).

More than 20 wineries from this historic region, a 30-minute drive from the state capital of Perth, are participating. The programme will see grapevines from 35 to 125 years of age registered and preserved.

Participating wineries include Talijancich Wines, Nikola Estate, John Kosovich Wines, Mandoon Estate and Sandalford Wines. While the vines are predominantly Shiraz, Verdelho, Chenin Blanc, Grenache and Pedro Ximenez, there is no limitation on what varieties can be registered.

Arch Kosovich - Swan Valley

Arch Kosovich, John Kosovich Wines. Credit: Frances Andrijich

Winemakers James Talijancich, Arch Kosovich and Damian Hutton are the driving force behind the OVC. They hope it will maintain the Swan Valley’s old vineyards and allow the wines to tell a story that speaks of the region from a winemaking, grape growing and regional perspective.

‘Some of Australia’s oldest continuously producing grapevines are in Swan Valley, including Mandoon Estate’s 125-year-old Verdelho vineyard,’ said Kosovich, winemaker at his family’s John Kosovich Wines.

‘The charter, which has been modelled on an existing system in the Barossa Valley, will provide recognition for our wonderful old vines and the wines produced from these precious fruit parcels,’ he explained. ‘It’s our hope more regions will recognise the importance of their vineyards and historic vines and adopt a similar scheme.’

Heritage and regionality

To qualify for OVC recognition, vines need to still produce fruit, and proof of their planting date must be provided. Wines made must be 100% from an OVC vineyard and cannot be blended with fruit from another plot in a different age category.

‘As the second oldest wine region in Australia [after the Hunter Valley in New South Wales], our grapevine heritage is what distinguishes us from other regions around the country,’ said Talijancich, of his family’s Talijancich Wines. ‘These vines are testament to our European settlers who worked the land.’

James Talijancich, Talijancich Wines

James Talijancich, Talijancich Wines. Credit: Frances Andrijich

‘Most winemakers prefer to work with fruit from older vines,’ he added. ‘Once a vine reaches 70 years of age, the yields are low yet the fruit retains an incredibly high intensity of flavour and complexity. This is why it is so important to preserve these precious vines.’

Nikola Estate general manager Damian Hutton agreed. ‘It’s vital to tell the story of our regionality. And there’s no greater story to tell than of wines as they age.

‘These vines give us something special to produce each year. If a winery sells, then the grapevines will be preserved and their heritage will be passed on to the new owners, which will help keep vineyards in the ground for future winemakers.’


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