Old Vine Registry launched

Old Vine Registry home page

12 October 2023 Calling all old-vine fans! The fifth Old Vine Conference is happening next week, virtually, on 19 and 20 October. The packed and diverse programme covers 15 countries and five continents, with speakers and panellists exploring old-vine science, culture, history, communication, economics and, most importantly, the future. Register here – and find details of those cherished old vineyards in our Old Vine Registry.

28 June 2023 We’re excited to announce that our Old Vines Register has undergone a radical transformation …

Yesterday evening saw a dream come true for a group of wine lovers who have worked for many years, in different ways, to raise awareness of the value of old vines. It was the live launch of the The Old Vine Registry – the most comprehensive online database of old-vine vineyards in the world.

Many of our readers know only too well how passionate we are about old vines, making old vines the subject of our most popular wine writing competition ever, in 2021. The winner, Chris Howard, took the photograph below in South Africa where he recently, finally, claimed his prize of a trip to see old vineyards there.

Old vines in S Africa by Chris Howard

You may remember our Old Vines Register, which began life in 2010 as a simple spreadsheet to track old vineyards and the wines made from them, simply because the vines were undervalued and under threat. Jancis wrote in 2005, ‘These old vines are a wonderful resource. Take advantage before they are all grubbed up.’

Jancis wasn’t the only one. Viticulturist Rosa Kruger had begun compiling a list of old vineyards in South Africa more than two decades ago with the aim of protecting them, eventually leading to the foundation of the South African Old Vine Project in 2016. At the same time, organisations were springing up in California (Lodi specifically), Barossa and McLaren Vale in Australia and Maule in Chile, all with the purpose of raising awareness and preserving old vineyards. Sarah Abbott MW also had a vision for creating a credible, viable market category for wines made from old vines and, in February 2021, launched the Old Vine Conference. Energy and awareness of old-vine vineyards was gathering momentum.

By this time, our Old Vines Register had become increasingly cumbersome – thousands of rows and columns and cells. It was getting difficult to manage, difficult to upload to the website, difficult to navigate. ‘We need a proper database’, I wailed to Jancis. ‘How do we achieve that?’, she shot back. ‘We need a developer’, I answered. Ha, ha. We had no budget for one. I thought it was just a pipe dream. In February 2022, Jancis put out the call to the wine universe: volunteer developer wanted; no pay offered.

The answer came from the most unexpected place. One of our own, Alder Yarrow, our regular US columnist and force behind Vinography, happens to have a career in digital marketing and user experience, so designing and project managing the development of user-friendly online portals is something he knew more than a little something about. He sent this email: 'We heard your request for help, and we’re willing to roll up our sleeves and build a website and database for the Old Vines Register, if that’s something you’d still like help with. What’s the best way to start this conversation about how to get this done and who should we be coordinating with?'

This email set in motion an extraordinary collaboration of individuals who carved out and freely gave precious hours of their personal time in order to make The Old Vine Registry (note the slight change of name) happen, as well as organisations who gave finance and resources to support the project.

Alder is the architect behind the design and build of The Old Vine Registry and has driven the project from concept to realisation. The initial raw data at the heart of the Registry was provided by JancisRobinson.com – the work mainly of me and wine blogger and Alsace fanatic Benjamin Roelfs – and the ongoing stewardship of The Old Vine Registry lies with The Old Vine Conference. The development of The Old Vine Registry has been funded by a generous donation from Jackson Family Wines.

The result is an elegant, beautifully presented, navigable and richly detailed online resource of the world’s heritage vineyards, free for anyone to access. It has been specifically designed to be dynamic, encouraging anyone who knows about an old vineyard that is not already in the database to submit the details so it can be added. It is a place where winemakers can tell their stories, wine lovers can come to discover these stories, wine buyers can come to find treasures to add to their portfolios, and academics can visit for research. It’s a virtual-DNA database of cultural, historical and biological resilience.

The live, virtual launch of The Old Vine Registry, hosted by Jancis Robinson MW, Sarah Abbott MW and Alder Yarrow, and featuring guest speaker Rosa Kruger, discussed the journey of The Old Vine Registry from its inception 15 years ago to today, explaining how it is funded and how it works. It also included an open panel discussion about some of the vineyards already listed in The Old Vine Registry.

Have a nose around this exciting new resource: The Old Vine Registry. Any input is welcome and will be checked before it is published.

The recording of the live launch webinar can be found on YouTube: