Why old vines

When we started looking for plots where we could apply biodynamic agriculture and make our dry white wines, we were clear that we wanted to find old palomino vines. The main reason is that the old palomino vines are of mass selection; that is: they did not come from nurseries, nor from a genetically modified clone such as palomino california, which currently represents more than 90% of the vineyards in Marco de Jerez. The mass selection was the selection that, year after year, decade after decade, the winegrowers of their own vineyards were making, selecting their best vineyards, and from them, the best woods (pieces of vine shoots) that they used for grafting. This selection –masal-, repeated in the centuries of Sanlúcar viticulture history, had given rise to an exceptional palomino, which is what we call fine palomino or old palomino.

This practice over time was lost, due to the work of the nurseries, which carry out the grafts in the workshop, facilitating the work in the vineyard; and due to the entry of the palomino california, which is a genetic modification that was made at the University of California, seeking to have larger and looser bunches, which would give greater production and less presence of disease. The clusters of the ancient palomino grape are smaller and tighter, leading to a greater presence of diseases. However, the quality is quite different.

As I have been talking with my teachers Juan Peregrino, Juan Morales, Ignacio Partida … I have been realizing that the difference from old vines is not only the mass selection, which has enormous genetic value, and which constitutes in itself, a huge heritage. To this we must add two more arguments: the first is the racinar system of old vines. A 60-year-old vineyard has a very extensive and very intelligent racinar system. It has lived through several processes of drought and rain, surviving decades year after year, knowing how to find the necessary nutrients and water. If I could sum up that intelligence in one word, I would call it balance, and I think it is the adjective that best symbolizes our old vineyard wine: Lumière: balance; it has a huge balance. The roots know how to compensate for the particularities of each vintage: if it is dry, they look for water; if the humid, seek the heat; if a nutrient is missing, they look for a way to find it.

The second argument, and that has to do with the first, is how they planted the vines. To plant the rootstock, they made some boxes by hand, with a hoe, more than one meter deep and one meter wide. That is, they worked and prepared the land as is not done today. This allowed the primary roots to develop splendidly, and in depth. After two or three years they grafted the old palomino in situ, which in turn, they respected for three or four years until they were trained, with a meticulous pruning and castrating, respecting all the details to safeguard their health. of the vine. As they usually tell me “first the plant, and then the grape.”

These cares are no longer available. The new plantations are made with plants that are grafted from the nursery; the land is not worked at that depth; and in the first or second year, the grapes are already being harvested, weakening the plant from the beginning.

That is why old vines are so valuable; because they are no longer made as before. Unfortunately there are very few left in the Marco de Jerez; Most of them were uprooted, to be able to change the plantation framework to a wider one where modern tractors would enter, and to be able to introduce the palomino California grape, which is more productive. Only those who did not have the means to start – since it was very expensive – preserved the old vineyards, which today are a heritage to be safeguarded and valued.