01 December 2007

The Survivors

Four Pinotage vines survived 30 years untended in the vineyard of an abandoned agricultural research station in the Earnscleugh Valley near Alexander, New Zealand.

Jeff Sinnott (pictured left), winemaker for Amisfield Wine Company, told me this fascinating story.

The vines received no irrigation, sprays, pruning, or any attention at all for more than thirty years in an area where frosts are severe and winter temperatures drop below minus 7˚C while summers regularly experience drought.

Just seven living vines were discovered five years ago in the research vineyard, thirty years after it closed. Three were Chenin Blanc and four were Pinotage and it is thought they were planted in the 1950’s. Unfortunately the Pinotage vines were virused but cuttings from them were taken to Gisborne where they have been propagated and grown as virus-free vines.

“I don’t think anyone has bought them yet,” says Jeff, “but it is important to preserve the DNA of these ancient vines.”

Text and Photograph Copyright © Peter F May 2007

1 comment:

  1. Peter - a truly fascinating story!!! I love it. Pinotage is my favourite variety as it is, but now this has just increased my respect for the grape all the more.