In the Spanish region of Priorat, the term “old vines” is used for vineyards that are over 20 years old.
The term “old vines” or velles vinyes in Catalan, is heavily regulated; vines must be planted before 1945 to legally use the term on the label—a situation that is verified with aerial photographs taken in 1945! The wines’ concentration is a result of painfully low-yielding, head-trained (that is, un-trellised) vines that protrude, gnarled and contorted, from the region’s poor, stony, slate-laced soil called llicorella (“licorice”) because of its blackish color. The vines themselves are so small they have sometimes been referred to as “bonsai vines.” Days here are intensely hot; nights, very cool. In this dry, infertile, unforgiving landscape, few crops other than grapevines and olive trees have ever survived.