The Buyer
Sarah Abbott MW on the global Old Vine Conference

Sarah Abbott MW on the global Old Vine Conference

“Now is the time to value old vines, in every sense. And the sessions have been developed to show why. To value old vines is not to hanker sentimentally for ye olde days of the hoe…we want to highlight how old vine fruit inspires and engages winemakers.” That’s the rallying call from Sarah Abbott MW, co-organiser and founder of the Old Vine Conference that holds its first in person event next month as part of its worldwide ambition to bring producers, winemakers and commentators together to discuss and analyse how collectively the wine industry can work with, protect and use old vines to make the wines of the future.

Richard Siddle
28th September 2022by Richard Siddle
posted in Conference,

Find out for yourself what the fuss and interest in old vines is all about at the Old Vine Conference in London on October 11. Click here for more and to sign up for free.

What do you have in store for the next Old Vine Conference?

We are very excited for our first in-person conference. It’s in London, at The Foundry, at Vauxhall. And as well as a program of in-person and zoom-in speakers, we have a walk around tasting of 40 sensational old vine wines. A key theme is how the culture and viticulture of old vines adds value to the wines we make from them. And we are also digging into (no pun intended) how the cultivation of old vines is linked to the sustainability and ecology of vineyards. Our speakers include buyers, viticulturists, entrepreneurs, winemakers, and journalists.

Any particular themes or topics that you would like to flag up?

The Old Vine Conference has been inspired by the work that Rosa Kruger and Andre Morgenthal have done with the Old Vine Project in South Africa

We’ve stressed that now is the time to value old vines, in every sense. And the sessions have been developed to show why. To value old vines is not to hanker sentimentally for ye olde days of the hoe. The culture and viticulture of long-lived vines is about the future of wine. We were inspired in this (as in so many ways) by Rosa Kruger in South Africa, who is advocating the concept of “planting to grow old” when it comes to new vineyards [through her work with the Old Vine Project] . They have learned from working with healthy old vineyards how to optimise the vineyards they are planting now, for sustained and productive life. We have a buyers’ session at this conference in which battle-hardened wine importer and marketers speak about the challenges and opportunities for developing this premium segment for heritage vineyards wines.

Key speakers you would like to highlight?

Jancis Robinson MW is opening the conference. Jancis has been an advocate for the value of old vines for many years and was another figure who inspired us to establish this organisation to create a global category in the market. We have the first report back from the IWSC Foundation grant, which was awarded to a project to recuperate very old vineyards in Turkey.

Domenico Veronese of Villa Bogdano in Friuli is speaking about sustainable viticulture in relation to old vines, and Adrian Sparks is zooming in for an update on their just-announced genetic research into old Pinot vines in the Hunter Valley. We are also hearing from José Vouillamoz on the Franc de Pied project to protect and recognise ungrafted vines.

Derek Mossman Knapp will be sharing the work he is doing in Chile with indigenous varieties and old vines. Picture Matt Wilson.

We have a joint presentation by André Morgenthal and Derek Mossman Knapp, talking about their successful initiatives in South Africa and Chile respectively to market wines with a designated heritage vineyard category. That’s a real ‘how to’ guide, and lays out the steps we need to take.

We wanted to highlight how this old vine fruit inspires and engages winemakers, and Michael Eddy from Louis M Martini is joining us virtually to talk about the wines he makes from very old vines in California’s famed Monte Rosso vineyard. And Lucas Lowi of Bodegas Numanthia is speaking about his decision to put their old vine heritage at the centre of their approach to wine quality, style and communication. We also have an ‘open mic’ session in which we will hear short updates or launches from old vine projects from other parts of the world, for example Portugal.

We also have a fantastic range of old vine wines in the walk-around tasting from 5:30pm – they are the most eloquent speakers for the value of heritage vineyards.

Who is the conference aimed at and how do you sign up?

You sign up online, at the event website here. Registration – virtual and in person – is free but there is an option to buy a ticketed version if you can. The conferences attract a diverse audience including viticulturists, winemakers, marketers, journalists, importers and educators. And also wine enthusiasts and collectors. You can also see more about our organisation

How have the conferences and the old vine movement evolved since you first started the project?

The old vine movement has been going for more than 20 years with several regional initiatives. Our impact has been to increase connections, raise profile, and engage the trade. And to articulate that big idea: let’s create a global wine category. The trade engagement has been focussed in the UK in our first year but this will expand. We have sponsors from around the world and we are hugely grateful to them and their willingness to join together to promote not only their own old vine projects, but the value of the category as a whole.

We also have a network of volunteer regional ambassadors who connect us and our network to old vine projects happening in their region or country. These include many great and good of the wine world and we’re very grateful to them. We have recruited Belinda Stone, as marketing and membership manager, who has elevated our profile and increased our membership.

What objectives and impact you would like to make?

Old vines are now highly sought after by ambitious winemakers looking to make wines that are true to the soils they come from

We want to bring the industry together to create a global premium category for old vine wine.

How many members do you have and how do you sign up?

We have 150 private members, which is amazing. Membership costs £20 and you can join at But if you buy a conference ticket you get free membership, so you can also do it that way.

The Old Vine Conference is all about collaboration and people getting involved – what would you like your members to do and how can they help?

Join the conference, follow us on social, follow our regional ambassadors, and get in touch if you feel you can help.

What plans do you have for future events/ content/ trips etc?

Field trips: we’re working on an old vine expedition series in which we will invite trade and media and collectors to visit old vineyards around the world, spending time in the vineyards and learning about how to get the best out of them, from vineyard to glass. Watch this space!