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The Magic of Old Vines

City Cellars is proud to carry wines from the oldest surviving Grenache and Semillon vineyards in the world. In this blog, we explore more about why these old vines are so special and the story of the Cirillo Estate Winery in Australia’s Barossa Valley region.

Cirillo Estate Winery

The Cirillo story is synonymous with prestige and quality, spanning back 350 years and 9 generations back in the region of Calabria, Italy. The Cirillo family moved to the small district of Light Pass in the Barossa Valley in 1970. Vincent Cirillo became the custodian of these exceptional vineyards that were planted in 1848; today it is noted to be the oldest surviving and producing Grenache and Semillon vineyards in the world. As the sole custodian of some of the world's oldest Grenache vines, Marco Cirillo has been called the guru of Grenache, crafting Grenache wines with an old world feel in a new world region.

The 5.2 hectares of “ancestor” vines mostly consist of Grenache, along with a hectare of semillon. There’s also less than half a hectare of Shiraz of the same age, with the first Cirillo wine from those vines, the 2010, to be released in 2021.

Preserving old vines

The ancestor vineyards grow in golden sand, a common terroir of the Vine-Vale area. To prune these old vines, they use an early style called “basket-pruning” that was adopted by Vincent in the 1970s after he purchased the vineyard. This method helps the vines support themselves and continue to produce incomparable fruit every year, and this meticulous craftsmanship — Vincent and Marco are the only two people to ever prune the 1848 Grenache vineyard in the past 40 years— has allowed the vines to support themselves and produce incomparable fruit every year.

With a blend of old school practices and modern knowledge, Marco Cirillo is bent on preserving those vines in the best health possible for generations to come. By using sustainable practices, he hopes to be able to pass on the oldest site in the world for Grenache and Semillon for the next generation in the best possible condition.

Why are old vines so great? As they age, old vines produce fewer fruit, meaning that the fruit they do produce is much more concentrated in flavour. And the more outstanding the fruit, the more outstanding the wine.

Cirillo Wines at City Cellars

Cirillo “The Vincent” Grenache - $44.99

The Vincent is named after Marco’s father Vincent, who has passed eight generations of Italian winemaking and grape growing knowledge down to his generation. This 100% Grenache wine is produced from vines planted in 1920 or earlier. It was aged in 90 year old foudre barrels for 12 months. It’s a charismatic wine, just like its namesake. You can drink this wine now, or age it well into the future.

Tasting notes:

Aromas: Rich fruit, herbal, white pepper, bright cherry and licorice.

Palate: Silky texture. Generous with intense characteristics of the Grenache grape. Rounded and generous with a lingering finish.

1850 Ancestor Vine Grenache - $87.99

This special wine is produced from the oldest Grenache vines in the world— certainly the oldest still producing any kind of fruit. It’s a legendary, pure expression of this historical site. Amazing to be able to drink a wine from a vine planted in 1848 and see what it has to say. The wine was matured in aged, seasoned hogsheads for 24 months. It will reward you with a decade or more of cellaring!

Pair this with hearty dishes like cassoulet, or grilled, stewed and braised meats.

Tasting notes:

Aromas: Dark berry fruit, dried herbs, violets, plum

Palate: Medium to full bodied with intense yet delicate flavours of cherry, aniseed, white pepper and savoury notes. Moderate tannins with a very long finish. Balance between the primary fruit and the acid makes this a beautifully seamless wine that mimics Rhone styles.

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