Stane Kocutar, Old Vine caretaker
How do you know this is the oldest vine? Did you check all the vines in the world?
This question is most often posed by people of Maribor. In 1971, experts established the Lent vine as 350 to 400 years old. The fifty-year difference is the consequence of a partially rotten trunk, yet interpolation depicted that the difference cannot be any higher than fifty years. The vine has been declared as the oldest then discovered vintage vine in the world at The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) in Paris. To this day, nobody has submitted any credible information on any other vine being older than ours.
Does this vine not age? You have been claiming it is 400 years old for 20 years now.
That is true. As it was established as from 350 to 400 years old in 1971, this means it has aged almost half a century since then. We are obligated to state this when submitting accurate data. In everyday conversational language we still use the expression "the vine is over 400 years old", but the vine ages just as any other living thing.
My vine at home is much thicker than this one, it must be older than yours?
Thickness or trunk circumference is not the criterium for determining the age of a vine. In this case, it is most probably a vine that belongs to the so-called "self-growing vines" – direct crossovers that first came to this region in the last quarter of the 19th century and spread after the destructive rampage of the vine lice. Such vines can have thicker trunks. The "isabela" variety can, in a pleasant growing region, exceed the thickness of the trunk of the oldest vine in the world within twenty-five to thirty years.
If this is a noble vine, why was it not destroyed by the vine lice at the end of the 19th centrury or the beginning of the 20th, when the entire European viticulture was decimated?
The answer to this question is connected to the floods of the Drava River, which flooded the Lent district twice each year until the end of the 1960s, transforming the district into a water surface. The vine lice did not handle standing water well, meaning a portion of its population died away. We presume the vine was very weak at that time, barely hanging on to survival. The floods contributed to its survival as a similar way of fighting against the vine lice was introduced by the French winegrowers of the Rhona River, but it was not enough for the plant to bear fruit. It could only physically survive, so they stopped performing this method.
How long will it live?
This is the most awkward question. An answer is only made possible on the basis of a professional assessment of its physiological condition, the annual growth of buds and a general assessment of its vitality. All the indicators above are placed exceptionally high and facing upwards. The only legitimate potential threat is vandalism.
Expressions, markings and obligations of the Old Vine
What does it mean that Stane Kocutar is a caretaker of the Old Vine? What are his assignments? Read through the meaning of twenty most important expressions, markings and obligations, regarding the Old Vine and viticulture.
20 expressions about the Old Vine
Old Vine caretaker: a skilled expert, trained to handle the vine who answers to the masters, producing a thorough report each year during the ceremonial pruning. The report includes performed activities and other events connected to the oldest vine.
Trellis (Brajda): a vine steered on a wooden frame (the trelliswork against the wall, used in the oldest vine in the Lent district, is known as the "Štajerska Brajda").
Scion (Cepič): the woody part of the one-year-old bud with eyelet (a symbolic gift to the recipients of the descendants of the oldest vine in the world along with the plant itself).
Graft: the sapling of the vine, the joint of a scion and the base. A young rooted plant, ready for planting (a sapling that is ceremonially planted at the permanent growth area of the vine descendant recipient)..
Master of the Oldest Vine: The Mayor of the City of Ljubljana who holds all protocol assignments regarding the vine, as well as awarding the scions and the wine from the oldest vine.
Wine cellaring: after the annual harvest the grapes or the minced mash is taken over by the colleagues at the Technology Centre for Viticulture of the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences of the University of Maribor, who manage the cellaring of the wine. The harvest of the oldest vine and both descendants is cellared separately.
Removing leaves in the grape zone: ten days before the harvest we "open up" the grapes on the vine to the sunrays and views of the visitors.
Weeding the vine: selective removing of young, green sprouts to guarantee the amount and quality of the crop and preserving the breeding form.
Descendant of the oldest vine: a graft, which has a scion from the oldest vine and is grown in a cutting nursery, accompanied by a deed with the signature of the master of the vine – the Mayor of the City of Maribor – and a seal (its handover is recorded in a special registry, handled by the caretaker).
Connecting the sprouts: vertically directing of one-year sprouts during growth and fastening it to the trellis battens.
Shortening back shoot tips: shortening the summer sprouts, which shoot behind an individual leaf of the central sprout to one to three developed leaves.
Registry of oldest vine descendants: the list of planted saplings of the oldest vine from Lent in Slovenia and abroad.
Vine pruning: removing mostly one-year parts of the plant to maintain quality and crop amount and preserving the breeding form of the vine (winter pruning by the end of February or the beginning of March is the first chore of the vine).
Reznik cut: when cutting the remaining part of the one-year-old sprout – cane – shortened to the length of two to five eyelets (the oldest vine is cut by the reznik cuts).
Cane: the woody one-year sprout of the vine.
Vine spraying: applying a phytopharmaceutical agent to the vine to prevent disease and harmful insects (the most dangerous issue for the oldest vine is the fungus disease Uncinula necator – Oidium Tuckeri).
Vines, planted on the left and the right side of the oldest vine: the first descendants, planted by the recommendation of the Maribor Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage to mark the "entire facade of the Old Vine House covered in vine". Tone Zafošnik (1927–2012), the first official caretaker of the oldest vine, planted them in the spring of 1987.
The vineyard of the oldest vine descendants: 500 grafts have been planted in 2016 at the estate of the Biotechnical School in Maribor; the descendants of the oldest vine with a suitable deed of the City of Ljubljana and entered in the registry of handed over descendants.
Wine from the oldest vine: wine, produced from the grapes of the oldest wine, cellared at the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Maribor if bottled in bottles by the designer Oskar Kogoj, and the master of the vine handles them by rules of protocol. There is a list of gifted bottles.
Trimming: shortening of sprouts, when those cross the height of the above trellis crossbar – to about one metre length (this is a method for preservation of breeding form and making sure the vine does not overgrow the windows on the first floor of the house).