Worlds Oldest Vine

Stara Trta, Maribor, Slovenia

Few living things in the world can attest to having survived invasions by the Ottomans, Napoleon, the Nazis, Allied bombings and bus loads of tourists. But a 400+ year old vine in Maribor, Slovenia has and still manages to produce around 25 litres of wine per year.

Considered to be the world’s oldest surviving vine, it can be seen on paintings from 1657, 1678 and 1681. A tree ring plug taken by Ljubljana University in 1972 indicated it was at least 375 years old then and probably older, shoving its likely planting well back into the 1500s (see Jeff Licciardello’s VinePair link below).

Although I’ve seen other ancient vines elsewhere in the world that probably are as old, if not older (more on that coming soon), so far, they lack definitive proof. Another contender, Hampton Court’s Great Vine, planted in 1768, is comparatively just getting out of puppyhood.

The grape is an old local Slovenian variety, Žametovka. Mostly used as the main component of Cviček, a lightish red blend ubiquitous throughout Slovenia. Purposefully refreshing, lowish in alcohol at 12% and inexpensive, Cviček is meant to be drunk by everyone, everyday with food and good company.

I visited ‘Stara Trta’ (Slovenian for this old grapevine) in 2019 when it was sprouting its first leaves in Spring. It leans against its dedicated museum, Old Vine House which was built centuries ago into Maribor’s (Marburg) ancient defensive wall along the Drava River. By the 1960s the house was dilapidated and the vine was seriously endangered by a new dam project. Fortunately the community rallied to their defense, establishing a dedicated museum to the vine and its upkeep.

Stara Trta hosts Spring pruning and Autumnal picking festivals, whereupon winemaking eventually finds its way into 100 or so 250ml bottles. Unfortunately these aren’t for sale. Instead they are held back for special occasions or special people.

Be nice and maybe you’ll get some.

Old building with vine climbing along the frontage

Old Vine House, Maribor

Ancient vine trunk with branches stretching left and right

Stara Trta