Tourists that have their eye on Slovenia cannot ignore that the country is one of the best wine producers in the world thanks to a long history of wine production dating back to the 5 or 4th century BC. This makes no surprise that the world’s oldest living vine is located in Slovenia.
You will find the oldest vineyard of Slovenia in the oldest and prettiest part of Maribor. Inside the heart of Lent, the historic neighborhood is nested the 450 years old Žametovka plant. You will find it in its very own museum, The Old Vine, but also all around town during many annual festivals and other wine roads.
Let’s discover more about its history and see how the Old Vine is beautifully showcased in the country’s second-biggest city.
Story of the World’s Oldest Productive Vine
The Old Vine plant’s age was recognized in 1972 by Parisian experts that acknowledged it was over 400 years old. Its seniority is validated by the Guinness World records since 2004 and was confirmed by Professor Richard Erker’s expertise in 2017.
This impressive assertion is contested by the vine’s home, the Old Vine House museum, which assures that Žametovka was planted in the middle of the 16th century. We can at least affirm that the plant was already growing there in 1657. In fact, some beautiful paintings now exposed in Graz’s Štajerska Provincial Museum picturing the vine were realized at this date.
The Old Vine has lived for about 400 to 450 years of history, witnessing the evolution of Slovenia while always producing quality grapes. It means that the Žametovka plant achieved to survive a lot of troubled times and potentially fatal diseases.
It was planted at the end of the Middle Ages and never suffered harm from the various battles, even if the wooden roof structure and straw coverings could have easily propagated fires. Furthermore, it was particularly close to the danger since its home, the Old Vine House, was part of the city wall at the time.
The robust plant was then on the ground floor during the numerous Ottoman invasions that were frequent in this region, but also the conquest by Napoleón and its rule of the Illyrian Provinces.
It also assisted in both World Wars and survived a particularly devastating phylloxera epidemic that profoundly affected the country by the beginning of the 1860s. At the time of World War II, Slovenia had lost 13,000 of its 51,000 acres of cultivated land.
Surprisingly, the most concerning issues faced by the old vine are pretty recent. It actually almost died around the 1960s, when a dam was built on the boarding Drava river in 1963: it made the level of the river rise of about three meters modifying and endangering the vine’s root system.
Luckily, it survived, and the restoration of the house led in 1982 made them recover their ancient glory. Experts of the Institute of Agriculture successfully revitalized the vine by cutting it and removing the dead parts. There is then no reason to worry about the vine’s deterioration since it is now taken care of by the vine’s own vintner!
Where to Find it?
If you are curious about discovering the past and the products of the oldest noble vine in the world, you have many fantastic options amongst museums, wineries, and wine events that are very popular in the region of Maribor.
The Old Vine House
However, if you only stop by a few moments in the Stajerska region, the best place to pay a visit to the Old Vine remains unquestionably its very own museum, the Old Vine House. This museum is the most remarkable showcase of the vine’s long heritage, as it is also its birthplace. The vine was indeed planted at the 8 Vojašniška street, right in front of the house.
More than a simple museum, the Old Vine House also offers a winery and a private wine tasting room, where you will have the chance to discover the region’s very best wines with some great sommeliers. It also houses a lot of events around the heritage of the famous vine.
Even if the winery counts amongst the smallest ones in Slovenia, you will not be disappointed by its collection of 180 best regional wines, the jewels of the production of 50 local winemakers.
If you want to benefit from the whole experience, I recommend you book a guided tour to learn more about the vine before enjoying an intimate wine tasting. Here are the prices for all-inclusive group guided tours in the Vine House :
- Group up to 15 persons: 15,00 EUR/Group
- Group from 15 up to 30 persons: 25,00 EUR/Group
- Groups of pupils, students and pensioners up to 15 persons: 12,00 EUR/Group
- Groups of pupils, students and pensioners from 15 up to 30 persons: 20,00 EUR/Group
You can visit the Old Vine House at any time of the year, but make sure to check the opening hours. It is open every day of the week between October and April, from 9 am to 6 pm. From May to December, the opening hours go up to 8 pm.
If you come at the right time, you may be offered some wine by the Maribor Wine Queen, the official ambassador of the world’s oldest vine. She may also explain to you the story of the house’s mosaic, that goes through the past of Maribor and the Drava river.
Premium Festivals and Events
The Pruning and Ceremonial Donation
The museum also houses a lot of events linked to the old vine: if you come to Maribor by March, you may assist in the Pruning of the wine, a practice of significant importance, and a meaningful ceremonial donation of scions that go all over the world.
In fact, you can find bits of the Old Vine all around Slovenia, but also in the private collection of celebrities from all around the world. For example, you can admire a piece of the vine in the Ljubljana castle park and in another 129 places in Slovenia.
In the rest of the world, 84 plants grow in exciting places such as Seoul, Melbourne, or Paris, and even in the capital of North Korea, Pyongyang.
Old Vine bits are also offered to many dignitaries, in the form of a small bottle of its wine. The most famous recipients are Bill Clinton, Pope Benedict XVI, or again celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Old Vine Festival
This famous wine festival makes the pride of Maribor and of the whole Slovenia. It is a Premier Wine Festival that offers an authentic experience for gourmets and wine lovers. This festival is particularly highlighted by the solemn grape harvest of the Old Vine.
The festival also features a culinary marketplace that pays tribute to many beekeepers and cheesemakers. At the same time, local chiefs give you the unique opportunity to try their version of the Old Vine tastings. These remarkable events usually take place in mid-September or at the beginning of October. They end with a tasting of the grape by the Mayor of Maribor.
Saint Martin’s Day in Maribor
This celebration of Saint Martin’s day is the biggest in the country: it attracts 20,000 visitors every year. It is the occasion to pay tribute to Autumn at the end of November and enjoy numerous wine and culinary events in the company of musical ensembles and other famous musicians.
Saint Martin’s day is a celebration meant to honor the Saint that transforms must into wine: at this time, it symbolizes the end of all of the winemakers’ efforts throughout the season.
Particularities of the Žametovka
The Žametovka variety, also known as Ametovka and Kavčina črna, is one of Slovenia’s oldest domesticated grapes. It is a red Slovenia variety of grape, producing a pure red-colored wine. It was prevalent amongst Styrian vineyards.
However, the town of the oldest vine of the world is best to impregnate from wine tradition and history, but it will be pretty challenging to taste it besides the Old Vine Festival. Indeed, the “Old lady” only produces about 25 liters of wine for every vintage. It then makes only a hundred small bottles from each vintage.
The wine is indeed put in small 250ml bottles, specially designed for this wine by a famous artist, Oskar Kogoj: they are ornate with a spiral representing infinite longevity. This rarity also fuels the folklore around it, as well as the certificate that comes with the bottle, bearing the mayor’s signature and the seal of the city. The vine is so popular and fascinating that it even has its own anthem. Do not hesitate to ask the locals if you are eager to hear it.
Finally, we see that finding Slovenia’s Oldest vineyard is the occasion to dive into the whole country’s wine tradition and culture. Going back in the tracks of the Old Vine allows us to learn more about it but also to taste fantastic local wines in great company.
Visiting Maribor and its Old Vine House is then a great vacation option, especially if you are interested in sharing with Slovenians their national celebrations and useful pieces of information through a guided tour.