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The Story of the Oldest Vine

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The Story of the World's Oldest Vine

Unlike most stories and legends, which are for the most part fabrications, the tale of the Old Vine is 100% authentic. Thus spins a tale showing how the grape variety of “Žametovka” has been growing in Lent, Maribor, for more than 400 years.

Towards the end of the Middle Ages, when Maribor was facing the threat of Ottoman invasion, the Žametovka grape variety was planted in front of the house on Vojašniška street 8 (Vojašniška ulica). The Old Vine survived despite furious fights between invaders and defenders of the city going on in its immediate vicinity.

It was not harmed by fires that occurred frequently due to the wooden roof structures and straw coverings current in the Late Middle Ages. Even though the house just behind where the Old Vine grows was partially burned several times, the vine lived on.

Around 1870, the phylloxera ravaged our country which spelled catastrophe for wine growers throughout Europe. This parasite, attacking at the roots, killed most vines. Luckily the mighty Drava river came to the rescue. The Old Vine’s roots were deep within the banks of the river where the phylloxera could not survive.

Even during the bombardment by the Allied forces in World War II that partly destroyed the Old Vine House, this resilient plant survived unscathed.

However, the oldest “resident” of Maribor has had some more difficult times. Since 1963, when the dam was built on the Drava river, serious problems arose for the Old Vine. As the level of the river began to rise to more than three meters, the long-standing balance of the root system became upset and the vine started to die slowly. Neglected areas along the banks of the river Drava in the 70s and unprofessional care had only exacerbated its condition.

Fortunately, the old beauty was noticed by a group of experts from the Institute of Agriculture, which prevented the removal of the vine and the demolition of the house, which had become dilapidated. These experts, led by Mag. Tone Zafošnik, concentrated all their powers in the revitalization of the vine. Thus by removing the dead parts and making a short cut, they restored its life. The Old Vine had survived again, though this time its end had come perilously close.

Since the restoration of the house and paving of the surrounding area in 1982, the Old Vine has flourished in all its glory. Today, the vine even has its own vintner who takes care of it. The Old Vine has also become one of the main Slovenian landmarks, for it won a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest noble vine in the world still bearing grapes.

The story of our vine is also the story of incredible persistence, perseverance and the will to survive, which is nowadays particularly relevant. To make it easier for it to tell its story to the world, the vine has its own museum: The Old Vine House. The Old Vine is the only plant with its own museum.