The old walled terraces of the Vinha Velha represent the original part of the Vargellas estate and contain its oldest vines. They have been classified as World Heritage and constitute one of the Douro Valley’s most impressive historic vineyards as well as the source of one of the rarest and most sought-after of all Vintage Ports.
The Vinha Velha (pronounced ‘vin-ya velya’), meaning Old Vineyard, is made up of five individual and distinct plots located above and to the west of the estate buildings. They are Polverinho, Gricha, Renova do Depósito, Renova do Armazém and Vinha Grande. These old terraced vineyards, some of whose dry stone walls were built two centuries ago, contain very old vines many of which are now over 100 years old. With the exception of Polverinho, which contains the single variety terraces planted by Dick Yeatman in 1927, the Vinha Velha contains mixed plantings of many different traditional grape varieties, some of which are seldom planted today.
In this sense, the Vinha Velha represents a piece of viticultural history, its idiosyncratic and seemingly random mix of different indigenous vine types contrasting with the ordered and controlled character of modern vineyards. Occasionally, these old vineyards produce the very rare Vargellas Vinha Velha Vintage Port. The grapes used to make the Vinha Velha Vintage Port represent a very restricted selection of fruit from the very oldest vines. Whereas the Vinha Velha plots together represent more than 15 percent of the total production of the estate, the grapes used for the Vinha Velha Vintage Port usually represent between 1 and 2 percent.
The Vargellas Vinha Velha Vintage Ports are the ultimate collector’s wines, the expression of an ancient terroir whose characteristics are unlikely ever to be reproduced. As Taylor Fladgate's technical director and head wine maker David Guimaraens put it, "The remarkable characteristic of the ‘Vinha Velha’ vintage Ports is their multi-dimensional complexity and their distinctive and subtle personality. This derives from the rich diversity of traditional grape varieties planted on these old terraces.”