For months wine makers all over Portugal have been keeping a careful eye on the weather and their precious grapes. A dry spring and scorching summer caused early ripening and the prospect of an early harvest or vindima.
All the wineries or adegas are on standby waiting for the nod from the oenologists to start the harvest. Timing is crucial – start too early and the grapes don’t have the right amount of alcohol and too late that all important acidity is lost.
Here is a round-up of what the wine makers around Portugal are saying about the impending harvest !
In Vinho Verde region, Hugo da Silva thinks an early harvest is likely. ‘Even though there is drought in Portugal, the consequences have not had such an impact in the region because of frequent precipitation and cooler temperatures. The drought is turning into a positive thing for Vinhos Verdes’.
Down in the Douro there has only been half the usual rainfall however the vines seem to be adapted to the stress. Hugo da Silva maker of wines such as Pinalta Classic reports that the white grapes are ripening fast, some producers are harvesting already for sparkling wines. As for the red grapes he advises ‘the ripening is a bit uneven, with some sweet berries close to acidic ones. The drought is creating problems for the ripening to occur, as happened in previous years. Probably the harvest will begin sooner than the average.
Pedro Rueda of Caves Transmontanas producers of the wonderful Vértice sparkling wines high above the Douro concurs ‘it will be an early vintage because there was almost no rain during the growing season. For our growers, I believe it will not be as hard as the other growers because we only need 10,5% alcohol for our sparkling wines, and we will not lose acidity because we are picking the grapes early. The still wine companies will have to wait until 12% alcohol, and because of the lack of rain, the grape will use malic acid to survive, risking the loss of acidity’.
Rui Cunha of Secret Spot wines maker of the delicious Vale da Poupa Moscatel says ‘It’s been one of the driest years ever. I don’t remember the last time it rained…and quite hot too. Just been out checking the maturation of the grapes. It looks pretty well advanced…10 to 15 days. The vines look ok, its impressive how they can hold onto the leaves and the grapes. Berry size is smaller than normal, grape skin is thicker, less yield per berry but more concentration. As long as we can continue to harvest by block it will be a very good year’‘
Natacha Teixeira of Quinta Sobreiro de Cima describes the feeling up in Tras-os-montes in the north east of Portugal ‘There is a definite sense that the climate is changing, every year we feel this, in the winter we had temperatures of -6⁰C at 11am followed by very high temperatures in the summer. We have been investing heavily in irrigation.
Each time it becomes harder to predict the harvest as between May and August we had frosts, thunderstorms, extremes of temperature and drought. Here at Quinta Sobreiro de Cima we continue to plant and treat the vines from morning to night as if they were babies but we are at the mercy of Mother Nature. We have not had any significant losses of harvest although in the last weeks we have been mainly watering’.
East of Viseu in Dão region Joao Tavares de Pina maker of the divine Terras de Tavares confirms ‘Yes, the grape harvest will be much earlier as the spring weather was much warmer. Temperatures at the end of June and start of July were very high. During that time they don’t have too much influence in acidity, so the grapes have a good balance and they are ready to be harvested. At least it will be three weeks earlier than last year. It will be a nice year for those who are looking for sugar and concentration’
It seems that this drought may a part of an emerging pattern of changing weather but for the moment it is not all bad news and the coming vintage could result in some very interesting wines !