My father’s vineyard and our DOC team

While Henry relaxes with his feet up at Malvedos, I thought I would take the opportunity to introduce you to a few more of the people that are out here with us in the Douro, working the vintage and helping to make our wines.

Saturday 2009

The photo above is my father’s vineyard at Quinta do Alvito in the Pinhão valley which I now manage for him. The altitude of this vineyard is 480 metres, so ideal for picking now at the end of September. In fact some of the best grapes this year have come from up here. It is normally at least 2° C cooler up here than down by the river. This has a profound impact on the vines and their fruit. The roga in this picture is picking the Barroca. It is some of the best Barroca that I have seen anywhere in the Douro this year; full and plump and yet the berries taste concentrated and sweet and have good colour in the skins. The pips and stalks are now not green, so we will not have green tannins in the wine. It was worth the wait.

Saturday 2009 001

This picking team is not supplied by contractors, they are all people well known to us and live near here. The woman in the photo above is Maria Helena Canelas Alves and she lives in Sobrados. Maria helps in the vineyard throughout the year. In the distance you can see the truck that will take these grapes in the trays to our winery at Sol.

Saturday 2009 019

The picture above is of these same grapes once they have arrived at our winery at Sol and where they are on the sorting table. The last photo is of the full DOC wine making team at Sol (and my dog Toby). Again these guys have been working flat out for weeks now. These 25 people, led by Pedro Correia and Alexis, under Charles’s overall responsibility, make most of our red Douro DOC wines in a specialist winery separate from the Port winery.

netas sep09025

These are the people, the faces and names, behind our wines. They make it all possible.

Paul

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National elections – a Day off!

Today Sunday 27th is National Election day in Portugal and Arlindo could only get 7 pickers (instead of the usual 22-23) willing to come and pick the grapes.

Therefore Charles decided to take a break, knowing that the Franca in the higher vineyards will benefit from an extra day ripening. We will recommence the Vintage tomorrow. The winery team has been given the day off to go back home and vote, although I think Fonseca was going to skip voting in order to see his girlfriend instead!

I am also taking advantage of this break to enjoy a day with my family who has come up for the weekend to visit.

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Taking the Baumé of the Touriga Franca

 
Mario taking a Baumé reading
Mario taking the sample

The Baumé is a hydrometric measurement of density developed by the French pharmacist Antoine Baumé in 1758 to measure the density of various liquids (originally brine); in this case we are using it for must or grape juice. The degree Baumé approximates to the potential alcohol resulting from the complete fermentation of the must.

The reason you have seen various pictures of us taking baumé readings is that this is what we use to determine when and how much brandy to add and also how we follow the progress of fermentation. The first reading we take is after the lagar has been trodden for the full 4 hours. A sample of must is taken from each of the 4 corners and mixed before taking the reading. This is what we call the initial baumé (i.e. the lagar has been trodden and mixed but is not yet fermenting), for example 13.5º, and it is from this value that our fortification calculations are based, telling us at what baumé to stop the fermentation, for example 8º, and how much brandy to add in order to achieve the final wine desired.

Mario taking the Baumé reading
Mario taking the Baumé reading

This initial value is therefore very important to measure correctly.

Once the fermentation has begun we will follow the progress of the fermentation by taking readings initially every 4 hours as the baumé gradually decreases from 13.5º getting ever closer to 8º. Once the baumé reaches 9º we begin taking readings hour by hour and even more often the closer it gets to 8º in order to add the brandy at exactly the correct moment.

Taking a baumé is no hassle at all; it’s just not that much fun when you have to do it at 3 or 4am in the morning!

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The Cavadinha crew muscles in on the blog

We have quite a few people following us on this blog, so I think that I should try to give you a wider picture of what my family are actually doing here in the Douro during this and previous harvests. We have given you a lot of information about the winery at Quinta dos Malvedos. But this is only one of the 7 small specialist wineries that we run during the harvest. There are 6 other wineries with a similar team to Henry’s at Malvedos. Today we showed you Ricardo’s team at Quinta da Senhora de Ribeira.

I was not joking when I told you that the Sra Ribeira guys had not seen their wives and girlfriends for a while. Have a look at the map; Carrazeda is 20 kms away from Sra Ribeira and it takes well over 1/2 hour on a difficult, very steep and twisty road. You cannot just pop out for a spare toothbrush. You need some really dedicated people who really love making Port and Douro wine in order to work in this incredibly remote place like these lads do.

So over the next few days I will try and show you some of the other teams.

This photo is of Miles, who you know already as one of our viticulture managers and researchers and his several posts on this blog. At Quinta da Cavadinha in the Pinhão valley he runs the winery under the responsibility of my cousin Charles. Here he is with the other 9 members of his team. These guys are responsible for 6 robotic lagares and three plunger tanks and make rather more Port than Henry does at Malvedos, but still it is a very small winery making under 900 pipes (barrels of 550 lts) of some of our very best Ports at each harvest. They have been working full on now for nearly 3 weeks.

The lads in the photo with Miles are; Antonio, Nuno, Antonio, Joao, Sergio, Carlos, Antonio and Acacio. Quite a cheerful crew. Mind you, they are nearer to civilization (but hardly a buzzing metropolis, for those of you who know it), i.e. Pinhão, so the toothbrush or cold beer journey is only 15 minutes away.

Miles and the winery team at Cavadinha
Miles and the winery team at Cavadinha

Paul

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Sharing the limelight

I received this email from Paul and thought it may be of interest to you all:

Hi Henry.

Although our blog is focused on Malvedos, we spend a lot of time at our other wineries and we have a hard working team at each of them. Here is the Senhora da Ribeira gang, taken this morning.

The team at Ribeira
The team at Ribeira

Ricardo, far right leads the wine making team. He lives in Carrazeda and manages all our vineyards in this part of the Douro. With him in this picture are Alvaro, Rui, Joaquim, Bruno, Flavio and Pedro.

Their complaints after over three weeks non stop hard work and harvesting? They have not seen their wives and girlfriends for too long and the Malvedos gang are getting all the glory.

Paul

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Afternoon trip into the vineyards with the ‘roga’

 
Lost in the dust
Lost in the dust
Following the tractor
Following the tractor

It continues very hot and dry, just like a summer’s day even though we are at the end of September and it is quite tough on the picking team in this heat. It seems incredible that at this time in some years we are dodging rain showers and getting cold. Imagine what it used to be like in the days before tractors up here on these steep vineyards. The men would have to carry baskets weighing over 60 kgs each all the way down to the winery. So not everything in the old days was better than today! The trays that we pick into are also very gentle on the grapes, preserving the bunches intact until they are delivered to the sorting table.

 
Roga picking
Roga picking
Sr. Arlindo (background)
Sr. Arlindo (background)
Smilng despite the heat
Smilng despite the heat

I followed the tractor up from the winery in the jeep which, was not a great idea as the roads are so dry, half the time I was submerged in a cloud of thick dust and had to drop behind the tractor to let the dust settle.  This is a fully mature 1.75 hectare TF block with 4,877 vines which was planted in 1984 on ‘patamares’ (terraces). The TFs thick-skinned berries are very resistant to the heat and I must say that although the actual bunches are quite small, they are looking very good and healthy. These should make good Port.

 
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2nd half of Charles Metcalfe guest post

Here is the second half of the post from Charles Metcalfe. We very much enjoyed his visit and appreciate his willingness to provide a post for our blog. Thank you Charles.
Visiting Vesuvio
Visiting Vesuvio
Miles showing Charles the vineyards at Cavadinha
Miles showing Charles the vineyards at Cavadinha

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

 

 

CHARLES METCALFE, PART 2

It has often been said that the best ports are made by foot-treading the grapes when they have been picked, to help extract colour, tannins and aromas. The new question is: man or machine? Vesuvio makes port only by treading by human feet, all the others use a mix of methods for their winemaking, pressure-driven ‘auto-fermenters’, steel tanks with rotating cap-plungers, conventional pump-over tanks and wonderful modern stainless steel lagares with robotic ‘treaders’.

These robotic lagares are installed at four of the Symington estates. Cavadinha has six lagars, Sol four, Malvedos three and Senhora da Ribeira three. A row of three of these cost €120,000. That’s quite an investment to replace a team of human treaders. But when you consider those human treaders have already spent a long day in the vineyard picking grapes, and then have to do another three hours’ treading, you understand why the Symingtons have gone robotic in some places. There are no other hours in the day these people could tread apart from the evenings, and some wineries already employ an entirely different set of workers for the evening treading because of transport and accommodation reasons.

And the robotic treaders really do tread. Each pneumatically-operated plunger has a set of food-grade silicone ‘feet’. When in ‘tread’ mode, these make gentle contact with the bottom of the lagar, and with any grape skins under the ‘feet’. Then they bounce straight up, carefully set to avoid crushing undesirable tannins out of pips. And so they continue for four hours, more rhythmically and for longer than any human treaders could manage, even when the latter are encouraged by the shouts of the foreman. While human treaders tread, he keeps up cries of ‘hey-ey, up’ (or the Portuguese equivalent), while short-clad legs rise and fall in rhythm, arms linked in a line. After two hours of this, ‘liberdade’ (liberty) follows, for an hour, where an accordionist takes over, treaders sing, form conga lines, and dance with each other. Female picker/treaders are much in demand at this point, though some ladies stymie male advances by dancing with each other.

At Vesuvio, all this treading finishes at 10.30pm, and the workers are whisked back to their sleeping quarters by lorry, ready to get enough sleep to see them through the next day. But in the morning, the winemakers in charge at Malvedos, Cavadinha, Senhora da Ribeira and Sol can decide whether to give their robotic lagars another hour or so of ‘treading’ at several times through the day. Later they can switch the treader to ‘plunge’ mode, in which the ‘feet’ don’t touch the bottom, but just turn over the floating cap of skins and pips. This keeps the cap moist, and carries on the extraction of colour and flavour. Again, much more efficient than the traditional alternative of stationing a man by the side to poke the cap down with a wooden pole (or have a snooze when the boss is somewhere else).

– end part 2 of 2 –

 

 

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We can show videos on the blog

HJS busy bloggingWe figured it out despite our dialup modem and now we can put up videos! As a test I set up a short video of the Robotic Treading Lagar punching down the cap on the newly trodden Franca. Its hard to explain what these lagars do but in this video it is clear (although a bit shaky, sorry, I will get better at this). I particularly like that one can hear the sound that these robotic lagars make, an eerie and somehow prehistoric sound that reminds me of the sound of whales underwater (dont ask me how I know what that sounds like). 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBcOcUaKBGE&hl=en&fs=1&color1=0x234900&color2=0x4e9e00&border=1]

I am off to check on the picking, we are still working on the Franca. I will have photos of that soon.

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Visitors provide a welcome change of pace

  50 guests arrive!!Me showing the traditional lagaresMe explaining how the lagares work
With the vintage in full swing, we are receiving visits from client on a daily basis.  Recently I had a chance to dust off my French as I hosted a group of over 50 French speaking wine buyers and store managers. I did my best to explain the difference between the traditional lagars in the original part of the winery, and the robotic treading lagares, only a few steps away. They seemed quite interested, I hope they enjoyed their visit.
Thursday sept 012
 

Yesterday started with a visit from Rupert who was passing by while taking his dog Chili for an early morning stroll. Later in the day Johnny Symington came by with several more visitors. They spoke French also, but fortunately for them Johnny showed them around, and his French is far better than mine.

Johnny Symington and visitors (and me and Pedro Leite on the right)
Johnny Symington and visitors (and me and Pedro Leite on the right)
 
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A surprise audit in the middle of the vintage!

The audience goes mad after a week!I did not mention it until now, but a few days ago we had a surprise audit to determine that the winery was in compliance with safe working environment regulations. The sound level inside and outside the winery was measured by a team from Lisbon.

Despite the fact that we are in the middle of the vintage, they received the full and I might even say enthusiastic cooperation of the lads, who attentively followed their activity – I would not have thought that Sound Measurement could be of such an interest to them!

Yesterday we received yet another visit, this time from Lloyd’s, our Health & Safety Accreditation Auditors. During the vintage things often are moving fast, but safety in the winery is taken seriously and we all do our best to take the necessary precautions so that the worst thing that happens to anyone is an occasional dousing with water.

Audit Team 1It was a relief to see the expression on António Filipe’s face at the end of the audit.

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