Much to my annoyance, the ‘two-seasoners’ I mentioned in my last post seem to have been vindicated again – less than a month ago I was suggesting that the winter might finally have come to an end and now we are already very much into the summer. All of a sudden things are really heating up in the Douro. For the first time this year the temperature hit 35º C (or 95º F in old money) at Malvedos last Saturday. After a slow start the vines are going ballistic, to use a technical viticultural term. Controlling the canopy is particularly difficult when the shoots are growing almost visibly from one day to the next – it is almost impossible to keep them tucked tidily between the wires. At the same time, flowering has suddenly been and gone in a flash; we were waiting and waiting thinking how late it seemed to be coming this year and in a blink-and-you-missed-it moment it has practically finished, especially in the low-lying vineyards. This is a good sign: rapid and homogenous flowering is associated with a high rate of fruit set. I would expect confirmation of this to be visible within about a week.
Wind and rain strip the pollen out of the air, whilst cold and overcast weather seems to reduce the probability of fertilisation occurring. We have had exactly the opposite conditions over the last few days so our hopes are high. Surprisingly, after last year’s drought, there already appeared to be a higher number of flowers than usual on the shoots this year. They also seemed fairly long. Now I don’t want to be held to a rash prediction made so early in the season (an awful lot can still happen before harvest) but if you had to make a very tentative association you might think, hypothetically of course, that lots of big bunches coupled with ideal flowering conditions could add up to a big crop come September.