It is just three weeks since we finished the harvest at Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos. The leaves are turning colour and the Douro is every bit as spectacular as the fabled New England autumn landscapes. The foliage on the Touriga Franca vine we have been monitoring since late March is turning deep red now.
It is a very quiet time in the Douro – not only are we all resting after the extraordinary work of the harvest season, but the vines are going through their final maturation before shutting down for the winter. Ideally we do not want to start pruning until the leaves have fallen and their nutrients been re-absorbed into the vine, but we cannot leave it too late either, as we have a lot of vines to prune – especially after this year’s acquisition of Quinta do Sibio.
Until we can start the pruning in another week or two, our focus is on the new plantation at Malvedos, where we are re-landscaping 4 hectares of vineyard. We began in late August, first “erasing” the old terraces from the hillside, then carving new earth walled patamares from the smoothed-out hill face. The terraces here are noticeably broader than the ones created at Quinta do Tua – they will be planted with two rows of vines on each terrace, versus the single row on each at Tua.
In the past three weeks we have had some showers in the region. As is typical at this time of year, northern Portugal gets a lot of squally weather spun off the back end of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic, and Porto has been drenched a few times. As is also typical, only a small fraction of that rain has made it over the Marão mountain range and as far east as Malvedos or our quintas in the Douro Superior.
On Friday between noon and 18:00 we “enjoyed” thick cloud cover right down to ground level at the top of the quinta, a few very heavy showers that lasted just a few minutes each and plenty of blinding sunlight and deep blue skies in between. We are grateful for the rain after two very dry years and are hoping for a more normal wet Douro winter. You can follow the vicissitudes of the day’s weather in our photo gallery below.
In addition to visiting the works at Malvedos Alexandre Mariz, our viticulturist, was checking the drainage systems of the new plantation at Tua to ensure they were doing their job. He was very pleased to see evidence of good runoff in the canals dug alongside the roadways and some puddles standing at the backs of the terraces, where the water can soak slowly into the soil where it will do the most good.
At 17:30 the sun was already low and golden across Quinta do Tua, and as the leaves are turning colour the young vines seem to disappear into the landscape.