I got all excited this afternoon in the experimental vineyard. A small block of Alicante Bouschet that I planted a few years back has come into production for its first proper harvest. For a while now we have been running trials with some of the slightly more obscure but traditional Douro varieties such as Souzão and Tinta Francisca too. All this takes time and so it is very rewarding when the vineyards finally come online. Once we have taken the decision about what we are going to grow, we first need to source good planting material. Often this comes from the vineyards of our competitors – we might be commercial rivals but we are also friends, and viticulture is a common passion that transcends sales figures. Those might be an important issue for the sales team in Gaia, but here in the Douro we are united by a common responsibility as guardians of the most unique and beautiful viticultural region in the world.
But I digress. Once we have found a good source we send the canes to a local nursery to produce ready-grafted rootlings for us. By supplying them with the vegetative material we have perfect control over what we are getting back, not some possibly inferior selection that the nursery has had to find for itself (in fact there are several nurseries who collect canes from our vineyards every year to supply their other customers – they seem to like the quality of our prunings). As it happens, this Alicante originally came from my father’s vineyard in the Alentejo. John, you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s looking fantastic!
By the time the vines are finally in production several years have passed, and that is why today was so rewarding. Alicante has big tannins, a massive potential for ageing and, being one of very, very few varieties that truly have coloured pulp, it makes wines with an astoundingly deep colour. It’s the bunch on the right in the photos, obviously. Although it has existed in the Douro for ages and it is a permitted variety for port, it has been scandalously overlooked by almost every other producer. I predict an increasingly important role for this fascinating grape in the great ports of the future. – Miles Edlmann