The vintage (grape harvest) at the Graham’s Upper Douro Valley vineyards will commence early Monday morning, September 23rd. The harvest is quite late this year; normally we begin picking grapes at Malvedos and neighbouring Tua around mid-September. Last year we commenced harvesting at Tua on September 12th and just a few days later at Malvedos, so this year we are about 10 days behind schedule. Following three months of drought (not a single drop of rain fell during the whole of August), a heaven-sent 14mm of rain came down over Malvedos during the night of September 5th. Some initial reports had indicated 10mm, but we have since received confirmation that it was in fact 14mm of precipitation.
The rain fell gradually over several hours — just right for it to seep gradually into the parched soil. No further rainfall has been recorded during September and whilst our viticulture and winemaking team would have hoped for just a little more rain there is no doubt that the rain of early September was providential and has made a very positive (perhaps decisive, even) contribution to the quality of the grapes.
Charles Symington — Graham’s head winemaker — decided to put back the vintage starting date, partly because maturation was running a little late anyway (owing to an unseasonably cool spring) but also to allow the rain of early September to work its full benefit into the thirsty grapes. Charles has determined with resident winemaker, Henry Shotton, the initial picking order and Sr. Arlindo, the Malvedos caseiro (farm manager) knows he will take his roga (grape pickers) to Tua at the crack of dawn on Monday, where they will start harvesting the very old mixed vines on the west-facing 19th century sturdy stone terraces. They will be followed by the old mixed vines in the Síbio parcels, inside the Malvedos property. Charles tells us that the Touriga Nacional and the Touriga Franca grapes are looking particularly fine at this stage. The Touriga Franca is a late-ripening variety and is thus thriving in the current ongoing dry, sunny conditions.
Charles is very upbeat about prospects for this year and told us, “ The crop size looks to be average in size and the grapes are in excellent condition, with little or no raisining. Maturations are unusually homogenous within the same block, sugar readings and colour also being very balanced in development, i.e. when sugar levels reach the desired level colour should also be at ideal levels. This is very good news and is not the more usual pattern at this stage of high baumés with little colour. We currently also have very good acidity levels.” He added that it’s always a risky business delaying the vintage as far as we have, as it makes us more vulnerable to the weather, but it’s a risk worth taking as the rewards may well prove bountiful.
As in previous years, Henry Shotton and other members of the team will be providing regular in situ reports from the Quinta dos Malvedos winery and vineyard as well as from the other Graham vineyards (Tua, Vale de Malhadas, Vila Velha and Lages), in order to keep you abreast of progress throughout the vintage. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for clear blue skies to harvest all of our crop under ideal conditions (although the odd sprinkling of rain would not be amiss).