Perhaps the single greatest expression of our faith in the future of Graham’s is the planting of new vineyards.
Last August we described the start of the landscaping process in the 5 hectares of cleared area at Quinta do Tua, and in January we showed the completed patamares and some of the drainage works that had been done. In February and March, we planted 14,000 pés, literally “feet”, rootstocks that have already been bench-grafted with our choice of grape variety scion. One of the few advantages of the dry winter this year was that we were able to complete the planting quite rapidly, with no weather delays. In late March the vines appeared to be settling in well and were beginning to put forth their first leaves and cachos, the nascent clusters of flower buds which after pollination will become grapes.
A little over half the vines are Touriga Franca, the balance, below the new roadway, are Touriga Nacional. All the terraces are patamares estreitos, that is narrow soil banked terraces that support a single row of vines along the outer edge of the terrace.
The next step in the works is the construction of the trellis system. By the end of the first week of April we were well along in the process. Although we can use our tractor to drill the holes, the job of setting in the posts and re-settling the soil around them is manual – we need to be very careful not to disturb the new vines. Finally, we will install the wire trellising system later in the spring or early summer – regulations require this be done by end July.
In the year before we will take out an old vineyard, we modify our maintenance routines to a minimal upkeep regime. The work of actually clearing the old vines and trellises, re-sculpting the terrain, planting the new vines and installing the new trellis system takes a year. It will then be probably four years before we harvest our first grapes for vinification, and somewhere around 10 to 15 years after planting, the vines should have reached a level of maturity to make “really interesting wines” as Charles Symington, our head winemaker, calls them.
On that schedule, the first wine from the vines you see here is likely to be made in 2016, and not until somewhere around 2022 to 2027 will the grapes start to show the complexity and quality to be possible candidates for inclusion in a Vintage blend. With the full south facing location of this A-rated hillside vineyard, situated at 150 to 250 metres looking out over the Douro, the grapes will have excellent conditions for maturation and ripening. We, and the next generation of Symingtons, look forward to tasting the results.