The weather for our most recent visit to Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos and Quinta do Tua could not have been more different from January’s visit: instead of overcast and low fog, we had some brilliant warm sunshine and mostly clear blue skies, though the moment the sun dropped behind the hills opposite it felt sharply colder and wintry once again.
In January we had plenty of rain – over 100mm at Malvedos. Alexandre Mariz, our viticulturist, is very pleased, but still wants more before he will feel really confident about deep water reserves and prospects for the coming year. In another example of the intense, almost bizarre, micro-climatisation here in the Douro, he mentioned that the quinta on the south bank of the river directly opposite Quinta do Tua received almost 30mm more rain than we did at Malvedos just slightly down river on the north bank!
The pruning is all done, and a small team was working to pull down from the trellises the last of the cut vines for shredding and turning into the soil. Alexandre’s main concern right now is the surriba in the upper part of Malvedos, where we are re-landscaping 5 hectares of hillside. Because of the heavy rains in January we lost 8 days’ work, and we need to complete the landscaping and soil preparation in time for planting later in February or early March.
Earlier this winter we planted the cover crops in between rows of vines in the vertically planted vineyards on the western end of Malvedos, and already the mixture of legumes and grasses have begun to sprout and you can see a fine haze of green between rows of vines.
For 2013 we will again monitor a single vine to exemplify the season, and we have chosen a young Touriga Nacional, one of a large parcel planted in 2005 on the hillside that forms an ampitheatre behind the house, facing the river. As a more recently planted vine, it is trained in a single cordon along the lower wire, and last year’s shoots have been pruned down to leave just two buds on each spur.
Touriga Nacional is perhaps the most well known of the grape varieties used to make Port wines. It has an extraordinarily complex flavour and aroma profile, with black fruits such as cassis, mulberry and raspberry predominating, but it can also bring floral notes such as violets and rockrose. It has strong tannins and balanced acidity which give its wines great structure and ageing potential.
The almond trees have begun to blossom at Malvedos, a sure sign winter will be drawing to an end soon.