Malvedos Wednesday 29 September

The Touriga Nacional grapes all day

Mario Assunção area of quinta at top of the hill

Today was another perfect day of warm sunny picking weather. As we are nearing October it is noticeable that the days are getting shorter though.  At 0700 there is not so much light as when we began the Vintage on the 20th and soon the pickers will have to switch to a 0730 start, which means they will clock off at 17:00 rather than 16:30.

This is now our 3rd day of Touriga Nacional and we continue on the 2005 plantings. This morning they started up near the ‘Mario Assunção’ house (named for a former occupant) and during the course of today picked blocks 70, 72, 75, 76 and 77.  All of these parcels are very high up on the hill face you see from the river, on all sides of that hill top.  The 19 pickers sent in 9.772 Kg to the winery which is just slightly above yesterday’s figure.  The Nacional fruit continues in very good shape with the small compact bunches in very healthy condition.

The first lagar of Nacional is now well into its fermentation, with an initial baumé of 13.75º which is very good.  We are draining it all out of the lagar and are sending it down to another fermentation tank in the lower part of the winery where we expect to fortify it tomorrow morning. Look at the colour, a beautiful deep purple.

The second Touriga Nacional lagar was filled this afternoon and is now getting its 4 hour tread.

Temperature Control in the ‘Automated Lagares’ at Malvedos

The temperature control system installed in the lagares at Malvedos allows me to have precise control over the temperature throughout the whole process of vinification, firstly of the grapes and must that are received in the lagar, and then I can help start and subsequently carry out the fermentation at exactly the desired temperature.  It is very important (and crucial in hot years) to have this flexibility during the vintage and it certainly contributes to the quality of the wines made here.

Three of the sides and the floor of the stainless steel lagares as well as the legs of the treading feet are all double walled with ‘water jackets’ where either hot or cold water circulates allowing me to adjust the temperature in the lagar as and when necessary.  This large surface area of heat exchange allows for gentle and homogenous adjustments.

This vintage the ambient  temperatures have been warm rather than hot and the grapes are arriving at the winery at a coolish 22ºc.  At this temperature and under normal circumstances where we fill one lagar a day and then tread it that same evening there is no need for cooling.  Once the lagar is full and treading under way I will then gently start to warm the must to encourage the fermentation to begin.

If, however, I have a lagar that I know will not be filled and trodden until the next day, as has been the case with the first two lagares of Nacional, which we were unable to fill in one day due to the very small bunches and low yields, then I fill the jackets with cold water to cool down the lagar so that the fermentation does not begin overnight and compromise the wine’s quality.

During fermentation I then gradually raise the temperature in order to get increased colour extraction during cap plunging, so that at the time of fortification the temperature is between 29-30ºc.

Before the harvest began, Fonseca and our cooling system engineer, David, did a thorough check out of the system.  Viewing the thermometer in the bottom corner of the lagar is a bit tricky, but they do what they have to to ensure it’s all in perfect working order.

Fonseca checks the thermometer in the lagar
David provides a second opinion
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