Paul Symington on the ’09 Vintage

Yesterday I spent part of the morning with Charles at Bomfim reviewing what we have made so far at our various vineyards and wineries and I had a long chat with Joao Pedro Ramalho as he checked all the grapes coming into the Bomfim winery. I then went to Malvedos to meet Henry and to see the musts in the lagares with him. At this stage we can already begin to assess the first stage of the ’09 vintage. This is a challenging year in the Douro, three dry winters have stressed the vines and we have had warm weather since mid August, so some varietals have suffered but others have benefited. The risks of mildew and oidium have of course been totally absent.


 As I put in a previous post on this blog, the Douro has always been a region of challenges; it has never been an easy place to plant vineyards or to make wine. That is why we can and do make very great wines when we meet these challenges. Our varietals, as Miles has written here, are incredibly well adapted to these conditions. But there is no doubt that if the Douro was made up of a relatively flat and gently rolling landscape, all at more or less the same altitude, and with the same sort of aspect, we would have had serious problems this year. But the Douro is everything but a homogenous region. We ourselves have vineyards just 7 kms from Pocinho, (Quinta de Telhada) deep in the Douro Superior and quite close to the Spanish border. This vineyard is south facing, exactly bordering the river and its vineyard ranges between 160 and 220 meters altitude. All its grapes have been picked and are already in the lagares. But I am writing this at my own vineyard in the Pinhão valley, next to Cavadinha, 30 kms west of Telhada and my vineyard is 450 meters up to 528 meters high and faces south-west and all my fruit (as are most of Cavadinha’s) is still on the vines. I will not pick my grapes for several days yet. How could the vines, or the wines made from them, be the same in both places?


We are a region of a multiplicity of terroirs here in the Douro, more so than any other great wine region anywhere on the planet, so in 2009 there will be some lovely wines made but in other vineyards it is difficult. The skill is in adapting our work to meet the conditions. Charles changed the picking order round at Malvedos last week, and Henry and Sr Arlindo are now working to that order of picking. Henry has also adapted the treading pattern in the automated lagares to meet this year’s conditions. I am sorry to go on about it yet again, but there is no system like, or as good as, these automated lagares which really tread (very gently), they do not just plunge the cap, which is an altogether different way of making Port. How could traditional treading, a system used by the Romans, not be improved on over 2,000 years?! Henry is treading at various stages through the day and the night, you cannot do that in the traditional lagares, whatever people may tell you.

 It is another lovely day in the Douro and the forecasted showers of yesterday never came.

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