As Charles Symington, head winemaker for Graham’s, anticipated, the harvest looks set to start on the 17th of September, a pretty typical mid-month start. A few small selected parcels of young grapes will be picked from Quinta do Tua on the 13th and then on Monday 17th September the Quinta dos Malvedos winery will open, picking will begin in earnest at Malvedos and Tua, and Henry Shotton and his team will start to make Graham’s 2012 Port wines.
Quinta do Vale de Malhadas, located in the Douro Superior, is also currently scheduled to start picking on the 17th, as is Quinta da Vila Velha, located just downriver from Malvedos. When we spoke with Charles, he was in the Rio Torto Valley and about to visit Quinta das Lages to assess the situation there – typically the Rio Torto quintas start a bit later than the river quintas – and he also had plans to visit Vila Velha as he has a feeling some parcels there may be ready a little earlier – he will just have to taste the grapes and see.
As always, Charles will be constantly visiting and re-assessing the conditions of each of Graham’s vineyards and fine-tuning the picking schedule on a daily basis together with Henry Shotton and our viticulturist Alexandre Mariz, from now right through the end of harvest. In other words: this could all change tomorrow…
Condition of the Vineyards
Charles says the grapes has been maturing steadily, in just the way one always hopes they will – which actually comes as a bit of a surprise this year, given the extraordinarily dry conditions. Our research enologist Steve Rogerson, who analyses the data from our laboratory during maturation studies, confirms the steady increase in quality, with phenolics, colour, acidity and sugars all improving steadily week over week.
After the past few weeks of personally walking through all our vineyards to taste the grapes and assess the conditions and timing for harvest, Charles added that he is now anticipating a slightly smaller than average crop, a modest revision from our mid summer forecast in July.
He also remarked that he has been quite impressed with the overall condition of the vineyards, saying that given how little rain we have had this year, the vines have “miraculously pulled through better than expected.” Charles speculated that because the vines experienced a lack of water right from the start of the viticultural cycle last winter, they seem to have adapted to the conditions by forming fewer bunches than typical, and those bunches are smaller and composed of generally smaller berries. Interestingly this seems to demonstrate exactly what his cousin Paul Symington was saying at the World Congress on Climate Change and Wine last year, when he spoke of how our Douro varieties are incredibly well adapted to survive in the hot, dry conditions of the region.
The weather the past week has been a bit hotter than we have been accustomed to this summer, which was perhaps not ideal, but we expect temperatures to drop again after this weekend and to revert to the slightly cooler than usual days and distinctly cooler nights which have been such a boon in this dry season.
When we asked about the weather outlook for the next two weeks, Charles just laughed and said the forecasts have been pretty nearly useless lately. At this time of year, the weather in Portugal is often driven by what (quite literally) spins off from the Atlantic hurricane activity. We have had relatively little backlash from those storm systems so far this year, and a few “promised” rain systems have after all not materialised. Charles commented that so far his instincts have been more reliable than the forecasts!
Stay with us here on the Graham’s Blog for our intensive daily coverage of the harvest at Quinta dos Malvedos, and you may also want to follow The Vintage Port Site Blog, where we will be providing periodic updates on the harvest from all the Symington Port brands.