Tracking the Season – 17 May

Touriga Franca just coming into flower
Olive blossom

Since we last visited Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos and Quinta do Tua, the vines have clearly enjoyed the change in the weather, and the quintas were looking absolutely beautiful on this warm, sunny and slightly breezy day.

After the last of the April showers which lingered into early May, the past week has been ideal – sunny and warm, as much as 35º to 37ºC according to Alexandre Mariz, our viticulturist.  The grape vines have formed their flowers, and many of them have burst into flower.  He expects that next week we will have full flowering, though the temperatures are forecast to drop slightly and the weather will be less stable.  So far, however, he is very pleased with the progress of the flowering, which is looking very healthy.  The grapes are not the only thing in flower – both quintas have large olive plantations, and the olive blossom is also very beautiful.

Our Touriga Franca vine at Malvedos is setting its flowers, which are just on the verge of opening, the leaves are turning a darker green and the vines have grown long enough to be caught between the wires of the trellis above.

We have finished the despampa (the removal of excess shoots) and begun the ampara, which means moving the vines to make sure they are growing up between the wires of the trellis, as you can see in the photo of the Touriga Franca above.  This process is also entirely manual, but critical:  we cannot have the vines growing or hanging out into the middle of the rows, as there is a risk tractors and even people passing through might damage or break off the vines.

We are just finishing the last step in the creation of the new plantation at Tua, which is the breaking up of large rocks left in the middle or at the end of the row.  This needs to be done as too much broken rock in the terrace pathways make working in the vineyards, either on foot or by tractor at least uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.  Carlos, our tractorista at Tua, runs over the row full of rocks dragging a sort of sledge behind the tractor which pulverises the rock.  It is pretty effective, as you can see from these before and after photos taken at the end of a terrace, where quite a lot of debris had gathered.  After two or three passes the large slabs of schist have been broken into much smaller pieces, and as he continues into the terrace row, the remaining rock gets turned in and buried in the soil, leaving a fairly neat smooth surface. Click on the photos to see them full size and use your browser back button to return to the blog.

Seen from the western end of the property, the view across the new plantation at Quinta do Tua is visibly greener.  All the vines have put on more leaf, even the newly planted ones,  the leaves are maturing and turning a deeper green in the warm sunny weather, and the vines are growing rapidly.

View across Quinta do Tua 17 May 12:51
The first step in renewing a vineyard at Quinta dos Malvedos

Just as we are wrapping up the new plantation at Tua, we are starting the whole process again over at Quinta dos Malvedos.  We have a parcel of very old Tinta Roriz that is no longer producing well, and the vineyard itself is not in good condition, with the terraces badly damaged by heavy rains over the years.  Whilst it is a little sad to watch the vines being torn up, we cannot afford to be sentimental, it is an important part of our stewardship of these properties to renew the plantings as needed to ensure good grapes in years to come.   Graham’s Vintage Ports are legendary for their consistent superb quality – we cannot let down future generations.

The view looking east across Quinta dos Malvedos and Quinta do Tua
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