As we are now well into the Vintage I thought I would give you a summary of what has been going on so far.
We started the Vintage on the 14th September and this is now our 9th day. The weather throughout has been absolutely perfect with sunny day following sunny day, except for the one brief (very brief) shower on the evening of the 16th. Rain is not great during picking for those of us who are working in the vineyard, but it is even less good for the grapes themselves and the wines we subsequently make. So this lovely harvesting weather has been a very positive quality factor so far this year.
The picking order as set out by Charles, following the maturation studies through August and early September, had us start with our Barroca. As I mentioned at the time, this varietal suffered somewhat from the heat due to its thin skin, this causes dehydration. We then moved on to the Tinta Roriz which has performed really well this year. In some years Roriz can disappoint here in the Douro, but its resilience to the heat has allowed it to mature beautifully this year and in fact we have put off picking some blocks of Roriz here at Malvedos until later. It is most important to have this flexibility and to change the order of picking if necessary if we think that a delay will improve the wines. This is why Charles and the viticultural team do not work to a fixed formula and why he has changed things as he and we see the impact of the weather on the vines on a daily basis. From the early Roriz, we then switched to picking all of the Tinta Amarela.
Following the Amarela, we started on the Touriga Nacional and this afternoon have just finished filling the 3rd lagar of TN which will be trodden this evening.
The first and second lagar of TN (still fermenting) gave an excellent 13.55º and 14.1º Bé respectively. The first Touriga Nacional lagar was run off with lovely colours and aromas at 1:30 this morning at 7.55 Bé / 29ºc. So I and some of the lads had a rather short night. Having not slept much, this morning I had an early start preparing for a visit of 50 Belgian customers so am a bit knackered! I hope they buy a few bottles of our Port by way of compensation…
I can tell you that I am supremely grateful to be working with automated treaders. At 1:30 in the morning you do not want to be messing around with pitchforks trying to get the ‘cap’ into the press, effectively by hand. Handling the cap with pitch forks takes hours, the lads are tired and grumpy at 1:30 in the morning and it takes too long to be good for quality at a time when the fermentation is racing away in the must. In our lagares, I tip the whole lagar up (after running off the free-run juice) and I have the cap in our press in about 20 minutes. Much better for the wine quality all round.
So far we have had between 20 and 23 pickers every day except for last Sunday 20th when only 15 came. This often happens on Sunday’s, when some prefer to stay at home or go to pick their own small vineyards. On average we have received at the winery between 6,000 and 8,000 Kgs a day. The record picked on any one day was 415 Kg of grapes per person. This is what the Douro and this Quinta is all about; very low yields, manual picking, careful selection in the vineyard and then another very careful selection on arrival at the winery. We are not shifting volumes at this winery.
The yields are down on last year across all the varieties. Some more than others. This reduction has increased the concentration of the musts in the lagares and the finished wines are showing really excellent colour. Of all the varieties so far the Nacional is looking particularly promising. The Touriga Franca will also be one of the great heroes this year.
So at this stage, Tuesday evening, we have more than half of the Malvedos vineyard picked (Malvedos is 69 hectares, so quite a bit of the Quinta’s grapes are in the winery). Arlindo predicts a further week at least in order to bring in the rest of the grapes. The weather is set fair for another few days, so fingers crossed.
The lads are now emptying the second Touriga Nacional lagar into one of our plunger tanks after a good session of treading (pictures of that tomorrow).