Miles Edlmann writes in:
In the sticky purple heat of the vintage (and this one is turning out to be quite busy in fact) the last thing that I need to take my mind off controlling the fermentations and looking after the work experience kids (or ‘expert flying winemakers’ according to them) is a new viticultural project. But time and tide… well, you know, I’m sure. Paul has just bought a new vineyard in a superb location, one of the most sought after plots in the region. I dare say he has had his eye on it for some time, given that it borders on the fantastic Noémia vineyard that I wrote about reviving last year. It is entirely surrounded by crumbling dry stone walls that Abílio (remember him?) has been painstakingly rebuilding for some months, and it has a beautiful gate and a rather endearing old house in the middle (also crumbling).
The only problem is that this vineyard has clearly seen better days, to put it mildly. Actually, it’s a wreck. The trellising is completely inadequate and generally disintegrating, and there is a very high number of vines that are either dead, decrepit or missing altogether. Furthermore, the row spacing is too narrow to let tractors in – when it was first planted decades ago the idea of mechanising a vineyard was a dream from a far distant future.
There is clearly no alternative other than ripping out all the old vines and starting again from scratch. We’ll get going with this as soon as the vintage is over. Given its high altitude (almost exactly 500 m above sea level) and relatively exposed situation on a breezy plateau, it seems to be crying out for white varieties to be planted. The cooler temperatures experienced this high up will keep the flavours fresh and ensure good acidity, and the exposure will keep down the risk of fungal diseases. Since it is basically flattish (clearly a luxury in the Douro) we’ll probably plant the rows east to west, thereby guaranteeing that the sun hits the rows of vines from the southern side for as long as possible during the day to ripen the fruit perfectly. We’re vaguely thinking about making a seriously good white table wine from some of this vineyard in the not too distant future. Watch this space…