There is a strange mix of calm and frenzy in the vineyards today. I’ve just been up to visit Noémia, my favourite vineyard, whom some readers might remember from last year. António Silvano, Paul’s caseiro, confessed to me last night (with just a hint of emotion) that he also has a soft spot for her. Her transformation from a sad wreck of a vineyard into a real viticultural gem has been tremendously rewarding for both of us. The legendary 1980s popsters the Human League couldn’t have put it much better (were they of course interested in grapevines, which as far as I can tell nothing in their repertoire indicates):
I picked you out
I shook you up
And turned you around
Turned you into someone new
Marvin Gaye was interested in grapevines, but I think he was only a bit of an eavesdropper (or a terrible gossip, at the very least).
Anyway, the calm came from a feeling of satisfaction at a difficult job well done, a re-invigorated vineyard that had really given its best and produced very nearly 13 tonnes of grapes (over a kilo and a half per vine) at an ideal 13º Baumé. Clearly a lucky number for us. The bunches were immaculate, late-ripening but perfectly balanced and completely free of disease thanks to the blessing we’ve had with the weather over the course of the vintage. Again, we kept them separate in the adega because we know the wine will be special – so Noémia had a shiny robotic lagar all to herself. The leaves have just started to turn and look like delicious glowing jellies, each variety in the mix contributing a different colour. But you could sense that she was looking forward to a rest now, much like us.
The frenzy was due to the fact that I had promised the winery workers that the very last of the Symington grapes would be picked by the end of the day – and in this case they were ours. It was a long shot, but the pickers worked like ants on acid and by just after five o’clock we were all enjoying celebratory beer and biscuits. It’s been an unbelievable harvest and it will be well worth looking out for the wines once they are in bottle.