Charles Symington, Graham’s head winemaker, has characterised the 2011 growing season so far as ‘unusual’, citing the late budburst followed by extraordinarily rapid vine development which has put us fully two weeks ahead of average for this time of year. In the Douro Superior (the area east of the dam at Valeira) he was seeing the beginnings of pintor (colour development in red grapes) as early as mid June, which is very unusual.
Weather conditions have been a challenge, with the Douro ‘quite tropical’ in Charles’s words. The month of May was warmer than usual by 2.5 to 4 degrees Celcius across all of Portugal, and humidity has been high with some on and off rain in the Douro region, though not a remarkable amount. We had a wet enough winter, and if the summer is a typical one, we do not anticipate any trouble with vine stress.
Whilst there have been issues in the Douro generally with mildew and oidium, Charles feels they have been controllable, and certainly we have been vigilant and implemented our control regime according to conditions, not the calendar, so we should be ok. If there is any effect, it will be in terms of reducing quantity, and not quality.
At this point, regarding size of harvest, it may come out comparable to 2010 – as always hard to say so early, when there are still at least eight to ten weeks to go.
In short, Charles summed it up as likely to be an earlier than usual harvest and generally “so far… so good.”