Early this morning Charles Symington made a thorough survey of the vineyards at Quinta dos Malvedos. With the winery due to open tomorrow, he is fine tuning the picking order for the next couple days, as well as continuing to monitor all the grapes, even those likely to be picked last.
As we drove through the quinta and walked through selected vineyard parcels, Charles kept up a running commentary on the condition of the grapes. What is striking is how very differently the grapes mature according to their altitude and aspect to the sun. For example, we have a pair of parcels of Touriga Nacional, one above the other (with a parcel of a different grape separating them), all planted about 5 years ago, all south facing. The upper parcel had noticeably fewer grapes than the lower one, which had quite a good crop and good flavour. Another parcel of Touriga Nacional on the eastern face of the quinta, above the River Tua was nearing perfection. An adjacent parcel faced south due to the contour of the hill, and Charles commented he expected it to be riper. Taste one grape… yes, quite a bit riper.
Overall, the picking order is looking like this: the Tinta Barroca first, clearly, starting with a north facing parcel. In fact, our tractorista seems to have anticipated that, as the plastic bins were already stacked up at the end of the terraces. It looks as if we will have four lagares of Tinta Barroca, which means four days of picking. Next is likely to be the Tinta Roriz. We have about a half a lagar of Tinta Amarela, and as we come to the end of the Barroca Charles will make the call when to pick that, and whether it will be vinified together with the end of the Barroca or be blended into the Roriz. The Tinta Roriz is likely to be around two lagares.
That means we should be ready to start the Touriga Nacional next Wednesday, all being well. Charles is particularly pleased with the quality and flavour of the Touriga Nacional from Port Arthur, and from the north facing parcel 37 just behind the house; it looks as if those will be vinified together again this year.
As usual, the harvest will finish with the Touriga Franca and one small parcel of Tinta Cão.
Or at least, that’s how it looks today. As with all things during harvest, every day or two we re-assess conditions and progress and remain flexible to modify our plans as needed.