Have you been trying to picture for yourself what day to day life really is like at Quinta dos Malvedos during the Port harvest in the Douro? The blog and our Facebook postings give many glimpses, but we thought we would try to pull together a full picture for you.
- It’s a lot of sheer hard work broken with spells of simply waiting for the next grapes to come down from the vineyards.
- It’s the weather – glorious weather makes it all a lot easier and more fun, too hot sun and temperatures makes it uncomfortable and difficult, and rain… doesn’t bear thinking about.
- It’s the isolation in this mountain region, spending three weeks or more away from family and friends and difficult telecommunications only increase the feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world.
- For Henry, it is probably even more paperwork than he has in his office in Gaia, as he tracks every gram of grapes, millilitre of must and aguardente, and the expenses of the beer fund for the winery team.
Henry generally arrives at the winery shortly after 7:00 am to catch up on emails (internet connection permitting – dial-up is the highest tech available and can be temperamental!), paperwork and planning. The rest of the team come up by 8:00. The first hour in the winery is usually quiet, checking on the wines in progress and getting ready for the day ahead.
The picking team start at 7:00 or 7:30 and if they are picking near the winery and our luck is really bad, the first load of grapes will arrive moments before breakfast. The grapes have to be processed promptly: we don’t want them sitting in the sun, and we need to return the empty crates so the picking team are not delayed in their progress.
At 9:00 or after the grapes are done, the team walk up the hill to Arlindo’s house, where his wife Dona Fatima has breakfast waiting for us. This is simple and hearty, with lots of hot coffee and milk, cereal, fresh bread still warm from the Tua village bakery, and cheese, homemade marmelada (quince paste), chouriço or ham to go with it.
The winery day basically runs till 7:00 at night. During that time, we can count on handling an average of six deliveries of grapes and a variable routine of winemaking tasks (more details to come in our next articles).
Lunch is at 1:00 and dinner at 7:00 pm, and again, both meals are hearty and plentiful, with bread, salad and wine on the table, some kind of grilled or baked meat or fish or a meat casserole, potatoes or rice (or both!) followed by soup, fruit and coffee. We take lunch and dinner together with the Quinta do Tua winery team, so the kitchen is feeding around forty including themselves. You see why we weigh in at the start of harvest and the biggest gainer (there are always several contenders) treats everyone else to a meal at the Calça Curta, the restaurant in Tua, at the end of harvest!
Watch for more about Life in the Winery over the next few days