It’s July, which means Graham’s will soon begin our preparations for the 2012 Harvest. We caught up with head winemaker Charles Symington to get his perspective on how prospects for 2012 are shaping up.
Naturally the conversation focussed on the weather, which seems to have been unseasonable every month so far this year. Though the Portuguese meteorological authorities declared this past winter the third coldest since records began in 1931, it was also the driest. March was 1º C warmer than average with very little rain, less than 15% of average. Relative to averages at Pinhão, April was cooler with slightly more rain, May was a little warmer with a little more rain, June was cooler with less rain… it’s been a funny old year so far.
Despite all this, budburst occurred around the usual time, though we had a slightly less than average nascença – which refers to the number of bunches formed on each vine. Additionally, some areas suffered a bit of desavinho, or poor fertilisation and fruit set. This generally results from unsettled conditions during the period of flowering – which fits, as this would have been in mid to late May, a time when, after the on-again-off-again showers of late April and early May, the vines were putting on a bit of a burst of growth and the temperatures were pretty variable – some days barely 20ºC, other days well into the 30ºs. On the upside, we have had no mildew this year and only a little very localised and easily controlled oidium.
Given the very low rainfall so far this year, a smaller than average crop size is not a bad thing, and the vines are naturally producing fewer bunches which so far appear generally smaller as well. Charles observed that although soil humidity measurements are comparable to 2009 when the vines suffered hydric stress, this year the vines are coping remarkably well with the conditions, and if you didn’t know what a dry year it had been, you would not guess it by looking at the vineyards, which are green, healthy and growing well. The mild spring and the timing of the rain we did receive in April and May have been very welcome.
At this point in time, Charles would expect that we, with our quintas concentrated on the river in the central and easternmost parts of the region, will have an average to possibly slightly less than average crop size. The region overall could have an average to slightly larger crop, due to the fact that the Baixo Corgo and the higher ground vineyards away from the river generally enjoy higher rainfall, and the vines in those areas generally have more bunches and larger bunches. Of course this outlook can change in the next few months before harvest, depending on the weather and rainfall.
If he could plan the ideal weather pattern from now till harvest, Charles could wish for a coolish summer and ideally a little more rain in July and August to minimise any chance of hydric stress and put us in a good position for harvest. Our maturation studies will begin in mid-August as usual, and based on the analysis done then, both in the lab and tasting grapes out in the vineyards, we will be able to start fine tuning our predictions for the timing and quality of the harvest.
Stay with us for all the developments for the Douro Harvest 2012.