At the end of June we reported an odd spike in the weather: after weeks of relatively cool and often at least partially cloudy conditions we suddenly had three days of 40ºC or more and blazing sunshine. Since then, the weather settled down and for the first two weeks of July was again rather temperate for this time of year. Last week it rose again and hovered near 40ºC at Malvedos and Tua for most of the week, but now the vines are accustomed to the heat and sun we had no further issues with sunburn. No rain fell during the past few weeks at these quintas.
Alexandre Mariz, our viticulturist, says we have completed the desponta in both quintas, including the newly acquired Quinta do Sibio which has been added into Malvedos. This process included both the mechanical hedging which trims the top as well as the sides of the vines, and another pass through the vineyard to manually remove any vines which have sported off the trunks. Additionally we have cut the herbage growing between rows of vines to keep it easier and safer for the tractors and workers to pass through the vineyards.
Pintor – the change in grape colour from green to red – has begun, although it is not officially declared for statistical purposes until 50% of the grapes have turned colour. Tinta Barrocca and Touriga Franca have been, as usual, the first to turn. At Quinta do Tua one of the main roads across the quinta divides the Touriga Franca from the Touriga Nacional on the lower part of the slopes. These two photos are of vines on opposite sides of the road, and you can see the Franca is well along in its colour change whilst the Touriga Nacional is still green. (Click to see the photos full size, and use your browser Back button to return to the blog).
The Touriga Franca we have been tracking at Malvedos has dense foliage but unfortunately was affected by desavinho (poor fruit set) so you can’t really see the few bunches it has, but they have begun to turn colour (see photo at start of article).
At Quinta do Tua, the new plantation continues in good health, and we will be irrigating this week. Generally irrigation is not allowed in the Douro, with new plantations in their first year being the only routine exception. The other work ongoing at Tua has been on the drainage system which was created in tandem with the new vineyard, so that when we again have heavy rains any runoff will be chanelled so as not to damage the terraces.
We visited the winery at Quinta dos Malvedos again and this time our colony of bats were a little less camera shy! We counted a half dozen roosting over the aguardente tanks before they scattered and began fluttering about.
Finally, we stopped on the little local road that leads north away from the western end of Malvedos, and took a couple photos looking up and down river. At 8:30 in the evening looking east, upriver, both Malvedos and Tua are largely in the shadow of the hill which rises to our west, though the uppermost reaches of Malvedos (off camera to left) are still in sun, as well as the area beyond Tua to the bend in the river before the Valeira Dam. Compare this to the photo above of the new plantation at Tua, taken just one hour earlier, when the quinta was still largely in sun, and just a patch directly below us was in shade from the small hill within the quinta on which we were standing.
The Douro makes an S curve downriver from Malvedos so the second photo is looking basically southward. On the left is Quinta da Vila Velha, which is privately owned by one of the Symingtons; grapes from Vila Velha go into Graham’s Ports. Just below centre you can see four broad undulating stripes of vertically planted vineyard divided by roadways, in the shade of the opposite hill. But higher up the hillside there are terraced vineyards still catching the last of the sun. Reading across to the right is a valley in shade, and then another hillside, also part of Vila Velha, in full sunlight. Notice also just about centre there is one sliver of sunlight spilling down into that otherwise shady valley.
It’s the small differences in terrain, vividly demonstrated here by the way the evening sunlight falls across the mountain landscape, that make for the exceptional micro-climatisation of the Douro. This translates into the extraordinary complexity of our wines which are blended from grapes from different quintas or even, in the case of a Quinta Vintage Port, from different parcels within a single quinta.
Next time you enjoy a glass of Graham’s port, picture this…