Tracking the Season – 23 May

The vertical vineyards at the western end of Quinta dos Malvedos
The vertical vineyards at the western end of Quinta dos Malvedos

Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos and Quinta do Tua are looking absolutely beautiful, with the growth of the vines and the work in the vineyards both progressing steadily and well.

Since our last visit in late April the weather has continued a bit cooler than usual for this time of year, with days generally around 20º-23º C and cool nights.  We have had a few warmer days, but no sustained period of greater warmth, so the vines have continued to grow steadily but slowly.

There have been a few rain showers, but no really significant rainfall on any one day, though of course every drop is welcome.  Despite the heavy rains in early April and the odd shower since then, we have had no trouble so far this year with mildio.  Alexandre Mariz, our viticulturist, hesitates to be too optimistic yet, but we have been able to manage the timing of treatments versus the odd showers and so far, so good, the vines are healthy.

Before flowering yellow-tipped buds on the to-be grape bunches
Before flowering yellow-tipped buds on the to-be grape bunches
Flowering - each flower is as fine as a thread
Flowering – each flower is as fine as a thread
As flowering finishes, the husks fall away to reveal the 2013 grapes
As flowering finishes, the husks fall away to reveal the 2013 grapes

Altogether, the vines are developing steadily and well, though with the persistent cool temperatures (cool for the Douro!) Alexandre feels the viticultural cycle generally is running a week to 10 days behind normal.   Compare with our Tracking the Season post from 17 May 2012, when we had been enjoying temperatures in the mid 30ºs C!

Flowering is beginning and Alexandre showed me cachos (bunches) at each stage:

  • Just before flowering, when the tiny buds are fresh green and showing yellow at the tips,
  • Flowering when the delicate flowers – each no bigger than a thread – burst forth,
  • And after flowering, as the flowers die and the caliptras – the husks – fall from the bud to reveal the grape.

Calm, settled weather is important over the next week or more to ensure an even flowering, and the forecast is promising.  (If you want to see those photos more clearly, click on them to enlarge to full size, then use your browser back button to come back to the blog text.)

A range of jobs have been done or are ongoing in the vineyards, according to the age of each parcel.  The surriba (landscaping) of the high northwest parcel at Malvedos is complete and the area has been planted with Sousão and Touriga Nacional, which are settling in and putting forth their first leaves already.

At Quinta do Tua the vines planted last year are growing well, and a small stick has been affixed to the trellis for each and every vine, to help train the vines to grow straight upwards.  This will ensure healthier vines and also make our work in the vineyards easier for years to come, so we can pass down the rows without catching or damaging twisted or sprawling vine trunks.

Tucking the vines into the dual wires of the trellis
Tucking the vines into the dual wires of the trellis

The despampa – removal of extra shoots – is complete and we are now passing through all the more mature vineyards again to do the ampara – moving the shoots to grow in between the twin wires of the trellis.  This is another entirely manual process, but critical so machinery can pass through the vineyards without catching and damaging the vine shoots.  Additionally, it is an important part of our work of managing the canopy, the growth of vines and foliage, to strike a balance between providing adequate shade and protection to the grape bunches without being so dense as to encourage disease or pests.

Deep pink clover in the vertical vineyards at Quinta dos Malvedos
Deep pink clover in the vertical vineyards at Quinta dos Malvedos

At the western end of Malvedos the vertically planted vineyards have cover crops of bright dark pink clover which are an important part of the organic regime we are establishing there.  The clover fixes nitrogen in the soil, but also, when it is cut down in the next week or two, will provide much needed compost, keeping soil temperatures cooler, holding humidity in the soil, and finally as it decomposes it will add much needed organic matter to our Douro soil, which naturally is little more than ground rock dust.

Altogether a very busy, but very beautiful time of year at Quinta dos Malvedos, and the viticultural cycle seems off to a good start.

Newly planted vine - with spectacular view - at Quinta dos Malvedos.  I
Newly planted vine – with spectacular view – at Quinta dos Malvedos.

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