The latest report from our Malvedos winemaker Henry Shotton:
Thursday 26th September
Night of Wednesday the 25th overcast but cool. Fortunately, the forecasted rain has not made an appearance.
On opening the winery on Thursday at 07:20 it felt refreshingly cool with a blue sky and some wisps of high white cloud. The promise of a warm day hung in the air.
Early today we picked perhaps some of our best looking Touriga Nacional; blocks 37 (the Cardenhos vineyard, just behind the house, facing North), and blocks 43 and 125 (the West-facing ‘Port Arthur’ vineyard). These vines are on the oldest (stone) terraces at the Quinta with just one row of vines on each terrace. They surround the house and it was from here that two years ago, almost to the day, we selected the grapes responsible for making the 2011 Graham’s ‘The ‘Stone Terraces’ Vintage Port, which has been very well received by customers and critics alike.
Our first lagar with the Tua Vinha Velha (from the first grapes picked during this harvest for Graham’s – on Monday the 23rd) was fortified yesterday during the afternoon.
Our cooling system broke down last night and we had to call Sr. David, our reliable handy man. Things often break down at the beginning of the vintage as all the machinery and equipment has not been in action since the last harvest. Luckily, as the weather has cooled no harm was done.
The first Touriga Nacional lagar (which we filled on Tuesday) was showing a deep almost purple colour with fresh, vibrant fermentation aromas and it was fortified at 3am this morning by the night shift — it comes with the territory, as they say…
“The Heavyweights” visit: Just before lunch, the team from Portfolio Vinhos, the Symington family’s own distribution company in Portugal, visited the Quinta and Henry showed them around the winery. He thought it would be fun to weigh them on the scale normally used for weighing incoming grapes. Their total weight was 1,283 Kg, the equivalent of a tractor load of grapes — a heavyweight team, without a doubt…
Friday 27th September
Yesterday during the evening, some ominously grey clouds began to appear, drifting in from the west, proof of the weather fronts, which have been gathering over the Atlantic Ocean for several days. Early this morning, some of us hopped across to Quinta do Vale de Malhadas, the Graham’s vineyard located furthest East in the Douro (Douro Superior sub-region), about 20km upriver from Malvedos as the crow flies. The caseiro, Sr. José Maria was marshalling his roga (team of pickers) as they harvested a 6 hectares (14.8 acres) block of Tinta Roriz grapes and another of mixed vines, both between 35 and 40 years old. We barely had time to exchange greetings when the heavily laden clouds presented us with a steady downpour, which sent everybody scattering for cover.
However, the shower — although reasonably abundant — didn’t last for more than about 20 minutes, so there was no cause for alarm. In fact we’re very pleased with the appearance of the grapes, which looked well ripened and in very good condition. Some berries were promptly tasted and their lovely sweet and concentrated taste confirmed our positive impressions. Our viticulturist for Vale de Malhadas, Mário Natário, later confirmed that just 2mm of rain had fallen and that this had barely affected the grapes. For the next 3 to 4 days, Sr José Maria and his roga will continue to harvest primarily Tinta Roriz.
As noted above, at Malvedos there was no rain last night, but when we arrived at the winery just before 8 this morning, the first drops began to fall and this was followed by a steady downpour which lasted perhaps half an hour. Intermittent showers followed and the afternoon, although quite overcast, was mainly dry. This is nothing compared to the rain that came down in buckets along the coast at Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. The front progressed eastwards, but fortunately for us deposited most of its rain over the Marão – Montemuro mountains that shield the Douro Region from the brunt of the weather fronts that roll in from the Atlantic and effectively act as a weather barrier.
During the morning we were visited by Susan Smillie of the UK Guardian Newspaper. The previous day, Susan had visited the Graham’s 1890 Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia and enjoyed a “delicious” lunch (in her own words) in the VINUM restaurant there. As a Scot, Susan felt quite at home in the surroundings of the 1890 Lodge and at Quinta dos Malvedos, both of which of course reflect the entrepreneurial spirit and passion for winemaking of two Scottish familes: the Graham’s and the Symingtons.
Henry showed Susan around the Malvedos winery and she was fascinated by the lagares which she was able to compare with the stone lagares that she had seen the night before at Graham’s sister vineyard of Quinta do Vesúvio.
Due to this morning’s rain, Charles consulted with Henry and decided to make a slight alteration to the picking order and this may change again tomorrow, depending on how the weather works out. Flexibility is key. Although some further rainfall is forecast for the next few days it’s unlikely to be abundant and for the time being it’s therefore very much business as usual.