Malvedos Harvest: The Sun Returns to the Douro

The threat of rain has been constant during this last week. Charles and Henry Shotton have had to review daily the decision regarding the picking order of the various grape varieties. It has been like a game of musical chairs, trying not to get caught out by the weather and ensuring that our grapes are picked in the best possible condition.

Morning mist burns off the hills around Malvedos, early Friday morning, October 4th.
Morning mist dissipates around Malvedos, early Friday morning, October 4th.

Fortunately the weather changed on Thursday, October 3rd, the first day with no rain for a week. Friday started out a little overcast but this was mainly morning mist, which disappeared as the sun rose over the mountains. The afternoon temperature at Malvedos climbed to 24ºC, just what was needed to dry the grape bunches and to encourage the full maturation of our Touriga Franca, a late-ripening variety (27% of the Malvedos vineyard is Touriga Franca).

Today, Saturday October 5th is a lovely sunny day and the forecast for the next week could not be better — clear sunny skies with afternoon temperatures forecast to be above 20ºC. We could not ask for a better forecast.

Glorious blue skies have returned to Malvedos.
Glorious blue skies have returned to Malvedos.

Henry Shotton reports on the last few days at Malvedos:

Wednesday October 2nd 

A lagar with fermenting must from one of the Síbio blocks; the colour is impressive, hence Fonseca's broad smile.
A lagar with fermenting must from one of the Síbio blocks; the colour is impressive, hence Fonseca’s broad smile.

07h30:  The sky has some blue patches and the weather is definitely improving although the temperature is cooler. Some rain came down between 4 and 6.30 this morning. However from tomorrow, the forecast says that the clouds will clear up completely.We finished picking the Síbio blocks today and despite the showers we are pleased to register pretty good graduations, higher than expected given the wet conditions. Tomorrow we will pick the Tinto Cão and some Tinta Roriz which will fill a single lagar and will be fermented together. Tonight we will tread the last Síbio lagar picked today. 

Thursday October 3rd 

Through the day the patches of cloud finally cleared up and even more importantly, we had a constant wind blowing strongly up the valley. This was welcome as it helped to dry the grape bunches. With the sunny conditions, this dry wind brought forward the possibility of concluding the harvesting of the remainder of our Touriga Nacional grapes. Before we do that however, we will today be picking Tinto Cão and Tinta Roriz, which we will also ferment in one lagar.

Charles and Henry are encouraged (not to say relieved) that the Touriga Nacional grape sat Malvedos have weathered the rain very well indeed; the bunches are ripe and healthy.
Charles and Henry are encouraged (not to say relieved) that the Touriga Nacional grapes at Malvedos have weathered the rain very well indeed; the bunches are ripe and healthy.

After lunch, Charles and I did the rounds of both Malvedos and Tua to set the picking order for the next few days. Despite the rain we are very encouraged to note that there are no signs of rot, the grapes have withstood the rain remarkably well. One of the advantages of our mountain vineyards is that when it rains, a fair proportion of the water runs down the steep hillsides before it has time to infiltrate the soil.

Tonight we will be treading a mixed lagar of Tinto Cão and Tinta Roriz. Tomorrow we will pick the remaining Roriz which we will ferment with Tinta Barroca, making a wine that will be very interesting in due course.

While we have been very busy making wine, we have also had several visitors: from Russia, Taiwan and Germany. All in a day’s work… 

Friday October 4th

Sancha Trindade, helps Juca (or is the other way around) unload a trailer-load of grapes at the winery.
Sancha Trindade, helps Juca (or is the other way around?!) unload a trailer-load of grapes at the winery.
Sancha helps sorting Tinta Roriz grapes.
Sancha helps sorting Tinta Roriz grapes.

Today a couple of my colleagues came by for lunch, bringing with them a guest who will spend the weekend at the Quinta. Her name is Sancha Trindade, a leading Portuguese blogger and freelance journalist. Sancha spent most of the afternoon at the winery and helped the winery team unload the grapes coming in from the vineyard and she took turns on the sorting table, learning how to identify any less acceptable bunches and berries of Tinta Roriz.

Saturday October 5th

We made a very early start with Sr. Arlindo, our caseiro, driving up to the Touriga Nacional blocks on the higher part of the Quinta. We resumed picking the TN this morning because of the much better conditions. The Touriga Nacional is looking beautifully ripe and healthy.

Sancha gets stuck in eraly Saturday morning, helping to harvest the Touriga Nacional at Malvedos.
Sancha gets stuck in early Saturday morning, helping to harvest the Touriga Nacional at Malvedos.
Sancha (left) with Henry to her left, enjoys a well earned lunch after a busy morning, picking grapes. On the right is Joe Álvares Ribeiro (one of Graham's directors, with other guests.
Sancha (left) with Henry to her left, enjoys a well earned lunch after a busy morning, picking grapes. On the right (centre) is Joe Álvares Ribeiro, one of Graham’s directors, with other guests.
The lovely grass terrace at Quinta dos Malvedos
The lovely grass terrace at Quinta dos Malvedos.
The lovely, intense colours of 'Morning Glory' at Quinta dos Malvedos.
The lovely, intense colours of ‘Morning Glory’ at Quinta dos Malvedos.