THE STONE TERRACES VINES HARVESTED THIS MORNING AT QUINTA DOS MALVEDOS

Early this morning our team of grape pickers (the roga) set to work picking by hand two of the most prized vineyard parcels at Quinta dos Malvedos; parcel 43 known as ‘Port Arthur’ (predominantly east but also south facing) and the Vinha dos Cardenhos, directly behind the Quinta house, facing north. These varying aspects are one of the principal differentiating factors of these tiny parcels as the majority of the Malvedos vineyard is south facing. Between them these vineyards barely add up to two hectares (with just 2,708 vines). The other most noticeable feature of these two small vineyards is that they are made up of traditional stone terraces built by hand in the 18th century.

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First to be picked this morning; grapes from the Cardenhos vineyard just behind the Quinta house, visible top left

Charles and Henry decided yesterday during one of their daily evening meetings at the Malvedos Winery to bring forward by a few days the picking of these two vineyards. The grapes, which are primarily Touriga Nacional but also other mixed varieties were already showing excellent ripeness and given the unpredictable weather, Charles didn’t want to take unnecessary risks by delaying harvesting any further. His decision proved a timely one because just as the last grapes were received safely inside the winery at noon the heavens opened and a generous albeit brief shower came down over the Quinta. Soon after, the cloud cover swiftly broke up and the sunshine returned.

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Above two pictures, perfect Touriga Nacional grapes being picked in the stone terraced Cardenhos vineyard

The Port wines made from these terraces have always been prized at the Quinta for their unique characteristics; the Port Arthur vineyard gets the full impact of the morning sun (primarily facing east) and the high stone walls become very warm. During the afternoon the sun no longer shines directly on the vines, but the schist walls radiate heat back onto each single row of vines, even during the night, ensuring a beautifully balanced ripening of the grapes. In the Vinha dos Cardenhos, the powerful July and August Douro sun is attenuated by its northerly aspect. Consequently, the wines made from these two vineyards are markedly different to those made on the remaining 87 hectares of Malvedos vineyards that mostly face south.

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After the Cardenhos parcel was harvested the roga moved round the corner of the ridge on which the Quinta house is sited to start picking the stone terraced Port Arthur vineyard

In 2011, the Symington family resolved to pick both vineyards at the same time and ferment the grapes together in one lagar. From this wine an exceptional Vintage Port was made for the first time: Graham’s The Stone Terraces 2011 Vintage Port. This Port of which only 250 cases (3,000 bottles) were released received outstanding reviews all around the world. Charles, Henry and the rest of the team are hopeful that 2014 will again deliver exceptional quality wines and judging by the potential of the grapes coming into the winery thus far, their hopes could well be borne out.

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‘BIG’ Nelson eagerly inspects the first trailer load of Touriga Nacional grapes picked in the Port Arthur and Vinha dos Cardenhos vineyards

The grapes received at the winery from both the Cardenhos parcel and the Port Arthur parcel were in very fine condition; small, well ripened compact bunches. Grapes from the Cardenhos parcel gave a Baumé reading of 14.5º (comparable to the 14.8º of the grapes harvested in 2011) whilst those from Port Arthur delivered a Baumé of 14.75º (a tad higher than the 14.10º recorded in 2011).

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Perfectly ripe bunches of Touriga Nacional grapes harvested from the Stone Terraces vineyard parcels at Malvedos this morning.

From Henry’s winery log: WEEKEND of 13th/14th September 2014 (day 3 and 4 of the harvest) .

Saturday September 13th:

First Lagar of this vintage (old mixed varieties from Síbio) being run off this morning with great colour! See below photo which registers the moment.

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Nelson says “repara nesta cor brutal!”  (something like: “check out this awesome colour!!”) as he referred to a sample from the first lagar of Sousão grapes harvested at Quinta do Tua. Henry’s comment on this same Sousão: “Excellent colour and vibrant and fresh aromatics!

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Reparem nesta cor brutal!!

This evening started treading the first Touriga Nacional that came in from Tua (Baumé: 14.4º).

Sunday September 14th:

07:00 continued picking TN from Tua under blue skies with some white cloud and no wind. Less people in the roga because it’s Sunday (it’s the same every year).

14:30 Clouding over.

15:24 Henry recoreds: “Rain has begun; it’s like a grey blanket creeping up the river” (see picture below). Luckily it was just a 15 minute shower which was followed by some useful wind: helps to dry the grapes swiftly pre-empting any adverse effect from the rain. Arlindo later reported that the Quinta weather station recorded just 0.9 mm, so nothing of any consequence.

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17:25 the sun returned.

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Hurray; the sun makes a speedy return

Charles was here – see photo – and we discussed picking using the map – and unless the weather takes a turn for the worse the next two days we will be picking TN from Malvedos – including the Stone Terraces tomorrow morning.

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Henry (left) and Charles decide on the picking order for the next few days inside the Malvedos winery.