THE STONE TERRACES HARVESTED AT QUINTA DOS MALVEDOS

It was a busy weekend at Malvedos with attention focused on picking the quinta’s prized stone terraces vineyards and bringing the grapes into the winery under ideal conditions. At the end of the first day’s harvesting last Thursday, Alexandre Mariz (viticulturist) and Henry Shotton (winemaker) were undecided as to whether picking of the stone terraces should start on Friday or Saturday. The weather forecast indicated a sharp drop in temperature and likelihood of some rain over the weekend and rather than take any chances, picking was brought forward by a day.

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Pickers on the Port Arthur stone terraces.

The grape pickers, known as the roga, worked their way methodically and swiftly through the two vineyard parcels that make up the stone terraces at Malvedos: the ‘Port Arthur’ and the ‘Cardenhos’ vineyards. Both of them hug the steep slopes below the ridge on which the quinta house is built: the Port Arthur being east-facing and the Cardenhos (which forms an amphitheatre behind the house), north-facing. These are the oldest vineyard terraces at Malvedos, having been hand-built in the 18th century and their aspects are in marked contrast to the predominantly south-facing Malvedos vineyards.

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The roga having their breakfast overlooking the Cardenhos stone terraces.

The seasoned roga, 24 strong, managed to hand-pick the two parcels in under a day; quite normal as they barely make up two hectares between them (2,708 vines). Henry was excited by the quality of the perfectly formed bunches of predominantly Touriga Nacional grapes which delivered excellent Baumé readings of 13.75º. The small, compact bunches with perfectly formed berries also showed superb colour, registering the maximum colour grade of ‘A’ in a descending spectrum running to ‘F’ (‘A’ represents the deepest colour and hence the finest quality). Henry’s satisfaction was written all over his face and he commented “we have given the lagar a lot of work and the colour and aromatics are amazing.”

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Impressive bunches of grapes from the stone terraces.

Alexandre Mariz, the experienced viticulturist who manages Malvedos and Graham’s neighbouring Tua vineyard, was pleased to see his predictions fulfilled; rarely if ever has he seen such beautifully ripened grapes with such balanced maturations (sugar levels, acidity and colour). He is keeping his fingers crossed that the remaining Touriga Nacional from Malvedos can be picked at their optimal point of ripeness under ideal conditions. The Touriga Franca continues to develop well on the vines although another couple of weeks are still needed for this late-ripening variety to realize its full quality potential.

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The wine produced from the stone terraces.

On Sunday evening the stone terraces lagar was run off and the must fortified. The quality is outstanding and the colour of the wine also superb, reflecting the extraordinary potential of this wine. Henry and Alexandre have labelled some sample bottles and eagerly await the opportunity to taste the wine with Charles Symington, Graham’s head winemaker and his cousins, Paul, Johnny, Dominic and Rupert over the next days.

The good news also extended to other parcels being picked, namely the Sousão grapes coming from Malvedos’s sister vineyard of Tua, located on the opposite bank of the Tua River, at its confluence with the Douro. The Sousão was giving superb Baumés of just under 14º. The colour of the musts in the lagar is remarkable and the Sousão could well be chosen as one of the components of a potential future Vintage.

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The east facing Port Arthur stone terraces.

At Malvedos we are bracing ourselves for some heavy rain forecast for north-western Iberia tomorrow. Tropical storm ‘Henri’ is racing across the Atlantic and it is predicted that it will combine with another storm in Western Europe and discharge heavy rainfall over northern Portugal and northwest Spain. The hope is that most of the rain will fall on higher ground in the lee of the Marão Mountains. The good news is that the storm is due to make rapid progress across the northwest tip of Iberia, and dry, sunny conditions are expected to follow.