The vintage at Malvedos started yesterday, September 19th, approximately a week later than last year’s starting date. Normally, the vintage in this part of the Douro Valley, the Cima Corgo, kicks off during the second week of September; rarely later than the middle of the month. This year’s delay can be explained by the unseasonably cool and wet spring, which set back flowering and veraison — both by almost two weeks. The exceptionally hot summer, which brought two heat waves during August, slowed things further as the maturation rates lost pace due to the very high temperatures. Fortunately, the abundant winter rainfall, which replenished the quinta’s soil water reserves, helped to sustain the vines over this period and the maturations and phenolic ripeness steadily recovered. Charles Symington, Graham’s head winemaker thinks that conditions point to a very good year.
A further reason for putting back the vintage was the heat surge felt during the first week of September with maximum temperatures in the Douro reaching 43°C and setting a new record for highest ever recorded maximum temperatures for this month. Luckily, some timely rain came to the rescue in the build up to the vintage: 20mm falling at Malvedos on just one day (13th September). To put this into perspective, the 30-year average rainfall for September at Malvedos is 33.4 mm. These conditions have allowed for further gradual evolution of sugars and colour in a balanced way. This rain may well prove to be one of the decisive moments of the vintage. Experience tells us that just the right amount of rain during the first half of September, especially after a very hot and dry summer, is often a defining moment of a Vintage year.
The weather forecast until the end of the month is very positive, indicating warm, dry weather (but not excessively hot); just what is needed for some of the later ripening varieties to catch up and deliver good Baumés and balanced phenolic ripeness. On the first day of picking here at Malvedos the maximum temperature was just a fraction above 30°C. Night time temperatures have been dipping a fair bit (minimum was 14°C), which is desirable and to be expected with the the autumn equinox just around the corner. This is exactly what we need for a great year: dry, sunny days and cold nights.
As is customary, the Tinta Barroca was the first variety to be picked, closely followed by the mixed parcels from the Síbio section of Malvedos. Henry Shotton, the winemaker who runs the winery — this is his 17th vintage at the Quinta — was well satisfied with the colour and the good graduations of the Barroca, an encouraging sign but not surprising for this particular variety; the real test will come when the Tourigas, the Touriga Nacional and the Touriga Franca begin to arrive at the winery, from later this week or early next. In the following post, further details on the other varieties to be picked will be provided.