In this tenth video of ‘A year in the vineyards’, the last in the series, we look at traditional treading at Quinta do Vesuvio, where the grapes are foot trodden in granite lagares.
The vintage · Traditional treading
The time-honoured traditional foot treading in large, shallow tanks made of granite called lagares, survives in just a handful of properties in the Douro Valley, among them the Symington family’s Quinta do Vesúvio. Inside the winery built in 1827, teams of 50 people, known as rogas, tread each lagar. The first stage is called the corte during which two to three rows of men and women, arms interlocked, march up and down the lagar with military precision, their discipline ensured by the head of the roga who resembles a drill sergeant as he bellows, ‘left-right, left-right, left right’. After about two hours, once the grapes have been thoroughly trodden, the treading team break up the rows and tread at random to their own rhythm, often dancing and joking to the sound of the local village band. This stage of treading is termed liberdade or liberty – for obvious reasons.
In this ninth video of our series ‘A year in the vineyards’ we look at the winemaking at Quinta dos Malvedos, whose winery is fitted with three modern lagares.
The vintage · Winemaking
Once grape harvesting gets under way it is a non-stop marathon of round-the-clock activity in the vineyards and in the winery. At the Malvedos winery as in all our other specialist wineries, the grapes are still trodden; today in modern stainless steel lagares, which are simply an evolution of the time-honoured traditional foot treading in large, shallow basins made of granite, called lagares. The modern variants of these at Malvedos were installed in time for the 2000 vintage and they have worked extremely well ever since, making consistently outstanding wines. The lessons learnt here were then used in our other wineries up and down the valley where modern lagares have also been installed, namely at Quinta do Bomfim, Quinta da Cavadinha and Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira.
In this eighth video of our series ‘A year in the vineyards’ we look at the start of the vintage at Quinta dos Malvedos, the culmination of a year’s work in the vineyards.
All grapes have to be picked by hand in the Douro as the mountainous topography with its very steep gradients renders mechanisation impossible. Teams of pickers, known as rogas, gather at the Quintas, some travelling from other areas of Portugal to supplement their incomes. In some vineyards, the same rogas return year after year, sometimes over several decades, through a sense of belonging and pride towards ‘their’ Quinta.
The grapes are gathered into small, shallow tray-like boxes and swiftly transported to the wineries on small tractor-drawn trailers. In the wineries the grapes are sorted, de-stemmed, gently crushed and conveyed to the lagares — traditional or modern — in readiness for treading and fermentation.
It was with great pleasure that we saw Graham’s Ne Oublie awarded across four categories at the Clube de Criativos de Portugal 17th annual award ceremony in May. The Clube de Criativos is a non-profit organisation that aims to recognise, promote and award the best of commercial creativity in Portugal.
A truly rare, very old tawny Port, Ne Oublie (which means never forget, and is the motto of the Graham family) was released in 2014. Dating to 1882, the wine was purchased by Andrew James Symington in the 1920s to commemorate his arrival in Portugal, and has been passed down through generations of the Symington family. Find out more here.
Bottled in crystal decanters, made by Atlantis in Portugal, wrapped by silver bands made by the Scottish silversmiths Hayward and Scott, and presented in a handcrafted leather box by Smythson of London, Ne Oublie is beautiful to behold.
The launch of the wine was accompanied by the creation of an online platform dedicated to the Port and a film, directed by Artur Serra Araújo, which captured the essence of the Douro and Ne Oublie. The film can be seen here. It was awarded gold for both “Best Brand Entertainment Film” and “Best Direction”. The project was also distinguished in the “Digital and Interactive” and “Overall Project” categories.
It has long been a tradition for special occasions to be marked by the laying down of Vintage Port from the year of the event. Problematically, due to the fact that a “Vintage year” is normally only declared in the second year after the harvest, the
recipient of the gift often has to remain empty handed until sometime after the celebration.
In order to overcome this problem, Graham’s are now the first Port company to provide a Vintage Port bond which is available for purchase in the year of harvest. Allowing the purchase of Vintage Port while the wine is still on the vine guarantees that a certain quantity of the wine produced will be reserved for the holder of the bond.
The bond, which will be available from several UK wine merchants, including Berry Bros. & Rudd, Jeroboams, Selfridges, Tanners and Vintage Wine & Port, can be redeemed after 18 months, when the wine has been bottled and shipped. In the meantime, the buyer will be provided with a high quality presentation bond certificate with personalised calligraphy that can be presented to the recipient on the occasion being celebrated.
Graham’s Vintage Port Bonds, limited in number due to the small amount of Vintage Port produced, are a very special and personal way to celebrate an event. Due to Vintage Port’s longevity, the wine can then be enjoyed throughout a person’s life, the qualities of the wine maturing alongside those of the drinker.