Back to Quinta do Centro to taste all the wines from this year’s vintage. The Cabernet Sauvignon is simple, raw and unbalanced – to be expected given we picked it at the end as an afterthought. The young vine Alicante Bouschet blended with some Aragonez is fresh, sappy, peppery and spicy with slightly green tannins underlying. The young vine Trincadeira doesn’t have much colour and it quite subdued and, happlily, not at all herbaceous. A bit simple perhaps but soft, sweet and already quite satisfying.
My Vineyard Blog September 2009
Down river to visit Niepoort’s new winery at Quinta de Napoles in the Tedo valley. This is a masterpiece of modern architecture. Designed by an Austrian, it is built into the hillside and looks from a distance like a giant wall of schist. Inside is a cavernous modern winery with stainless steel tanks of varying sizes well protected from the heat.
With our vintage already drawing to a close I make my way up to the Douro to stay with Paul and Jane Symington. I arrive there to find everyone blogging their way through vintage. You can find the Symington family’s fascinating vintage blog on their website. The Douro has suffered more from the heat than we have in the Alentejo with A and B grade vineyards at low altitudes bearing the brunt.
It feels like autumn today, much cooler and threatening rain. We leave the winery at 10 pm in cool drizzle and dine on snails, accompanied by a strong gin and tonic at the Pizzeria in the Jardim Publico. Vintage makes you do the strangest things.
I spend much of the day in the Câmara Municipal discussing the still unresolved curva de Biquininha at the bottom of the quinta. I lose the will to live! With local elections due in October, there will be a new câmara and I fear that my submissions over the past two years will go to the bottom of the pile. All I want it is the wall rebuilding in local granite and thecaminho at the bottom of the quinta making good in return for my doação (donation) of the land to widen the road.
The vintage is not yet complete. The pickers have gone but we still have some Cabernet Sauvignon left to harvest. The quantities are minute this year (tiny bunches and tiny berries) but four of us assemble at 7.00am and spend the best part of a morning picking. Everyone in the wine trade should pick grapes at least once in their life (this is my fifth time). It is back breaking and very tedious. Once the grapes are back at the adega they are foot trodden in the lagar. They don't look very promising despite all our hard work.
Great excitement in the centre of Portalegre this morning. It is the second day of the election campaign and Manuela Ferreira Leite is in town. She is the leader of the opposition PSD and is type cast as Portugal’s iron lady. If she was to be elected as Prime minister I am sure she would knock a few heads together and solve some of Portugal’s deep-seated problems. But I doubt that she will get the opportunity. The current Prime Minister, ubber-Blairite José Socrates, comes across much better on television and will probably be re-elected.
With vintage coming to an end, we decide to hold our adiafa (the meal that you give to the workforce to mark the end of the vintage). I open a bottle of Pol Roger non-vintage to celebrate and it tastes especially good in the sticky late summer heat. Although many of the vats are still fermenting, I think we can be reasonably pleased with this year’s harvest in spite of the heat. The old vine fruit has performed the best, yielding full yet balanced reds, ripe with plenty of breadth.
I like to hear singing in the winery and we have a very happy atmosphere this year. It revolves around two young estagiários, a Portuguese winemaker named José Daniel Soares and a French-Portuguese girl named Melanie. José Daniel has already worked a number of vintages in Portugal (Quinta do Roriz), Australia and Napa. He knows his way around and works cheerfully and tirelessly.
Thunderstorms breaking out all around us tonight. Whilst driving through Ponte de Sôr the heavens open and the temperature, still 36oC, falls by ten degrees for about ten minutes. I want to bottle the wonderful smell of the rain hitting the parched ground - it is the first substantial rain since June. Almost no rain at Quinta do Centro (fortunately as we are in the middle of vintage) but there are lightening strikes all around.