Today is officially the first day of autumn and it is raining heavily in Lisbon though no rain fell in Portalagre. Listening to the radio in the car this morning they reported that this summer has been the second hottest in Portugal for the last eighty years (they didn’t say which was the hottest). We are now just over halfway through vintage. Yesterday we picked enough Touriga Nacional to fill a balseiro (vat) which came out at 13.5 baumé, much the same as on our grape sample analysis at the end of last week.
My Vineyard Blog September 2010
A pause in the vintage. We have stopped picking for the last four days because the Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Nacional are still not ripe. The crop is large (despite our green harvest in June) and with the warm dry weather continuing the vines have shut down. I understand that we are not alone in this and that Alicante is not ripening anywhere in the Alentejo. My fear now is that the grapes may never fully ripen! Still, the wine we have so far is looking good.
The rain never came so we continued picking (although further south and over the border in Spain they had a night of torrential rain). The young vine Syrah is looking good and for the first time we also have some Viognier to ferment with it (14.6 baumé). That leaves Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet, some old vine Arragonez and Cabernet Sauvignon for next week plus some other odds and ends. We sent samples of the Touriga and Alicante off for analysis today to ascertain when they will be ready to pick.
The weather is on the turn. We had our first rain for weeks last night, just after achurrasco (barbecue) at the adega with achegã (so called ‘black bass’) fished by José Luís and Luís Garcia from the barragem on the quinta. Today it is much cooler and thundery and as I write this a strong and surprisingly cold wind is blowing across theserra. With the threat of rain we opted to pick as much of the remaining Trincadeira as possible. It seems to have ripened quite well, especially where the soils are deeper.
With vintage well under way we now have the young Aragonez in tank and most of our old vine Trincadeira and Arragonez in lagar. The young vine fruit has reached 14.5 baumé and tastes ripe if a bit stretched. A 10% saignée will help concentrate the old vine fruit a bit more. Today has been hot and sticky, abafado in local parlance, a sure sign that the weather is on the change. We tracked a small whirlwind through the middle of the vines this afternoon.
A foray to Spain to visit Charlie Allen (see entry for Wednesday 20th January). She has bravely set up on her own in the town of Fermoselle, now part of the DO Arribes on the Spanish side of the Douro. Arribes is only two years old but Fermoselle region has a long tradition of making wine and reputedly has over 2000 small cellars hewn from the granite under the town.
Summer has reached its final fling. As we have delayed picking until next week I spend the first part of the weekend in the Douro. The temperature this afternoon reached 36oC, high for this time of year. The prediction is that the warm weather continue until the middle of next week with rain forecast for Wednesday. That leaves me worrying about our Trincadeira which starts to rot from within the bunch after the first drop of rain. In the Douro, everyone is gearing up for vintage which is already underway for Douro wine in the Douro Superior.
We spend the morning walking round the vineyard tasting grapes. There is considerable stress with some of the younger vines, especially the Viognier, but many of the red grapes just don’t taste ripe yet. I don’t think that the grapes on the young vines will ripen much more. With the heat over the past two months they have just shut down, stopped photosynthesising and have started shedding foliage. We have a huge crop of Trincadeira but it still tastes green despite some of the more bunches starting to rasinise. The young vine Aragonez and the Alicante Bouschet look better.
Òn the main road from Lisbon between Ponte de Sôr and Alter do Chão there is a Roman bridge over the Ribeira da Seda dating from the second century. It has been in continual use ever since and has carried generations of traffic until it was deemed recently unsafe for heavy good vehicles. For the last four years all lorries have had to divert via Avis which adds nearly 50 km to the journey while cars continued to cross sturdy granite blocks that form the road surface in single file.