The start of vintage delayed

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. We decide to hold off picking until Monday but it is going to be a challenging vintage. Fortunately the sun is still shining, a breeze is blowing and the temperature is falling – 29oc during the day today and a cool 11oc at night. No rain is forecast and if this clear, bright weather continues as it is predicted to, conditions for the harvest will be ideal. Over dinner at Sever we drink Tio Pepe en Rama, a wonderfully savoury unclarifed fino from Gonzalez Byass. It was bottled in May when the flor was at is thickest and the wine at its freshest. The wine is just starting to show its age after four months (it is recommended to drink within three months) but it was the perfect partner for a plate of presunto pata negra. This is fino at its absolute best. A steaming pan ofarroz de garoupa (Garoupa cooked with rice, prawns and coriander) was well matched by the tropical flavours of Primeira Paixão Verdelho from the Adega São Vicente in Madeira and the soft, creamy, old vine character of Equinócio from my neighbour and fellow wine writer João Afonso. Among the 10 or so grape varieties that make up the field blend is one I had never come across before: Formosa Dourada which used to be valued for its resistance to the heat. It should fare well this year.