After a pause in vintage to bottle Duas Pedras 2010, we are picking our last grapes today. Baumés have risen sharply over the past week but the grapes from the deepest soils near the ribeira are fully ripe. Our last vat is a mix of Touriga Nacional, Aragonez and Trincadeira, the ‘tag end’ for want of a better word from three different vineyards. It is still warm, there has been absolutely no rain and the fruit looks quite good. The same healthy smell that has persisted all through the vintage pervades theadega.
My Vineyard Blog September 2011
The equinox is upon us and there is still absolutely no sign of rain. Normally at this time of year we can expect instability and thunderstorms but this year we have been blessed by clear blue skies right the way through vintage. The nights have cooled (9oC here last night) but in the daytime the thermometer is back up to nearly 30oC. Temperatures should fall to the low 20s towards the weekend which will be good for the few grapes we still have left to pick (old vine Aragonez).
We have more Alicante Bouschet coming into the adega today along with our small amount Cabernet Sauvignon. We have 70 cases of the latter approx 1,400 kg which is our best crop to date. The fruit looks good too; small healthy berries tasting uniquely Cabernet! After today we have no more space in the winery until we bottle Duas Pedras 2010 next Monday. We made the lote last week and it tastes fresh and fruit-driven, firmer than the 2009 reflecting the vintage but similar in style with the Syrah taming the floral excess of Touriga Nacional. Jumbo are asking for more!
It has been so much cooler over the weekend and today. The thermometer was showing 11oC at 8 o’clock this morning and should reach a maximum of around 27oC today. A cool wind is blowing off the Serra, making life much easier for the pickers in the vineyard. We are starting on the younger vine (2003) Alicante Boushet today, usually the last grape to be picked. Some of the fruit form the upper part of the vineyard is showing raisinisation which will unfortunately boost the baumé but the fruit from the centre of the vineyard is looking good.
This vintage is taking place against a background of an international financial crisis. With Greece on the brink of bankruptcy, Portugal is next in line. New holes keep appearing in Portugal’s accounts, including a 1.1 billion euro debt in Madeira which had previously been deliberately hidden. So far Portugal’s centre-right Government has been behaving very sensibly, raising taxes, cutting spending and of course blaming its Socialist predecessors.
There was touch of autumn in the air this morning; dew on the car and heavy grey clouds over the Serra de S. Mamede. Thunderstorms are forecast for the north of Portugal but we should escape them. I taste through the ferments. Some of them are too warm and proceedingrather too rapidly but we have some very good Syrah fermenting slowly in a wooden balseiro and the old vine fruit looks more and more promising. The grapes are coming in dribs and drabs at the moment due to a shortage of pickers and we fill half a vat of Touriga Nacional with the rest to be picked on tomorrow.
Exceptionally hot today: 35oC and airless. We are about half-way through vintage and we have stopped picking. Most of the vinha velha has been harvested and is in the lagar. It is almost certainly our best fruit so far and with a baumé of 14.5 it looks very promising with good colour and already a hint of structure and tannin even though it has only just started fermenting. The Syrah is looking very promising and on Friday we start on the Touriga Nacional for Duas Pedras leaving the bulk of the Alicante Bouschet, some old vine Aragonez and the Cabernet Sauvignon for next week.
Duas Pedras has made it into the Feira do Vinho at Jumbo, the Portuguese supermarket chain belonging to Auchan. If they like the 2009, there is every chance they may take the 2010 which is sitting in vat ready to bottle.
I have a visit from João Torres, a viticultural consultant in the Alentejo for the past thirty-five years. We take a look at the corner of the vineyard that was re-grafted from Cinsault four years ago. At the time we thought we were grafting Grand Noir to complement the Alicante Bouschet already in the vineyard but it has transpired that we have a mish-mash of different varieties. The grafts were taken from old vines nearby and, as well as Grand Noir we have Castelão, Aragonez, Alicante Boushet as well as some unidentifiable red and white grapes.
We now have all the Syrah and Viognier in the winery along without half of the young-vine Aragonez. The weather has been cooler over this weekend with variable amounts of cloud, but with the forecast for another fairly hot week ahead we change our strategy and decide to start picking the old vine fruit tomorrow while it is still in good condition. With the sun’s rays now at a lower angle but still strong there is an increasing risk of raisinisation. I take advantage of the cooler weather by walking round the vineyard, tasting grapes.