The Start of Vintage

This is one of the earliest harvests ever. Only in 2009 (an excellent year as it turns out) did we start earlier than this. It is the same throughout Portugal and in the Baixo Alentejo the harvest is nearly over already. In parts of the Ribatejo, another of Portugal’s hotspots, they began picking Sauvignon Blanc as early as July. The harvest has also begun in the coolest of Portugal’s wine regions, the Vinhos Verdes. The summer has been warm but not hot: we have had very few 40oC days here. But spring was warm and the growing season began early, making for an early pintor (veraison). There is little or no stress in the vineyard thanks to the rains which kept on into May. Yields are well down on last year’s huge harvest with the Almeirim co-operative, one of Portugal’s largest, reporting a fall of 50% on last year. This is due to the twin plagues of mildew and oidium that have devastated those vineyards where growers have not made regular treatments. Most growers in the Alentejo are reporting a fall in yields of between 20% and 30%.  The first Trincadeira (from the vines planted in 2000) arrives looking healthy without any signs of rot and on the first day we fill a vat which evens out at 14oC baumé. The berries are a good size, the colour of the must is reasonable and I have high hopes of a good wine.