Extreme Drought

Two months absence: I have been lecturing in the USA followed by a month of self-imposed purdah while writing the third edition of my book, Port and the Douro.  Late spring and early summer have been relatively cool but, unlike the UK, there has been insufficient rain to make up for the shortfall over the winter. There have been some localised storms in the north and parts of the Douro have suffered severe hail damage last week. Two thirds of Portugal is now classified as suffering extreme drought and there have been some devastating fires in the Algarve and Madeira. Our barragem at Quinta do Centro is nearly empty and the wells are very low. A family of wild cats, Saca Rabos, has made their home in the thickets alongside the dry riverbed. Today temperatures are in the low 30s, so I take a walk around the vineyard in the cool of the evening. The vines are looking healthy although there are some localised signs of stress indicating places where the soils are shallower. The pintor (veraison) has just arrived. Aragonez, the earliest of our varieties, has coloured up well and we have a good crop. It doesn’t seem as though the Alicante Bouschet has over-produced this year. Now everything depends on the weather over the next month or so. We had a short, sharp heat wave last week and the worst thing for us would be to see prolonged 40ºC heat in August or early September.