Heavy rain. Fortunately all the rot-prone Trincadeira has now been picked as well as our old vine fruit for Pedra e Alma. We all desperately need the rain but perhaps not just yet. It will be interesting to see the effect it has on the grapes still remaining in the vineyard. Inevitably the vines will take up the water quickly after such a dry summer.
My Vineyard Blog September 2012
The last day of summer. It is still warm but overcast and, as if on cue, a few drops of rain land on my windscreen as I drive south to the Algarve to conduct as tasting. In the evening I show our range of reds (alongside Quinta do Ameal Vinho Verde - ‘last of the summer wine?!’ – and Blandy’s Trophy winning Malvasia Colheita 1996) to a receptive audience who are members of the Wine Mine Club. The tasting is takes place at a wonderful restaurant / garrafeira (wine shop) called Veneza in Paderne. I have never seen a restaurant anywhere with such a comprehensive range of wines on offer.
It has taken five years to register the gift of some land from Quinta do Centro to the Câmara Municipal de Portalegre. It started when the bulldozers moved in, 'by mistake' to widen a corner at the bottom of the quinta before my permission had been given. Today I spend an hour at the notary drawing up and signing the deed. At the end of the official reading of the document the notary asked if I had any doubts about the it. I replied that my only doubts were as to why it had taken five years to get to this stage. No one thought this was very funny!
I drove over the serra this morning to see a large black cloud hanging over the plains to the north. My first thought was a change in the weather but I later leant that this came from the fires that have been burning all night in the Beiras. We desperately need some rain to dampen things down and the weather is forecast to change this weekend. Saturday is Dia de São Mateus (St Mathew’s Day) and there is a saying round here that goes águas verdadeiras, São Mateus as primeiras ('the first true rains fall on St Mathew’s day').
Our vintage finally got underway this week, with Syrah, Aragonez followed by vinha velha today. It rained for a few minutes last night and thunderstorms are threatened this afternoon. It was 33ºC at 3.30pm and as I write this I can see huge thunderclouds looming behind the serra. It is so parched here that a little rain won’t make any difference at all. The main risk is hail which wiped out a whole swathe of vineyard near Pinhel last week and at Celeirós in the upper reaches of the Pinhão Valley.
To Porto (for a tasting of Cockburn’s vintage Port back to 1896 – see Port pages), then to the Douro for the weekend. It is striking whilst travelling through Portugal just how many construction projects have come to a complete standstill. The motorway tunnel being built under the Serra do Marão has come to a halt leaving some spectacular half-finished bridges. There are also plenty of small turismo projects which are left half built, the owners having run out of finance.
Vintage is going to be about ten days later than last year. The drought has delayed ripening and with no rain in prospect at the moment there is no hurry to pick. Fortunately it is nowhere near as hot as it was this time last year when the thermometer was reaching 35ºC. This year it is a good 5-10ºC cooler during the daytime with the thermometer down to a cool 12 - 14ºC at night. I take a walk through the vineyard, tasting the grapes on the way. Overall the crop looks healthy but some of the vines are very stressed and are losing their leaves due to the prolonged drought.