This has been quite a week. Not since 2002 have we had so much rain during vintage. Our saving grace is that we picked the Trincadeira early – if not it would have been thoroughly infected by bunch rot by now. We have sold off most of this year’s Trincadeira to another producer. I really feel for growers in the Douro who will be picking slightly later than us, especially those with old, interplanted vineyards where there is a percentage of Tinta Amarela (i.e. Trincadeira).
My Vineyard Blog September 2014
Portugal maybe a small county but the Alentejo is a huge region. This week I have driven the length and breadth of the region taking about two hours to drive east-west and four hours north-south. It occured to me whilst driving south to the Algarve that the Baixo Alentejo south of Beja (where it wasn't raining) has very little in common with the north around Portalegre and yet we are all lumped together in the same huge Vinho Regional Alentejano category.
We decided to hold our adiafa / jantar de vindima today. This is a little bit premature as the vintage is not finished yet. It is the first time in nine vintages that we have had to eat inside, the weather being too cool and damp for us to dine outside on the varandah. The dish of the night was leitão (suckling pig which is the regional dish of Bairrada). Our neighbour João Afonso (a well known Portuguese wine writer) brought some fascinating Bairrada wines to accompany the dinner, many of which ranged in alcohol from 11 – 12.5 degrees and had excellent balance.
Up early to accompany the picking of our vinha velha, brought forward by two days due to the weather forecast. Fortunately the sun was shining brightly and it was a cool, clear morning. I had a pre-arranged lunch meeting with a Pepe Mota Capitão who grows both grapes and rice in two very different terroirs at Herdade de Portocarro in the Sado valley south of Setúbal. As I came down from the Serra I found myself under a blanket of fog and by the time I reached Monforte about 30km from here, it was grey and drizzling.
As I write this on the winery verandah at three in the afternoon, the sun is shining and some very unthreatening white clouds are passing slowly overhead. This vintage has become a race against time as more heavy rain is forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday next week. Locally the vineyards have come alive with pickers all trying to harvest in the sunshine before more rain falls. I am glad we have all the Trincadeira gathered in as the unstable, humid weather conditions this year will lead to bunch rot in this very tetchy variety. So far so good.
SIC, one of Portugal’s most watched TV channels, have come to film us today. We were lucky to get 20 minutes of sunshine for them to film in the vineyard and as soon as they finished grey clouds blew in from the west and it began to rain, not heavily but enough to dampen everyone’s spirits. The broadcast should be on this Sunday evening on Jornal da Noite at 8pm.
As soon as we flew over northern Spain, the tell tale signs were there. Tired and slightly worse for wear after the previous night’s celebrations I was woken but a few sharp jolts. Turbulence. This always means unsettled weather and as we descended into Lisbon through tall cloud formations we landed in a deluge. The weather broke on Sunday morning with a heavy, but fortunately not damaging, thunderstorm. Driving up to Portalegre there were spectacularly threatening clouds.
It gives me great pleaure to report that I won the Louis Roederer Intenational Wine Feature Writer of the Year Award tonight for a series of articles in The World of Fine Wine on setting up, owning and running a vineyard and wine- making business in Portugal. I found that writing these articles was most cathartic and the judges felt that the passion for our project was very evident, which is gratifying. The awards ceremony in the Royal Academy in London was worlds away from Quinta do Centro in the Serra de São Mamede where we began picking grapes today.
We have had a summer without extremes and after a burst of heat at the end of August, everything is looking good in the vineyard. Today we conducted our first controlo da maturação which shows that everything is ripening well. We have a range of baumés from 14 degress for the early ripening Syrah and Viognier down to 9.7 for the Alicante Bouschet. But it is all in the tasting and Rui is going to go through the vineyard, sampling the grapes for their ripeness.