I have been unusually absent form the vineyard this spring, partly due to a deadline on finishing my book on the wines of Madeira but also due to a number of family problems. So it is with great excitement that I set foot in the vineyard to see where we are at with the grapes and the ripening process. We are mid-way through what the locals call the pintor, literally the ‘painter’ when the grapes change colour. Some varieties are ahead of others with the early ripening Aragonez having mostly turned whereas the Syrah (usually the first grape to be harvested) having just begun to change. The Cabernet (the last variety to be picked) still has the appearance of hard green peas.
This seems is perhaps a little earlier than normal meaning that with the 55 day rule of thumb until harvest we are looking at an early vintage, probably around 8th September for our reds. From speaking to others in the Douro I find that they are also looking at an early harvest, perhaps exceptionally early. But of course anything can happen between now and then (and it frequently does!) Since the May heatwave temperatures have been more amenable (despite a 40oC peak last weekend) and we are currently enjoying temperatures in the low 30s with cool nights and a refreshing nortada (north wind off the Atlantic). All the vines are looking healthy and we have a balanced crop in all varieties expect for the Alicante Bouschet which, having suffered desavinho due to the May heat, looks to be small and rather uneven. The Vinha Velha (old vines – which include a lot of Alicante) however has a good sized crop all things considered. So much depends on what happens from now onwards but the long range weather forecast looks quite promising with temperatures continuing in the low to mid 30s.
19 - 20 An outstanding wine (*****)
17 – 18 An excellent wine in its class, highly recommended (****)
15 - 16 A good wine, with much to recommend it (***)
13 - 14 An enjoyable but simple, straightforward wine (**)
10 – 12 A very ordinary wine without faults but with no great merit (*)
8 - 10 Disagreeable (no stars)
Below 8 Faulty