It has been an extraordinary year throughout Portugal. I have talked to people in their eighties who cannot recall a year so dry. Springs and wells have been drying up all over the country. But far from being a disaster, some good wines have been made from varieties like Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira that seem to withstand the drought. We ran out of water for irrigation of the younger vines as early as July but fortunately the summer months were not excessively hot. Yields are down considerably on average (by as much as 50% in parts of the Douro) largely due to the small size of the berries but thankfully there was not as much raisinisation as there might have been if we had had a late heatwave. The harvest began in warm weather but the rain that fell around 25th brought cooler temperatures for the last few days of picking. Having stopped the harvest for a week, we ended up picking our last grapes (Touriga Nacional) on 8th October. Inevitably the grapes picked after the rain have much lower baumés than those picked before. Our Alicante Bouschet picked in early October registered just 12 baumé. These wines may well complement the big, sometimes over-ripe reds picked early in the vintage.
With the sun still shining, I arrive at the adega to taste our wines from 2012. Most are going through malo-lactic and we have a lagar of Touriga still fermenting. Our first wine of the vintage, a 50-50 blend of Syrah and Touriga Nacional from the upper part of the vineyard is settling down well at the end of malo-lactic. Deep in colour, it already smells and tastes fantastic with ripe, sappy fruit. It will form the base for a wonderful Duas Pedras to be bottled early next year. We have five barrels of wine from the old vines set aside for Pedra e Alma. These are still going through malo but taste powerful and dense if rather hot and heady in their overt ripeness. It will be interesting to see how they settle down. The fruit picked after the rain gave more softer, more open wine, some of which is a bit stretched and simple. 2012 will be a year when selection and careful blending is going to be paramount to make good wine.
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