2014 Harvest outlook for the Douro

The year of 2014 may be a great year for the production of wine and Port in the Douro. Some of the critical factors that contribute for above the average harvest are aligned, but it is still quite early to be conclusive. Among the positive factors:

In terms of quantity we expect to have pretty much the same quantity as in 2013, and in general, I guess there will be no major fluctuations in terms of the whole Douro valley. In terms of Port, the total amount to be produced was not yet disclosed by the IVDP – Port and Douro Wines Institute, but our guess is that it will be in line with last year’s 100.000 pipes of must (which is slightly more that 62 million liters of Port) set to 105.000 pipes of must.

However, there are always setbacks for those working on a business that depends so much on nature. The main problem would be related with temperature: a long period of well below or well above the average temperatures could spoil the crop. In the case of the former it would mean full ripeness of the grapes wouldn’t be achieved or if the latter happens could mean sun burned grapes or severe water stress of the vine. If temperatures follow a normal pattern and if we have some rain showers in August then we will have hopefully have a very good reason to smile.

Cheers,

Oscar

Our vineyard is going organic

I have to confess that I have been hiding precious information from you. Not intentionally, but just today realized I have never talked about a special project that kept us busy for a couple of years. There it goes without more delay, we are converting a parcel of vineyards to organic farming! That parcel is around 5 hectares of vines located in Quinta da Trovisca. After a period of three years in conversion, this is, this is after 2015 we will be harvesting organic grapes which we plan to use to produce both Port and Douro wines.

The organic passion in the family goes back to 2006, when my father, Oscar Quevedo – from whom I get the name from, started producing organic olive oil in Valongo dos Azeites, a village 10km south of our winery. It took 7 years but eventually we dare to convert vines to organic farming. There are plenty of additional work on organic farming when compared to regular managed vineyards. One of those extra works is related to floor management. On the video above we can see weeds being removed by hand/hoe over the line where vines are planted. In between the lines we will let weeds grow a bit more and then we will use a tractor to cut them.

Hope to see you soon,

Oscar

Enhanced by Zemanta

Bees can save the wine world, after smell the cork

Image courtesy of thephotoholic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Few months ago we talked here about closures, advantages and disadvantages of using cork, screw-cap or a plastic plug to close a bottle of wine. The major disadvantage of the cork is the possibility of TCA contamination, which develops an off flavour in the wine, spoiling your experience. Recently, another research from Amorim came to the conclusion that bees can identify TCA with a extremely high accuracy. How fun that is! Nature helps nature to select. With the population of bees dropping way to fast due to the overuse of herbicides, who knows if cork suppliers shouldn’t “hire” bees to select best corks. With this extra economic incentive, there is another reason to restore bees population to a sustainable level. We all know what Einstein said about bees: “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, man would have only four years to live”.

Oscar

Enhanced by Zemanta

Priorat and Douro – similarities and differences between these two wine regions

There are places on Earth where we can still travel in time. At least in the wine planet. Places where technology, chemistry and machines are totally relegate to a lower level of importance. Places where mass wine production processes are barely known. Places where every single grape berry counts, as there are very little. That place is Priorat.

Located in the south of Catalunya, Spain, few dozen kilometres from the Mediterranean sea, Priorat reminds me what was probably the Douro of the XVII, XVIII and XIX centuries. I could see it in every corner, the passion of the people for the vines, the respect for the traditions, the soils made out of schist, the olive trees on the edges of the steep vineyards.

Many of the steep hills of the Priorat look like those of the Douro. But in the Priorat, the old vines are still grown on the hillside with no terrace, making it impossible for tractors to get there and very hard for working animals or human beings to climb over. The reason for not having a terrace is because the vines are so old that growers do not want to pull up their vines and replace by new ones. The quality of the grapes from old vines, they believe -and so do I – is so much better than the new vines, that it is well worth the higher production costs. The wines turn out being elegant, rich and tremendously complex. Age worth for sure, but also great when young. Ryan Opaz from Catavino mentions in this article the similarities between Douro and Priorat wines, which is interesting due to proximity of terroir.

There is one thing missing in Priorat that would certainly enrich its landscape: a river. A wide river, and then its similarities with the Douro would be enormous. I recommend you go there and see the vines, get to know the people and enjoy the landscape with no moderation!

Oscar

Quinta da Alegria – planting vines in the Douro valley

We are now getting to the most critical phase in our works at Quinta da Alegria. After opening the terraces and removing the stones, it finally came the moment to plant the grafted vines in the soil. In the area we are working now, on the top of the property, we are planting Tinta Amarela vines. I guess the first question is why did we decide to plant Tinta Amarela on the top? The reason for that is because this variety is very sensitive to humidity and hot temperatures. After flowering it can quickly be affected by mildew and powder mildew if there is a little bit of humidity and temperatures are in the 22º – 25º C range. The best location for Tinta Amarela is in areas with lower humidity, windy and where temperatures are not too high during the Summer.

To plant the vines the first step is to draw a line along the terrace, with 50cm to the external edge. Then, we use an iron stick to open a 80cm-deep hole. After this we place the young vine in the hole and use water to immediately irrigate and close the hole. The distance between vines is of 80cm.

My sister Cláudia made a video with all these steps. Who knows if one day it won’t help you to become a vine grower in the Douro. If you have any questions, please let us know.

Oscar

Quinta da Alegria – removing stones to plant vines

Works continue in Quinta da Alegria as more land is ready to receive the new vines. In the last weeks we have been delineating terraces and revolving the soil to eliminate any compaction it may exist. Also important when working the soil is to clear it of big stones to make it easy for the vines’ roots to penetrate in the soil and for the tractors to circulate. After removing the stones from the terraces we need to find a way to put it back in a place where they do not interfere with the daily works. The location that we choose to hide the stones is on the location of the roads, creating a trench with 5-6 meters depth. After placing the stones under we cover and smooth the surface. This way we are also increasing the stability of the road reducing the risk of landslides, which often happen on rainy Winters.

In this photo we can see the trench created to incorporate the stones, within the red line. The new terraces just finished are located to the left of the blue line, and the land where we still have to delineate the terraces are to the right of the yellow line.

With temperatures warming up and with the risk of frost dropping, we are now planting the young vines. So soon we will have a video for you to see the vines planting at Quinta da Alegria.

Do you have any comments?

Oscar

Enhanced by Zemanta

Very wet Winter raises the bar for the 2014 harvest

Spring is finally coming after a very wet Winter in Portugal. This was probably the wettest Winter of the last 80 years, which gives us quite good expectations for the harvest to come. As you all know, the Douro is one of the driest wine regions of the world and a wet Winter is key to make top quality Ports and wines. The weather is now getting warmer and clear, but we may have more rain during the next months.

The other side of the coin is that we couldn’t work as many days as necessary in the vineyards because of the rain. So the works are running a little bit late, as pruning is just now about to finish. After that we still have to crush the old vine shooting, left from pruning, which is what Paulo is doing on the green tractor.

Soon a new grape cycle will start with the first shooting coming out. No rush, nature leads the pace, but I have to confess that the prospect of a great harvest is exciting us.

Let us know your questions and comments.

Oscar

Quinta da Alegria – how to open terraces in the Douro

At Quinta da Alegria we have moved to the second step of vine planting. After flattening the soil and eliminating the old terraces we are now using a bulldozer to build 2.30 meter width terraces. Due to the steepness of the land, we will only plant one line of vines per terrace. If we planted two, which is what we see most of the time, the bigger height of the terrace would increase the risk of landslide. In order to better retain the rain, we are preparing the soil with 3% inclination inward and 3% along the terrace. This inclination allows more retention of the rain, at the same time that also avoids landslides. Once the soil is saturated with water, the 3% inclination along the terrace allows the water to flow towards the road where it is then directed to the river. To precisely calculate the slope, an infrared laser is used (you can see it tied to a pole on the front of the bulldozer). The length of the terrace depends on the roads we have opened. After opening the terrace, an excavator will move the soil and remove the bigger stones at the same time that it adjusts the final leveling.

So far we have around 2 hectares of soil prepared for planting, which will start at the beginning of March. That is the next step and we will share it here with you.

Oscar

Enhanced by Zemanta

Quinta da Alegria – how to prepare the soil to plant vines


Quinta da Alegria is one of the properties (the other one is Mós) that belongs to my mother’s family. It was first planted by my great grandfather in the beginning of the last century. At that time, as it was forbidden to export Port Wine directly from the Douro, grapes were used to make Port at the property that would then be shipped in rabelo boats to Vila Nova de Gaia. Later, in the 80s, my grandfather Joaquim Morais Fernandes together with my grandmother Judite, replanted this quinta with new vines. My grandparents passed away last decade and the property was inherited by my uncles and mother. Now, in 2014, we put all efforts together, and the family decided to replant around 13 hectares of vines in the middle of the property – the upper is planted with older vines and the lower part, underneath the rail road, has orange and tangerine trees. We have been so busy and excited with all this new challenge. Quinta da Alegria is located in a beautiful place, facing southwest, just few kilometers west of Valeira dam.

Works are now starting and I thought you would like to know, step by step, how to plant grape vines in the Douro. The first thing to do was to remove the wires and posts that sustain the wires. After that, a bulldozer came to flatten the soil, eliminating the previous terraces. This video shows pretty well this first step.

The next step includes leveling the soil and opening new terraces. Will be posted soon.

Cheers,

Oscar

Wine and Cork – why do they need each other so bad

Cork plays a critical role in the wine business. It has historically been the most used closure and nowadays it closes around 70% of all the wine bottles in the world. However, in the last decades both screw caps (made out of aluminum, with around 19% market share) and synthetic corks (made out of plastic, with around 11% market share) became more and more popular. Why? I would point two main reasons:

Despite that, cork is still the most used closure. Why are wine producers so keen in using cork? I’ve recently visited Corticeira Amorim factory and tried to understand a bit more about the motivation for using cork. I’ve also read few article about which closures to use for wine and found some stunning research (check bibliography at the bottom of this article). Putting the environmental question apart (cork comes directly from the bark of the cork tree grown naturally), there are two factors that help cork to be the closure that ensures the best quality for a bottle of wine:

Regarding to Port Wine, back in 2008 I knew of one Port producer, Castelinho, using not only natural cork. They were using synthetic corks is some of their references. Currently, don’t know any. However, legislation does not allow the use of screw cap but only natural and synthetic corks  (the only exception is the very small size bottle which can be sealed with screw cap). Though I’m sold to natural cork for Port, I disagree with the prohibition of using other closures. Producers should use what they think is better for their wines and Ports. Through experiments of different closures, we could see and taste how different closures perform in a bottle of Port. And eventually we might come to the conclusion of what closure is the most indicated for Port. But through our own experiencing, not by law.

Oscar

Bibliography – If you want to know more about these three closures I suggest you to read:

Enhanced by Zemanta