We are slowly approaching the end of the harvest in the Douro valley. After few days of rain in the end of September, the weather was pretty good, with temperatures around 20º and dry weather. Early this week, it rained again and it is just complicating our work. If the rain we got in the end of September was good for the grapes located in the higher areas, this one that came yesterday and the day before is not helping.
In the vineyards, the grapes are showing very healthy. No rot, powder mildium or any other major problem that severly reduces the quality. In terms of winery work, everything is going smoothly. Fermentations are starting easily, with no problems. As outside temperatures are not very high, it is not a big trouble to maintain the musts fermenting at the desired temperatures.
Regarding the fermenting musts and the Ports already made, as expected due to the very dry season, I’m not astounded by their complexity. Fresh and fruit driven flavors, medium colors at the beginning of the fermentation, which slowly get deeper as the skin contact increases. In terms of palate, nice and enjoyable, but not very long lingering wines.
P.S. Thank you Daniela for helping us making the 2012 Ports!
Every single month since November 2011 has had a lower record of rainfall than the long term average. And now that we started harvesting, it rains. Is this possible? The whole year has been very dry, special during Winter when we had several weeks of dry weather, with the sun shining from morning till evening. And now that we need dry weather, it rains.
Ok, I’ll stop complaining. Going to tell you how was the first week. Nice colors, more extraction that normal, specially for Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. Touriga Franca looks a bit late in ripeness and with lighter colors. Fermentation is going quicker than normal, which is a problem for extraction and maceration, which can in the end mean that we can’t really get ful bodied wines. We began harvesting on Monday last week and it started raining on Sunday. At this time harvest is interrupted, and it might resume next Wednesday if weather forecasts dry weather from Tuesday onwards.
The photo above is of the very first Port we have made this year. It’s a blend of a 25 year old vines from Quinta da Mós, in the Douro Superior and it is surprisingly good. We were not expecting such nice colors this year.
It is now “that” time of the year. The 5 or 6-week period for which we work all year long it is now about to start: the harvest. We start to feel a bit nervous, and see the pressure of our work of the previous eleven months being now tested. And everything will start tomorrow morning, September 17th. First, will come the white grapes and a few days latter we will start with the red grapes from Quinta das Mós, located in the upper Douro Superior.
How do I see this harvest? In terms of quantity, and although it is very difficult to make an accurate assessment because of each terroir’s variability, I would say that is in line with the average. Regarding the quality of the harvest, it’s even more difficult to determine although from the samples we’ve taken, I guess it won’t be neither outstanding nor horrible, for sure (unless it starts raining non-stop for the next two weeks). Maybe it will be just in line with the average, as for the volume.
The maturation is about a couple of weeks behind, as the flowering and color changing also arrived later. The phenolic maturity is a bit behind the alcohol, meaning that grapes will show a higher potential alcohol when reaching the perfect (if that exists) harvest timing. Red grapes will be harvested around 14 days later than last year, when compared with the beginning of the harvest last year. White grapes are not as late for harvesting, as we need to preserve the acidity before it fades away to quick.
Time to enjoy the last hours of free time of the next 6 weeks!
On his first visit to our winery, in July 2012, Christopher Pfaff, a Port Wine lover from Germany who runs Passion Portwein, made a video with me explaining how to pronounce the Portuguese terms used in the Port business. They are mostly related with Port varieties and Port aging. But there are few others that you may never have heard of. Watch the video and if there is still a word or two that you don’t know how to pronounce, let us know and I will tell Christopher to include it in a further video!
What you will read next is probably the best ever recipe for a Rosé Port cocktail. The first and only time I tried this cocktail was in Salt Lake City, two weeks ago, on a hot Summer evening, right before starting what we think was the first ever Port Wine tasting, with winemaker present, in Utah. By the way, this somehow far state in the west of the US is a great place, beautiful landscape and really nice people. Put in on your places to visit next time you travel to the US.
- 4.5 oz (130ml) Quevedo Rose Port
- 0.75 oz (22ml) Agave syrup
- 6 dashes aromatic bitters
- a bit of nutmeg grate
- cubes of ice
- add CO2 – this is the tricky part, I don’t have a carbonated cocktail system to add CO2 to my cocktails, and probably, you don’t have it either, so just use some carbonated water instead
- squeeze a peel of lemon
- once done with the CO2, pour into the glass (or add a splash of carbonated water)
Try it at home, even if you are not able to add the CO2 and leave your comments. Other Rose Port cocktails available at C. da Silva – Dalva Port.
The most interesting thing about the Wine Bloggers Conference is meeting people. That is why I made it all the way to Porland, Oregon, on the Pacific cost of the US. Very long trip from Portugal and less 8 hours time zone difference, which mean, in my personal case, many days to adjust to jet lag.
This year there were over 370 people participating, mostly from the US. Plenty of new faces but also some old buddies that are veterans at this event. Although what really makes me to go to the American Wine Bloggers Conference are the people, it is not about them that I want to talk about today. I would rather focus on a session that pointed me to something I have never thought about: neuroscience of wine tasting. What is that? Neuroscience, says wikipedia, “is the scientific study of the nervous system”. So I think we can conclude that neuroscience of wine tasting is about how your nervous system behaves when your are tasting wine. Tim Gaiser presented a compelling research about the neuroscience of wine tasting, which I’ve posted above. Going through this slideshow, specially after the slide 40, which is when conclusions start to come out, we can better understand how your brain reacts to different impulses on a wine tasting. It is a long presentation, but worth to check. For instance, grab a glass of wine; bring it to the nose and think about which flavors you find in the wine; write it down; ok, so while you are thinking about these flavors, does not matter if they are fruits, spices or any other thing, your brain is building images for each one of it. Now, think about the one that you feel more (lets call it strawberry); roll your eyes to the top and make the image of the strawberry much bigger in your head, as big as possible. Keep the glass close to the nose; is not more intense the strawberry flavor?
You may have found an easier way to convince your friends to find the flavors you smell when drinking wine together. But, as Doug Frost points out, “Changing any structural aspect of the images of either fruit or words makes the experience artificial and unreal”. And, this is my humble comment, the bigger you see the strawberry, the smaller the rest will look like, and less complexity will be found in the wine.
Please bring your comments to the discussion when you try this experience. This one is safe to try at home!
As a kind of ritual, we carry out the first grape maturity control on August 10th at Quinta Vale d’Agodinho, our main vineyard. This year was not different, and although the posting is coming few days late, I think it is still interesting for you to see how things are evolving.
2007 10.49%, September 19th
2009 11.86%, September 14th
2010 10.05%, September 18th
2011 12.07%, September 12th
2012 9.13%, ?
We had discussed this before, and is no surprise for anyone that grapes’ maturity is running later than other years. On the same date last year, for instance, the average level of sugar of the berries was 3 p.p. higher that this year. Thus, we all expect a later harvest this year, which may be a good thing. As harvest is expected to start later in September, temperatures may be lower, making grape pickers’ life easier and, at the same time, grapes will reach the winery fresher.
What is being odd this year, and confusing for vines and humans, is the weather. Very difficult to predict. Hot and dry winter, cold spring, followed by a very hot beginning of summer, with temperatures oscillating between 14º C and 45º in the last eight weeks. Last week we had around 10mm of rain, which at this time helps a lot the vines. But honestly, I don’t know what to expect from this harvest.
Things are not going as wished in the Douro valley. After a very dry Winter and a wet and windy flowering, now, in the middle of the summer, it was time for the hail to come. So far, we had a couple of storms that left some damage behind. The first occurred on Wednesday of last week, in the area of Sabrosa. Then, on Friday last week, another storm left a sad mark in the region, this time in the area of Horta do Douro, southeast of the Douro valley. The Wednesday one, around Sabrosa, was pretty strong, destroying not only grapes but also vine shooting, which may affect the vine for a longer period of time and which will require special attention at pruning time. Also the grapes that are left in the vine, in most of the cases, are damaged and may not get to full maturity.
But this is just the most recent chapter of a season that was never on track. We are still way to far from the average rainfall level expected in the Douro. Actually, between October 2011 and July 2012, the precipitation level did not even reach 50%. What does this mean in one of the hottest and driest (specially the Douro Superior which only has 1/3 of the rainfall of the Baixo-Corgo) wine regions on Earth? A rough time for the vines. Temperatures have been oscillating between up 20sº C and low 40sº C with overnight temperatures not always coming below 18º C. The water level in the soil is low and vines, in some cases, are not having enough humidity in the roots to carry on grapes maturity. This way, vines may leave behind some of the bunches, in order to protect its own live. Adding to this, a couple of heat waves in late June and mid July have burnt the skin of the grapes. So few days later the full berry dried and surprisingly, this happened not only in the hottest areas by the Douro river, but also in fresher and higher altitude areas.
It is a bit early to write about total production in the Douro, and I am not good doing this, but a 10% drop of grape production may be a figure not to far from the true. Port production will grow this year to 96.500 pipes of 550 liters, 13.5% higher than in 2011, which means that there will be a reduction in the production of Douro still wine.
If you are planning to have a child in 2012, maybe you won’t be able to grab and stock a top Port Wine to remember the date. And it’s now a bit late to postpone her birth for next year. Also in this field, there is not that much to do. Few words about the photo above.
The veraison or change of the grape berries, is now finished in the warmest parts of the Douro, 15-20 days later than the average. This means that core of harvest in the Douro this year shall start in the third week of September. White grapes for still wine will probably start to be harvested in late August. Leave your comments, there are plenty of questions to be made and answered! Take care,
The celebration of the 2012 Olympic Games was the perfect excuse to organize a tasting of Ports produced in Olympic years. Without a doubt that the right city to host this event, was the same that was hosting the Olympic Games, this is, London. And it would hard to find a better place than the Portuguese Embassy for this event to take place. So, there we were, thanks to the Portuguese Ambassador to London, Mr. João de Vallera, that gently offered the venue. Both The Port Forum and The Port Society, specially Tom Archer and Ray Cook, masterly organizing the event with a contribution from the IVDP – Port Wine Institute. Here is the list of Port Wines tasted:
- 1948 Martinez;
- 1952 Niepoort Colheita;
- 1956 Niepoort Experimental;
- 1960 Croft;
- 1964 Graham Malvedos;
- 1968 Fonseca Guimaraens;
- 1972 Offley Boa Vista;
- 1976 Taylor Quinta de Vargellas;
- 1980 Dow;
- 1984 Warre Quinta da Cavadinha;
- 1988 Quinta de la Rosa;
- 1992 Burmester;
- 1996 Quinta do Vesuvio;
- 2000 Delaforce;
- 2004 Cockburn Quinta dos Canais;
- 2008 Quevedo Quinta Vale D’Agodinho;
Not every single Port showed great. Would be hard as some of the years in which the Olympic Games were celebrated were very rough for Port production, like 1956, 1972 or 1988. And this is where the funniest part begins. Inspired or not by my sister Claudia’s birth year, my favorite Port of the night was a 1976 Quinta de Vargellas. I really have to find another bottle for her to try, maybe for her birthday next August 31st! When a Port was poured, Tom Archer made a short presentation of the weather and harvest conditions and also of the Portuguese performance in the Olympics, in that specific year. Great idea Tom, valuable information. Here is a video with the view of 2008 year. But the best part of the night was when The Bishop of Norwich (the one and only!) explained the story which nowadays we still use when someone does not pass the Port decanter. A video to be posted soon! More photos of the tasting here.
At this time of the year, in the middle of July, few weeks after grape flowering has finished, we cut the top of the shooting, sending the message to the vine to stop growing more shoots and to focus on the grapes. This way, we will improve the quality of the grapes produced. Instead of driving its energy to grow longer shoots, the vine will focus on growing better grapes. There won’t be more grapes because of this, they are the same, just works as a prioritizing message to the vine.
To better understand this, you have to look at the video above. The final result is pretty nice, the whole vineyard will look like several green and compact walls, all carefully trimmed and showing the grapes on the lower part. In the next days we expect the grapes to change color, from green to red, in a process known as Veraison. More news on that soon.