Portugal prelimary vintage reports: late but could be great

Harvesting at Quinta do Vale Meão, September 2009

I played telephone tag with Bairrada-based Filipa Pato this week. She is in the midst of harvesting Baga grapes for sparkling wine. Her take on the vintage so far? “We are 2 weeks delayed compared with last year, so it’s a long cycle vintage, it’s promising!”

Her initial assessment is not dissimilar to João Portugal Ramos’ take. Here’s his detailed report covering those regions in which he makes wine.
“2012 was a slightly milder than average summer which has resulted in the slower maturation of grapes across Portugal, and more rain than usual in some wine producing regions. Whilst it is still too early to be able to give more information of the harvest, we are starting to be able to assess the predicted quality of the grapes in the main wine regions that we are operating in.
 First and foremost in the Alentejo, whilst there has been a slight decrease in quantity this year, good quality is still expected with smaller berries than usual, and more homogeneous maturation within the bunch. 2012 has been a dry year, which has had more impact in the size of the berries as opposed to the number of bunches as it was partly mitigated through irrigation.  The mild summer has also resulted in slow maturation of the grapes and the harvest in the Alentejo is expected to start 2 – 3 weeks later than usual.

There has been a similar situation this year in the Tejo where smaller berries are also expected to be of high quality. The mild summer has meant that the fruit is clean from diseases, and that the harvest will also be later than usual by about 10-15 days. In contrast to the Alentejo however there is an increase expected in terms of quantity.

We are also expecting to see a slight increase in the quantity of grapes in the Douro with the harvest commencing 2 weeks later than usual. 2012 has been a very dry year so far and so grapes have to be monitored very closely regarding sugar levels and phenolic maturations. [At Ramos Pinto's Quinta de Ervamoira, also in the Douro Superior, João Nicolau de Almeida reports "we already start the white vintage at Ervamoira, but very slowly. We had three months with the medium temperatures three degrees lower than the average. The grapes are very small, which lets us think about good quality and freshness."] 

Finally in Vinho Verde we are expecting a much smaller harvest than usual due to the amount of rain this year and the low temperatures during the flowering period. Whilst the harvest is expected to be delayed by 1-2 weeks, the fruit is looking very good with no diseases.

To summarise, we are very excited about the potential of this years harvest, which will become clearer once we start picking”



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