Portugal 2013 vintage report: a game of two halves

bairrada & dao day 1 011

Sara Dionísio at Quinta do Mouraz: it may be raining but there’s reason to smile

I’m just back from a week tasting 2011 Douro reds and 2012 Douro whites. Outstanding and very good respectively.

As for this year, by common consensus the vintage was a game of two halves: before and after the rain.

With most white grapes safely in the bag before the rain the quality of 2013’s white wines looks very promising, with clean, well concentrated fruit and good acid balance. As much was confirmed by the tank and barrel samples I’ve tasted from the Dao and Douro.

For reds the quality will depend on whether grapes were picked before or after (indeed during) the rain. And, as ever, on individual harvest and winery selection practices.

Below you’ll find a round up of producer reports by region. First, here is Sogrape’s overall summary:

Overall summary (Sogrape)

Many have described 2013 as an atypical year. Various factors have contributed to this description.

First, there was the rain, which was plentiful in late 2012 and continued to fall heavily until April 2013. The highest rainfall was recorded in March, which turned out to be beneficial, because it restored the soils’ water reserves which were depleted after two particularly dry years.

Lower than normal temperatures for the time of year accompanied the heavy rainfall at the beginning of the year, which caused delays to the start of the new growth cycle of the vine, and all subsequent stages.

However, in July and August the hot and dry weather, with practically no rainfall and very high temperatures at times, resulted in a slight imbalance in the ripening process.

In general, the grape harvests in the various Sogrape Vinhos vineyards took place a little later than previous years. At the time, winemakers could not have predicted the rain that disrupted the harvest, an uncommon occurrence in recent years.


João Portugal Ramos

The 2012-2013 winter was characterized by values of precipitation and air temperatures lower than average. During spring, average temperatures were lower especially in the month of March, with rainfall highly above average. A great fluctuation of temperatures which occurred during the period from April to June influenced the normal development of the vine, causing significant delay in the vegetative cycle.

Summer was characterized by higher temperatures than the previous year’s average and by lower precipitation. The month of September was very hot and generally dry, with the exception of 5th September, an important rainfall occurred in the whole of Douro region. The month of October was warmer than normal and with monthly precipitation values above average.

The evolution of climatic conditions provoked a delay of about 15 days in the almost whole vegetative cycle of the vine. This delay was decreased with the climate evolution in the summer months, and Duorum started harvesting at Douro Superior on the 16th of September.

In spite of the precipitation quantity that occurred during harvesting, we are optimistic as far as the final quality of the produced wines, which already present good equilibrium and harmony, which allied to its concentration and natural acidity, good evolution is foreseen.


At Quinta da Leda, in the Douro Superior, the harvest began with good weather on the 12th September. António Braga, Quinta da Leda’s resident winemaker, is visibly pleased with the first wines made in this winery. It was the wines from the Touriga Franca variety in particular, whose grapes had matured really well, that gave rise to very interesting wines. At the time, Touriga Nacional was developing well, although lagging slightly behind, and the wines of the Tinta Roriz variety were also looking very good. However, from the 27th September heavy rain began to fall for a week which gave rise to some disruption, forcing the winemaker to face a major challenge which happily resulted in good quality wines to meet the requirements of the Casa Ferreirinha brand.

At Quinta do Seixo, in Cima Corgo, the harvest also began on the 12th September. Carla Guerra was the resident winemaker during this period, but was also responsible for the viticulture of this estate and therefore closely monitored the ripening of the grapes, which was much later than the previous year. The first grapes to enter the winery were early-ripening varieties, such as Tinta Barroca and some Tinta Roriz. Despite the sugar concentration in these grapes being more than sufficient, they lacked the desired levels of phenolic compounds, tannins, anthocyanins. With rain forecast, the winemaker was forced to pick the grapes earlier than planned. Touriga Franca was one of the varieties affected. However, on balance this was the right decision and we were able to make great Douro and Port wines, with fruit, structure and concentration. Naturally, after the rain, greater attention was given to the wines from the growers’ grapes, taking into account the varying quality of the grapes. However, utmost care was taken with the winemaking so as not to force too much extraction with good wines being achieved.

Luís Sottomayor, Chief Winemaker, Douro, Sogrape Vinhos, refers to this 2013 vintage as an atypical year. There is evidence to support this in the Douro Superior, namely at Quinta da Leda, where there was more rain than at Cima Corgo, where Quinta do Seixo is situated. As a result of this rainfall and the fact that in July and August there was no rain and some very high temperatures, the grapes matured simultaneously at the two estates. Looking at the whole region and the influence the climate has had on this viticultural year, Luís Sottomayor’s evaluation of this vintage is that it is good quality and, with some regret, he says that we narrowly missed out on an exceptional vintage.

Symington Family Estate

See my earlier blog post here.

Vinho Verde

João Portugal Ramos

The winter-spring period , was characterized by a high rainfall from October 2012 to April 2013, and an early spring (March ) with Winter temperatures, which only began to rise from the 3rd week of April to go back down at the end of the same month ( maxT decreased average by 10 º C and 3-4 ° C and minT ); this period was accompanied by wind gusts above normal ( up to 45.7 km / h ) , which would have had adverse consequences if the vines were more developed . These conditions made the sprout of the vine delay, although it occurred regularly.

A dry and mild summer caused the maturation to occur slowly but balanced. The rain came back from the end of September with a lot of intensity making it difficult to harvest, increasing the risk of grapes to rot.

The harvest took place between September 23 and October 11. Despite the rain, we had grapes at optimum health, excellent value sugars/acids and good aromatic ripeness.

It all indicates that it will be a year of quality, with very balanced and aromatic wines, with a striking freshness due to good acidity that most wines present.


Also on the 19th September the winery at Quinta de Azevedo, in the Vinho Verde region, was open for business. Once again with good weather, grapes of the Loureiro variety were received first. These were quickly followed by grapes from the local growers, until the rains of the 27th September forced picking to be suspended, to be resumed three days later. Manuel Vieira, the winemaker responsible for the Quinta de Azevedo wines, comments that the rain-affected days could have impacted the grapes, but luckily did not even lower the level and the balance was still in good condition. Manuel Vieira’s first impression of these new 2013 vintages is very positive: they are balanced wines, with good acidity, aromas, everything is in its place.

In general and in light of what took place in Sogrape’s vineyards and wineries in all the regions, it is evident that the vintage was a laborious task for all the winemakers, it was considerably longer than usual to achieve the same outcomes, but the resulting wines are very positive and encouraging. In early 2014, the wines will start to reveal their qualities and at this point, the winemakers will make their final judgments on the 2013 vintage.


João Portugal Ramos

Winter showed average precipitation values, as well as low average temperature, in comparison to normal values of the season.

Spring was very cold and rainy, and in March there was extreme rainfall, with values ??well above average.

These weather conditions delayed budding and vegetative cycle for about 15 days.

Summer was very hot and dry, keeping the cycle delay and by consequence also delaying ripening. In early September one to two days rainfall contributed for hydrating the vines and improving the ripening quality.

During the last week of September and first week of October intense rainfall affected harvest and the quality of grapes that still hadn’t been picked up. In general, these grapes were less concentrated.

At Foz de Arouce estate most part of harvest (80%) took place before rainfall, and the wines show deep color and intense aromas. The tannins are round and well integrated in the body.



Quinta dos Carvalhais, in the Dão Region, suffered heavy rainfall, requiring careful management of the vintage not only in terms of the vines, but intensifying the work in the winery to maintain the quality sought for the wines.

All this work was closely monitored and supervised by winemaker Beatriz Cabral Almeida, who was given this responsibility by Manuel Vieira. Here the harvest of the Touriga Nacional variety began on the 19th September followed by the Encruzado on the 20th. The best batches of these varieties were blended for Quinta dos Carvalhais’ Espumante Reserva Rosé. It was followed by the harvest for the other Quinta dos Carvalhais varieties, first with growers’ grapes and then with the harvest at the Quinta itself, resumed on the 26th September. Until then the weather had been hot and dry, with ripening developing slowly, as a result of the wide temperature variations at this stage. However, the rain started straight after the 27th, forcing the harvest to stop again until the 4th October and a change to the planned schedule for picking, with priority being given to the varieties seen at the greatest risk of deterioration. With the return of the good weather the winery began to receive the Tinta Roriz and Alfrocheiro varieties, in good condition as they had withstood the rain well, along with Touriga Nacional from the plot known as Miradouro. On balance, Beatriz Cabral Almeida is happy with the results of the white wines, which are very good, fresh and aromatic, and the reds, which have a good colour and depth of aroma, are balanced and have good acidity, maybe not as concentrated as those of the previous year, but with a good structure and ageing potential.

Click here for my October blog post from the region.


Monte d’Oiro

2013 was a a rainy year until April, but there was almost no rain from then on. The summer was quite normal in terms of temperatures, but there was in July and August 2 heatwaves that delayed a little bit the vegetative cycle of the vines., around 10 days when compared to 2012.

Despite the lack of water in the soil, QMdO remained green and sane (thanks to the organic farming procedures), with nice leaves, a good maturation and great looking bunches of grapes.

The harvest began on the 4th of September with a parcel of Viognier and the quick rise of temperature accelerated the harvest of all the whites.

The harvest of the reds began on the 16th of September. 80% of the reds were harvested before the rain finally showed up, which interrupted the harvest during one week, a week that was important for the maturation of some plots that were more delayed. The good land drainage (again a result of the organic farming procedures) was important to avoid big damages for these plots due to the rain.

For the grapes, quantities were mostly equal to 2012, and what stands out is a good overall total acidity, correct pH values and balanced sugar contents.

Alcoholic fermentations occured normally without any problems, and the resulting wines are showing with an intense colour, a good structure and well balanced.


João Portugal Ramos

The year 2012/2013 was characterized by high precipitation in winter, which lasted until early spring. Spring was relatively dry, with average temperatures below normal for the region. These factors affected the flowering and development of green mass, leading to some loss in production and a delay in maturation.

Summer was very dry, with average of very high temperatures, in many periods above 34 degrees, close to 40 degrees. Whether for white or red grapes, maturation was delayed by two weeks, compared to previous years, leading the harvest until the middle of October.

Harvest of white grapes took place between August 26 and September 10, while harvesting red grapes began on 10 September and ended on 15 October. At the end of September and until the 9th or 10th of October, there was a sharp drop in temperature with significant rainfall.

Regarding the balance of sugar/acid values as well as aromatic side, white grapes were harvested at optimum maturity stage. In fact, good acidity is a dominant feature in this harvested wine, which presents itself very aromatic and elegant, with good volume and persistence.

Despite the rain that fell during the harvest of the red grapes, they kept their desirable clean from disease state and did not lose concentration. It all indicates that we will have good quality red wines, intense and with volume, with round tannins and well integrated, though with a little less color than in previous years.


João Portugal Ramos

The winter was cold and rainy, which caused a delay of about two to three weeks at the beginning of the cycle when compared to the normal average. Rainfall induced some vigor in plants, and also contributed to replace the water needed at points of water supply for irrigation.

A less rainy spring diminished the strong pressure of diseases, including mildew and powdery mildew. A large production forced a more rigorous intervention by green pruning and bunch thinning in order to reduce yield per hectare in favor of quality.

The summer was hot, but without excessive temperatures or heat peaks, which allowed a very good beginning of the ripening process. Even so, the lack of humidity in the morning at the final stage of ripening during the month of August led to a harvest delay, especially for red grape varieties. Harvest of white varieties took place from August 26th to September 21st and harvest of red varieties between August 26th and October 15th.

This year it rained in early October when the harvest was still ongoing, which originated a swifter final stage for about 15 % of the production.

The delay throughout the entire cycle of the vine made that alcoholic and phenolic maturation converged, as it’s desirable.

Irrigation was particularly important for reducing potential adverse effects of an excessively dry late August, and so the plants were in perfect conditions at the beginning of ripening process.

In short, 2013 was a great year for the production of white wines, as well as for red wines, and the only negative aspect was rainfall in early October.

Sogrape (Herdade do Peso)

On the 27th August the harvest began at Herdade do Peso, in the Alentejo. Here, the first of our vines were ripe and therefore the first to be harvested. Despite no rainfall, very high temperatures that reached almost 40ºC over several days caused plant photosynthesis to stop several times and resulted in a lack of uniformity in ripening. Luís Cabral Almeida, winemaker at Herdade do Peso, refers to this vintage as very long and difficult, where constant visits to the vineyards were made to decide the ideal grape ripening point and to decide when to pick. Nevertheless, from an winemaker’s perspective, 2013, was a positive year overall. The white wines reveal a great freshness, with the Antão Vaz variety working well, but the Arinto stands out for its freshness and vivacity. As for the reds, Luís Cabral de Almeida once again defends the good results of Alicante Bouschet and is also very happy with the wines from the Syrah and Touriga Nacional varieties. In brief, the proper management of the harvest coupled with careful winemaking in the new winery ensured excellent quality for the various Herdade do Peso wines.


Following a very wet winter, with average rainfall well above average, soil water reserves were in good order.

Spring weather was cool and fruit-set relatively late with a high incidence of “hen and chicken.”  Continuing mild weather throughout the ripening season meant that at the end of July, ripening was a good two weeks behind schedule.

August and September were hot months bringing the ripening process forward and in the end, we started picking about a week behind normal.  In some cases, the heat in July actually created a blockage in the vine (in the case of young vineyards ) and maturation was stalled.

For normal, healthy mature vines, the fruit ripened well and we have good examples of all the better varieties such as Semillon and Verdelho in the whites, and Aragonez, Syrah and Touriga Nacional in the reds.

The reds actually look very promising because although there was a lot of heat during the day in August, night temperatures were cool resulting in higher acid levels and more colour intensity. Berry size in general also seemed smaller this year, contributing to better colour in the reds and flavor intensity in the whites.

Some heavy rain towards the end of the harvest has caused a few problems and some of the later varieties such as Alicante Bouschet and Antao Vaz are a bit below par.

Overall, quality very good and quantity above average.

Quinta do Mouro

We had one of the most rainy winters ever in this area. Bud break was delayed for about one month.

The end of spring and summer was very hot and dry, harvest started with about 2 weeks delay. Vineyards were very well balanced and grapes were very healthy.

This is a very good harvest for white wines, very nice fruit and excellent freshness.

For reds, there are two different vintages: Before the rainy week in the end of September, nice fruity wines with very good acidity, I would say elegant comparing with the typical Alentejo. And after the rain, some varietals just didn´t handle it, there are some very good wines and others…. at the end I think, for entry level and medium range is good, for the very high end wines, there will be less production.  The overall quantity is bigger 20% than a normal vintage.


We had very good precipitation during winter and spring, which allowed plants to develop very well.

All the cycle of the vine, this year, was about 15 days late. Maturation also, but we achieved a very good point of maturation in both white and red grapes.

The wine yet produced are mainly characterized, in whites by a very good fruit, fresh notes, a very good pH. The malic acid is higher than normal in the region.

Red grapes completed a very good phenolic maturation. We have very deeply coloured reds with a good ph (malics always good) and very balanced tannins.

The quantity was average.

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