Last week saw the beginning of harvest in the Douro for Quinta do Noval and Quinta da Romaneira. Things are looking very good at this early stage. We had an unusually large amount of rain in the spring, nearly double our usual annual rainfall. This created its own problems at the time, with a lot of repair work necessary on terrace walls that collapsed during this period, but it did have the positive effect of replenishing the reserves of water in the soil. This has meant that in spite of a hot and sunny summer, the vines are in great condition, with no visible heat stress. I was in the Douro for the last ten days of August, and days were warm and sunny, but night were fresh, always good for the grapes. Before harvest began we spent several days visiting the vineyards.
Here are António Agrellos and Jose Eduardo Costa from Noval, visiting a Syrah plantation at Noval.
The first grapes to be harvested at Noval were actually white ones. We planted a small area at the top of the Quinta with Viosinho and Gouveio five years ago and both parcels gave great results this year. We harvested the Viosinho last Saturday the 28th. It is the first time we have made a white wine (unfortified) with 100% Viosinho, and the must tasted delicious on Saturday evening. Watch this space for news of a new white wine from Noval next year.
The first grapes to be picked at Romaneira were red: Tinta Roriz and Touriga Francesa to make the Romaneira Rose wine. We were in the vineyard last week to choose the grapes for this small production high quality rose that is one of the more unusual elements of the Romaneira portfolio.
Of course these first pickings are for unfortified wines, and there are several weeks to go before the Port wine harvest gets under way, and many of the Portuguese grape varieties such as Touriga Nacional with which we also make unfortified wines still need some time. But the potential is there for a great year in the Douro. I shall be going back before the end and will post up more news.
I participated in this very interesting debate during the 2010 edition of the Symposium of the Institute of Masters of Wine which took place in Bordeaux last June.
We were on after lunch, always the worst time, so we kept it friendly and light hearted, in the hope that the audience of MWs and MW studients would stay awake. It ended up being a lot of fun. You can watch my contribution on video below.
To see the whole of the debate with Sylvie Cazes and Eduardo Chadwick speaking for families, and Margareth Henriquez joining me with a vigorous defense of corporations, click here.
I am not aware of any particular rule about the definition of a general declaration, but my own view is that it is exactly what it says, a Vintage that is generally declared by everyone. Or at least nearly everyone: sometimes there will be one or two producers who don’t but this would not be enough to stop it being considered a general declaration. Broadly speaking it is to do with the weather. As we know from the Bible it rains on the just and the unjust, and the same is usually true for Douro Vineyards.
Quinta do Noval has always had a slightly eccentric approach to Vintage Declarations, and indeed the house to a great extent made its name with its declaration of the great 31 Vintage, at a time when most other houses did not declare. We have also not hesitated to declare two years in a row when we have felt the wine merited a declaration as Quinta do Noval: in 1966 and 1967; in 2003 and 2004; and just recently in 2007 and 2008. A Vintage declaration is something which I, like any Port producer, take extremely seriously, and I would only declare a wine as Quinta do Noval if I were certain that it is a great wine worthy of the Quinta do Noval label. In the case of 04 and of 08, neither of them generally declared years, there were just a few lots that were so lovely that I could not resist making a small amount of Quinta do Noval Vintage, though in both cases, the quantities were much smaller than we made in the preceding generally declared Vintages.
Published by Roy Hersh in For the Love of Port July 2010 Newsletter (No.53) in the section “A Question for the Port Trade” www.fortheloveofport.com
I was in the Douro a few days ago with António Agrellos, who has bought himself a camera. We decided to film a virtual tour of the vineyard and winery of Romaneira. António was cameraman, I did the talking. We probably both have a little progress to make in the production of movies, but I post up the result here in three parts as it will give you a global vision of the Romaneira vineyard project.
together with another from further away showing Pichon in the background.
As you can see, we are having wonderful weather, perfect for flowering. This is a crucial time in the vineyard. Cold or wet weather during flowering can lead either to “Coulure” or “Millerandage”, which can seriously damage the potential of a crop. In either case yields would be lowered, sometimes significantly, but also the irregularity of ripening that can result from millerandage can affect the quality, unless great care is subsequently taken with the trie in the vineyard and at the winery.
I find this a magical time in the vineyard. Winter is now far behind us, and the summer is beginning to assert itself with the vigour of youth. Above all, the extreme fragility of the tiny flowers forming on the individual bunches reminds one of the miraculous precariousness of life, and of how entirely dependent we are on its natural processes for what we eat and drink. Without these little flowers, with their fine and delicate scent, there would be no grapes, without the grapes, no bottles of Pichon Baron! Remember the flowers when you next open a bottle.