terça-feira, 11 de novembro de 2014

# Douro: the 2014 harvest report

Quinta do Noval, in the Pinhão river valley (Upper Corgo sub-region)   © HSM archives 

       Completed the 2014 vintage in the Douro region, undoubtedly the main feature and the determining imprint which affected the entire 2013-2014 viticultural year, was the great climatic instability, which led to an atypical year.
     The weather remained unstable throughout the year until the beginning of summer and then, later also after the beginning of the harvest.
    This great instability reflected mainly in the high rainfall recorded throughout the year, with a very rainy winter, especially between December and February.
     In early July, it rained heavily, but the vines did not suffer any damage.

    Later came the mid-September rain, which lasted almost two weeks, extending until the beginning of October, that hit the region in full harvest, conditioning it (in this critical time, the rain has caused a reduction in the sugar concentration of the grapes and the probable alcohol content).
     Finally, on October 8, another rainstorm hits the region and all those that still harvested.

      We have yet to consider the fact that the temperature evolution throughout the yera was not constant; as an example, January was warmer and August cooler with lower temperatures than usual. As a result, the main Douro grape varieties evolve at very different rates; Tinta Roriz was the first to ripen, and the Touriga Franca, with good quality grapes, was the last (also with good quality were the Touriga National and Sousão grapevarieties).

      However we should emphasize that despite the atypical year and the conditions described, the grapes maturation monitoring and the control made in the vineyards, in most cases determined the beginning of the harvest in the first week of September (in 2014 the maturation took place earlier than in the previous year).

    In fact, to date, between the first and second week of September, the harvest looked promising and in many cases the grapes were in very good condition and perfect for good wines of Porto and Douro.

   There was also a drop in wine production across the region, reaching approximately 10% and in some producers this values were higher, such as Niepoort in Quinta de Nápoles (located on Cima Corgo sub-region), there was a 20% fall in wine production.

    We must note, however, that all these facts are general, precisely because the Douro region when analyzed in more detail, always possess a huge heterogeneity of situations, when relating the sub-regions or the geographic locations of the producing land or even the different quotas, which always escape a general analysis.
    In other words, surely the Lower Corgo sub-region, was hardest hit and most suffered the consequences of high rainfall than the Douro Superior sub-region (where rainfall records are very low). In fact, rainfall variations between different areas were large: Lower Corgo, hardest hit by the rain, had a very difficult harvest; in the Upper Corgo, there were some areas with an excellent vintage and others not so much. In the Upper Douro and in all the areas that were not affected by rain (all those who managed to harvest before the mid September rain), will produce very good quality wines.
   It may also be a good year for white wines, fresher wines, which benefited more from the climatic conditions of the  year.

     In conclusion, it was an unusual and very difficult year, far from being perfect, but we must consider that in such a diverse and rich region as the Douro, there will always be exceptional wines in those vineyards that have escaped the rain effects, and also those producers with properties located in different areas that have the possibility to choose the best grapes, and also all those who took advantage of manual harvest - choosing the best grapes begins in the vineyard - allowing immediate grape quality selection by grape pickers.
    In all likelihood 2014 will not be a classic vintage year.


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