terça-feira, 6 de dezembro de 2016

# Douro: The 2016 harvest report

(Quinta da Costa de Baixo, Cima Corgo Douro sub-region)

A difficult and very demanding year...

    This is how we can best define another cycle of the vineyard that has just ended, an atypical wine year that was difficult, demanding and that forced a lot of work in the vineyard. It was a challenging year which led producers to better understand each specific terroir, each part of the vineyard and each grape variety in order to make the most of production.

    It all started with a very rainy winter, with an average precipitation far above the usual registered in all the Douro sub regions. There was an increase of aproximatly 40% when comparing this data with past years average values.

    Usually, rain in winter in the Douro is always welcome, because it allows the restoration of the soil water reserves. However, what happened this year was an excess of rain and rain until very late. April and May were also also rainy months and with mild temperatures, below what would be normal.

    At the beggining of spring and in a sensitive and critical phase of the vine and the formation of the grape bunches, as we have seen, rain persisted and temperatures were lower than usual for this time of year, causing a delay of the vine vegetative cycle, and creating favourable climatic conditions for the appearance and development of diseases and fungi on the vineyards, especially mildew, but also powdery mildew, among others, with the consequent need of permanent monitoring and intense work for the necessary phytosanitary treatments.

    As a consequence, there was an increase in production costs and a more than predictable decrease of the vineyard quantitative potencial.

    In May the rain stopped, and the temperature began to rise and close to the usual values for the season. In the months that followed, June, July and August, there were high temperatures, a lot of heat and with little thermal amplitude.
    The summer was dry and thus remained until the first week of September.

    The summer heat caused irregular, unbalanced and some delay in maturation (from 1 to 2 weeks when compared with the previous year), as well as a water deficit in the vines that can cause the stop of maturation (in these cases the plant as a natural protection mechanism, according to which, in cases of ambient temperatures above 35ºC, the photosynthesis stops, thus delaying ripening), which at this stage, again implied daily monitoring of the grapes ripeness. And under these conditions, the youngest vineyards and those located at lower levels and the most exposed grapes, are the ones that have suffered most from the heat. 
    In any case, the cooler September nights and especially the rain of September 13, ended up favoring the rebalancing and recovery of the grapes, being very evident this year the heterogeneity of the different rhythms of each region and the differences of each grape variety to reach their ideal maturity stage.

    This was followed by the harvest phase, which in many situations required patience and wide decisions to pause or interrupt the harvest when possible, to start again later and wait for the ideal time to obtain the best possible ripeness in each vineyard plot and according to each grape variety.

    The harvesting at the end of September and beginning of October occured in very good weather conditions and eventually compensated those who waited, the grapes have reahed a better balance, better maturation and better quality.

    The expected quantitative decreases in production remained at between 19% to 27% (reaching in some cases 40%). It was a year in which the knowledge of the vineyard and the very specific conditions of each vineyard parcel proved to be decisive, and of course the strategy dfined according to this knowledge, as well as the monitoring and the rigut time treatments performed in the vineyards.
    Despite all this, it is expected that the quality of the wine from the 2016 harvest will be good, better than all the difficulties of the wine-growing year would suggest, since the results of the fermentations were surprising by the colour and the aromas showed.

    Keeping these informations in mind, which I'am sure will help us to better understand the characteristics of the 2016 Douro wines, we just have to patiently waint... and with some anxiety.