sexta-feira, 3 de novembro de 2017

Douro, the 2017 harvest report

Quinta da Gricha, Ervedosa do Douro (Churchill's)

    A very hot and dry year in which the harvest was anticipated to a date that there is no memory in the Douro.

    "It is the climate that dictates the world's wines", "the influence of the climate of the year is decisive in the vintage quality", in the words of António Magalhães, head of viticulture at the Fladgate Partnership. The meteorological factors throughout the year have a direct influence on the grape development, production and quality, particularly decisive in the last months of maturation. And, of course, understanding the wine year is also fundamental to understand the wines that are born each year.

    In fact, if we were to define in a sentence the wine year now ending, it would be an extremely hot and dry year and a very early harvest.

    Let us then look a bit more in detail at the main moments and the climatiic behavior throughout the year.

    The winter was dry and there was no rainfall, there was a volume of prcipitation above normal, but only in November 2016, because in the following months there was a very marked decrease in the volume of precipitation compared  to the Douro region normal, in between 50 and 80% in December and between 60 and 70% in January 2017.

    Early spring confirmed a very dry winter, much drier than usual, and these conditions continued in the following months. In fact, in spring the awakening of the vines (which maintain a minimal metabolism throughout the winter) occurred in dry weather conditions and very little rainfall.

    In March precipitation levels were about half as usual and in April there was almost no rainfall at all (it was the driest April since we have records in 1931, the rainfall levels were lower than normal values, between 72 and 96%), but now also with a considerable increase in average temperatures as from February and with heat waves in the months of April, May and June. It should be noted that in May there was some meteorological instability, downpours and thunderstorms, which coincided with the critical phase of the vine flowering(2).

    Early summer continued with very high temperatures and several days at a time of very hot weather. The month of June was dry, very hot from the middle of the month and with temperatures of aroud 40º C in Peso da Régua, Pinhão, São João da Pesqueira and Vila Nova de Foz Côa.

    In July, heavy rains and hail fall occured, causing vineyard damage in Sabrosa, Alijó, Mesão Frio, Vila Real, Santa Marta de Penaguião and Vila Pouca de Aguiar. A summer storm in which hail and bad weather caused considerable damage to the vineyards with considerable losses in the hardest hit areas.

    However, the general conditions of water absence and heat, which have remained, also add up to fairly high radiation levels.
     On the other hand, in the vineyard diseases chapter, the positive side of the climatic conditions described so far was that did not favoured vineyard diseases (namely mildew and powdery mildew), with vines generally with a very low incidence or even without diseases and healthy grapes.

    Now considering the vineyard development, there was a water deficit at the beginning of the vegetative cycle and water stress throughout spring that develop to a severe (thermal and luminous) water deficit in mid-August that lasted until the beginning of the harvest. Of course, in these situations is also very important the vineyard location, the vineyards located in plots or drier terrain (in Cima Corgo and Douro Superior sub regions), lower or more exposed to radiation ot younger vines suffered more intensely.

    These conditions led to an advence of the grapevine development cycle, bud-break(1) occured in the first half of March, the flowering(2) began at the end of April and until the end of May, with the formation of the grape bunches already visible at the end of May, the veraison beginning at the end of June.

    The continuation of warm weather during the ripening period led to an advancement of the vine vegetative cycle, fast ripening of the grapes, an accelerated increase in sugar concentration in a short period and dehydration of the grape bunches (and an indrease of the dry garpes percentage) which led to the decision taken by many producers to anticipate  the harvest in about 3 weeks to what is usual in the region, one of the earliest harvests in many years.

    From the beginning of August until the middle of the month, the white grapes were harvested.
    The weather remained extremely dry and with high temperatures throughout the harvest period, without rain. September was the driest of the las 87 years . The severe and extreme drought area was enlarged. 

    From the middle of September until the end of the third week, the harvest was almost complete in many Quintas. We could almost say that the harvest was completed by the time it were usually starting.
    It is also important to note the different degrees of the grape bunches and garpe berries maturation, from plot to plot and from vine to vine and even in the same grape bunch, which forced more work and more detail in the grape harvesting and also decision making according to maturation levels and parcels to be harvested.

    There was a general reduction in production in the three Douro sub-regions, when compared to the 2016 harvest, approximatly 21% in the Baixo-Corgo, 27% in Cima-Corgo and 49% in the Upper Douro. Also important, the Kg./L ratio is lower by about 20% than normal values.

    Lastly, in general, the harvest antecipation, produced musts with very high alcoholic strenght, of very good quality, with good color, structure and concentration indications.

(1)Bud break:marks the beginning of the vegetative cycle of the vine, with the emergence of the shoots.
(2)Flowering: a period that lasts about a week and a half, important and critical for the definition of the harvest, since if there is rain in this period the flowers may fall and the pollen can be washed from the stamens and flowers, there s no pollination and the fertilisation and flower does not give rise to fruit and the harvest is affected.
(3)Veraison: marks the beginning of maturation in which the graps began to change color.


Douro: the 2016 harvest report 
Douro: the 2015 harvest report 
Douro: the 2014 harvest report

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