quinta-feira, 10 de novembro de 2022

The Douro general harvest report 2022

 (versão PT aqui)

A dramatic year of extreme heat and drought

The Távora river valley. In the background, on the right bank, Quinta do Panascal.

"The 2022 harvest was undoubtedly a challenging vintage. The dramatic lack of water felt in the Douro region put the vines (especially the most exposed and located at lower altitudes) under tremendous water stress. Due to these constrains, the expectations created by a good birth ended up being translated into reduced volumes, due to the production of grape bunches with very small berries and little juice. The lack of water was also observed in some difficulties in the grape maturation process with some imbalances in terms of sugar content and acidity. In phytosanitary terms, the absense of diseases meant that the grape bunches were in perfect condition at the time of harvest. 

It was a long harvest, which started earlier and ended a little later, ending up benefiting from a few days of rain that helped the later harvested grapes to mature. I am very excited about the potential that the wines show at this stage.". 

(Ricardo Nunes Pereira, Churchill's Winemaker and Production Director)

"The beginning of the harvest was very conditioned by the severe drought and the heat wave that took place between the end of June and the midle of July. Around the 20th of August, grapes from the lowlands showed low acidity and sugar and tannins were still a little green. Despite this, we decided to start slowly so as not to lose more acidity in the musts.

The rain of the 13th and 14th September brought new life to the grapes in the highlands. From the second half of September onwards, temperaures began to drop, especially at night, which allowed vine located at higher points and still to be harvested to finish maturation by concentrating more sugar, maturing tannins and with balanced levels of acidity. We decided to stop the harvest between the 12th and 18th of September to allow the rainwater from the previous days to be well assimilated by the soil.

There was in fact a big change in the grape quality when we resumed the harvest on the 19th of September. It looked like a different vintage than what had been going on until then. The quality of the grapes improved daily as the days cooled down and the harvest moved to vineyards at higher altitudes. We ended the harvest on the 15th of October with a smile on our face for the quality we managed to obtain in the last few weeks. Patience was essential in order to obtain really good and correctly ripened grapes. Another year different from all the others I had lived. Life is a continuous learning process and patience with the vines is a quality that we must preserve.".

(Óscar Quevedo, Quevedo Wines Owner & Chief Friendologist)


    The harvest ended in the first days of October with falling temperatures and rain, followed by dry weather in a sunny autumn (October and November) with lots of sun and temperatures below average for this time of year in all the Douro sub-regions, with a wide thermal amplitude and low minimum temperatures (until the end of November 2021).

    The great Douro landscapes display the usual profusion of autumn colors, anticipating the loss of leaves from the vines and the beginning of the vegetative rest that will last until spring when a new cycle will begin, with colder days and the coming of winter. The vines enter its lowest activity period, this dormancy of the vine is a period of rest that takes place during December until March. During this period the vine's activity is concentrated on its root system, with root growth and search of nutrients from the soil that allow it to maintain itself during the winter and create a reserve with the necessary energy for development in spring.

    This is followed by the pruning works, which begin in December, with the foggy mornings of the Douro valley common this time of year. Pruning is one of the most important works in the vineyard, it is essential to prepare the vines for the next harvest, a fundamental process to regulate and ensure the quality of production, rejuvenate the vine and preserve its vegetative balance.

    In early December (6th to 9th), according to the IPMA (Sea and Atmosphere Portuguese Institute) data, periods of heavy rain are the indirect effects of the passage of the "Barra" depression. Dry weather followed, and during December the recorded temperatures fluctuated between values above average (aprx. 4ºC to 5ºC above average records), then falling to average values, followed by below average temperatures (aprx. minus 4ºC to 5ºC).

Vineyard detail at Quinta do Bomfim.


    Rain returns with the onset of winter across the demarcated wine region and at the end of December and beginning of January the temperatures increased, the values recorded vary between 2ºC and 4ºC above average records. Dry weather follows. In the vineyards, the prunning works continue in a mild winter. As a rule, mild winters are not good news because they do not allow the vine to recover and the lack of cold weather, ice and snow does not eliminate pests from the vineyards and the vine is reborn much earlier than normal.

    According to a study published in the journal "Nature Climate Change", the lack of rain anticipates spring in the northern hemisphere, because with less cloudiness, day and night temperatures have greater amplitude, there is more solar radiation and frost, confusing plants that assume sring has arrived. In addition to mild winters, this new work which for the first time links drought with the premature awakening of nature, reveals that the lack of rain also causes plants to flower before their time in the northern hemisphere, where rainfall has decreased its frequency in the last 30 years, affecting the natural calendar of plants.

  "Less precipitation means less cloudiness, which translates into more hours of sunshine, higher temperatures and colder nights, which advances the accumulation of cold necessary for plants to grow", which with this set of conditions are confused and reborn early.". "It doesn't rain and we have frosts and wide temperature ranges that have made spring noticeably earlier.".

    At the end of January and beginning of February: sunny winter days, dry weather remains and extends, the entire national territory goes through a phase of meteorological drought, classified as moderate drought in the north of the country. The temperatures recorded are below average, approximately minus 3ºC to 5ºC (some minimum temperatures recorded in 23rd January: -2,4ºC in Adorigo (Cima Corgo), -1,7ºC in Soutelo do Douro (Cima Corgo), -5,3ºC in Vilariça (Upper Douro), -1,2ºC in Pinhão (Cima Corgo).

    According to IPMA records, the months of November 2021 and January 2022 were very dry, and there was a period of meteorological drought that began in November 2021. The month of January 2022 recorded much lower than normal rainfall, on average 25% less rain. Considering the hydrological year from October 2021 to the end of January 2022, the accumulated value of precipitation recorded a deficit of 45% compared to average records. January 2022 was one of the three driest months in the last 20 years. There was a significant increase in the area and intensity of the drought situation and a decrease in the soil water reserves.

    It is during the month of February that the Upper Douro sub-region landscape begins to be covered in white and pink tones of the almond trees in bloom, the first annoucement of spring. There was some rain in February (13, 14), however with litle intensity and insufficient, and then dry weather returned. There was a further worsening of the drought situation, the Douro region is now in severe drought. According to the IPMA "to date, 2021/2022 is also the driest hydrological year when compared to other meteorological drought years.".

    Beginning of March (9), the weeping of the vine, with a warmer winter and with lack of rain, the weeping of the vine started earlier this year, the sap begins to flow through the vine rising from the roots in towards the cuts left by prunning and which heralds the beginning of a new cycle.

    It was a very dry winter. In February, the drought situation worsened and the Douro region was classified between severe drought (in the Baixo Corgo sub-region) and extreme drought (Cima Corgo and Upper Douro sub-regions), according to the PDSI (Palmer Drought Severity Index).

    In February the entire region was in a situation of extreme drought. In March it rained in most of the national territory, slightly above average in the northern region of the country, bringing some recovery but still quite insufficient to end the widespread drought.


    A new beginning, the vines begin to awaken from the dormant period, with the beginning of spring, dry weather returning and the increase in maximum and average temperatures, above average records between 2ºC and 3ºC.

    At the end of March (28), with the heat of early spring, budburst is already visible, and shortly after the buds begin to burst, a sensitive phase of the vine cycle.

    This phase occured later than usual, as a result of the adaptation of the vineyards to the climatic conditions. At the beginning of April, the transition phase between budburst and the initial growth of the vines, the firts leaves appear and photosynthesis begins. The small leaves that begin to appear and will grow rapidly over the next few weeks, evolving from a pinkish hue when they are born to progressively changing to green as they grow and become more and more resistant. The vines gain new life and the landscape begins to cover itself with shades of green.

    In March and April, the drought situation continues and much of the Upper Douro sub-region is in a severe drought situation. There was some rain in April and temperatures begin to increase above average records between 2ºC to 4ºC and maximum temperatures in mid-April (16) of 28,8ºC in the Vilariça valley, 29,6ºC in Pinhão and 29ºC in Cambres. The weather remains dry and temperatures are high throughout the month of May. In mid-May (16), there are news of damage caused by hail storms in very localized areas in Freixo de Numão and Vila Nova de Foz Côa in the Upper Douro.

    The vine flowering phase takes place from the second week of May onwards, it is one of the most important phases of the vine cycle, in which small flowers emerge that then form berries and the grape bunches. Berry development occurs after successful pollination of flowers. There was a good and exciting birth rate throughout the region, which is always a good sign for the progression of the vineyard and production forecast. In turn, the phytosanitary state of the vines is very good with no threats of vine diseases.

    In the last week of May: very hot weather and high temperatures, generally well above the average records (in Pinhão it was registered 36,2ºC on the 28th). In the months of May and June, the drought situation got worse and the entire territory is now classified as severe drought. The first heat wave registered from the 9th to the 15th of June, with temperatures around 8ºC to 9ºC above average records for this time of year. 40,1ºC was registered in the Vilariça valley, 41,3ºC in Adorigo, 41,6ºC in Soutelo do Douro and 40,7ºC in Pinhão. Then there was a drop, but even so temperatures remained high.

    Some facts: Winter and Spring were hot and dry, November 2021 was the 3rd driest month in the last 90 years. December 2021 was the hottest month since 1931. January 2022 was the 2nd driest month since 2000 and the 5th hottest since 2000. February 2022 was the 3rd driest month since 1931. May 2022 was the hottest month in the last 92 years.


    The vine cycle continues with the development of the first grape berries and the growth and closing of the grape bunches phase, at the end of June. We are about two months away from the beginning of the harvest that this year is expected earlier than usual.

    During the month of July, there were fires at various parts of the Douro region, in Murça and Alijó and Carrazeda de Ansiães (Quinta do Zimbro lost about one hectare of old vines), and several reports of some vines affected by the fire. A firefighter plane crashed in the vineyards of Quinta do Crasto in the Upper Douro, in Castelo Melhor (14).

    Very hot days and another heat wave from the 7th of July onwards, with temperatures rising about 3ºC to 5ºC above average records. Some examples of maximum temperatures recorded during this period: Canelas (Baixo Corgo) on the 14th of July recorded 43,5ºC - on the same day in Cambres (Baixo Corgo), 43,4ºC - Adorigo (Cima Corgo), 45,8ºC - Pinhão (Cima Corgo) which was the highest temperature ever recorded in the country, 46,5ºC - Soutelo do Douro (Cima Corgo), 45,6ºC and Vilariça (Upper Douro), 45,9ºC. 

    The month of July was the hottest in the last 92 years. It is the driest year on record. At Quinta do Bomfim, next to Pinhão, the rain recorded in the period between November 2021 and August 2022 was 170mm which represents a decrease of 70% compared to the average records of the last 30 years.

    The high temperatures and lack of water, caused extremely low levels of soil water reserves or just its disappearence. The extreme heat also causes the process of evapotranspiration, which is the sum of water evaporation from the soil surface and transpiration, the loss of water from the vine. To defend itself the vine reduces its activity, saving its reserves and interrupting or harming the normal maturation cycle. Generically, the vines in the lower areas and facing south and areas of the Upper Douro, are the ones that suffer the most. 

    This was followed by the veraison phase (from mid to late July), in which the grape berries begin to gain color, the red grapes change from green to reddish tones, and the white grape varieties become more translucent and naturally begin gaining sugar content and aromatic components and losing the acidity concentration. It is a process that takes place only in a few days and it is not uniform, the berries do not all ripen at the same time and the bunches assume different shades of color. This year it took place about a month later than the previous year, revealing the difficulties of the vines during ripening.

    In an increasingly long period of drought, the vines have limited growth and not all bunches have the same vigor. In the first weeks of August: the maximum high temperatures close to or even above 40ºC and average temperatures always above the average records, by about 3ºC to 4ºC.

The harvest

    The patience game begins until the best moment for the decision to start harvesting. Viticulture teams are responsible for the harvest plans and to determine the optimal time to start the harvest in which vineyard parcels and the order to follow in the harvest works. A lot of patience and experience in needed to determine the ideal moment when the maturation variables are at the intended point. Each grape variety, each parcel or vineyard section has its own environmental factors and its own maturation rhythm, however, it was generally an early vintage.

    Very early, on the 1st week of August, Niepoort started the harvest of its Douro Pinot Noir parcels.

    And then the race began. Some records:

    Ramos Pinto began harvesting its Viosinho grape variety at Quinta dos Bons Ares on 5th August, and all harvest works finished on 7th October. At Quinta da Ervamoira works started on the 12th August picking Folgazão and other white grape varieties.

    Quinta do Vallado started harvesting its white grapes on the 9th August, there was no memory of harvest to have started so early. On 12th August the picking of the Moscatel Galego grape variety. They finished on 28th September.

    Quinta do Vale Meão started on 17th August harvesting Rabigato at Quinta de Janeanes (in Pocinho). Quinta do Crasto initiated on 18th August. Hehn family (in the Tavora-Varosa region) started on 18th August. At Quinta da Pedra Alta vintage started on 22nd August. Quinta Seara D'Ordens on 23rd August and ended on 25th September. 

    The harvest began on 24th August: Alves de Sousa (Baixo Corgo sub-region), Vieira de Sousa (Cima Corgo sub-region), beginning with the white grapes and ended on 30th September, Muxagat (on the Upper Douro sub-region). On the same day harvest began at Quinta da Gricha (Churchill's), picking the white grapes, and the last "lagar" was on 3rd October. Van Zellers & Co. on the 26th August. Quinta de la Rosa began harvesting white grapes on the 27th August and on the 29th the red grapes such as Touriga Francesa ending the vintage on the 28th September. At Quinta do Têdo the harvest started on 29th of August, on the same day at Quinta do Pessegueiro where it ended on the 14th October. Wine & Soul began harvesting the red grapes from its vineyards in the Pinhão valley on 29th August and ended on 27th September. At Quinta do Mourão harvest started on 30th August. Also on this day the red grape varieties harvest at Kranemann Wine Estates. At Quinta do Panascal (Fonseca Guimaraens) harvest started on 6th September and ended on 19th of the same month.

    September began with temperatures within average records and on September 5 and 6, in full harvest works, it rained throughout the region and then rain returned for a second period in a more significant amount, from 12th to 15th, that slightly lowered maximum and average temperatures. From 16th onwards without rain and with temperatures progressively increasing. In any case, September was considered a rainy month. 

    The periods of rain in the middle of the harvest, which is usually a problem, this specific year was a very important element and the best that could have happened with a direct and very positive impact on the vineyards, which were in a prolonged hydride stress and that most likely saved many vines, the grapes gained weight and managed to mature better. It was also a milestone of this year's harvest, between the previous phase and the phase after the rain.

Winery at Quinta do Bomfim.

The final summary, general comments

    "This year's conditions were so extraordinary that no one knew how the vineyards would react.". (Symington blog)

    It was a very difficult harvest and viticultural year, a consequence of a extraordinarily difficult, extremely hot and dry weather, lack of water reserves, which led vines to hydric stress limit.

     2022 was one of the driest years of this century, the hydrological year was the driest since 1931. In the Upper Douro it was the driest year since there are records. The most resistant vineyards in these years of extreme hot weather were the old vineyards, that showed why they are so special, the most adapted and resistant grape varieties like Touriga Francesa and Tinto Cão. With more difficulties, the south facing, more exposed, young vineyards, vines on lower altitudes, and those located in areas with extreme dryness conditions as the Upper Douro sub-region.

    The vines birth phase promised a lot, there were many grape bunches in the vines, but the lack of water and the successive heat waves had a great impact on vineyards and production. There were maturation problems, lack of water and excess heat caused maturation to stop. The first analyzes of the white grape musts revealed unbalanced values, corrections will be needed in the wine cellar. Also imbalances of grape quality, acidity, sugar content and aromatic components, which in many cases was compromised, smaller berries with less pulp, which led to a natural drop in production. There were inconsistent maturations in more exposed areas. 

    Extreme heat and water stress affected the vine vegetative cycle and originated smaller berries and fewer grape bunches per vine and undermined the integrity of the vines themselves.

    The dry year has determined lower pressure of vineyard diseases and consequently the need for less treatments. During harvest the grapes revealed a good sanitary condition.

    There was a decrease in production of about 15% compared to 2021, which was not as bad as it was initially predicted, it went from a much more negative forecast in June to a more positive balance to which September rain was an important factor. However it was a year when productivity (kg per vine) was low, with a signifivantly inferior values if we consider grape varieties such as Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional.

    Lower quantity of wine produced and with heterogeneous quality levels.

    It was also the year when animation returned to the traditional Douro "lagares", with the return of foot treading the grapes after two years of interruption caused by covid-19 pandemic.

    The impact of climate change was very real this year, situations that were once exceptional are now a more frequent reality, in an increasingly hot and drier climate, rising temperatures, decreasing precipitation rates, spring hail storms, droughts and more frequent and longer heat waves. Half of the ten warmest years and six of the ten driest years occurred in the current century. Records show that between 1967 and 2010 the average annual temperature in the Douro increased by 1,3ºC, and as a result the vine growth cycles show signs of disturbance, with a clear trend towards shorter cycles and earlier harvests. 

    In the most sensitive areas (the Upper Douro sub-region, for example) the use of controlled irrigation systems is considered to keep the vine growing viable. In the medium term another solution will be the relocation of the vineyards to higher altitudes or microclimate locations, one of the benefits of mountain viticulture, the choice of locations that expose the vineyard to less intense solar radiation with a preferential orientation to the west or north. Other solutions also point to the vineyard training systems and prunning that allow the vines to gain the ability to resist to higher temperatures and water stress, solar protection systems, soil protection to retain moisture. It is necessary to know better and study the behavior and cycle of the Douro native grape varieties best adapted to the specific conditions of the region.

Text and photographs ©Hugo Sousa Machado

Previous harvest reports: 

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