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Douro faces difficult growing conditions

A smaller and earlier harvest is expected in the Douro due to difficult growing conditions.

Vines situated in the historic Port-producing region of the Douro have been put through their paces for the 2011 vintage, although low rainfall and high temperatures are one of the characteristics of the Douro regions, especially further inland.

However, 2011 has proven to be especially dry for most of the region with extremely high temperatures, while accumulative rainfall at Pinhao, the heart of the region, is well below the average for this time of year, with less than 20% of the typical precipitation falling for the month of May – 9mm instead of an average of 54mm.

High rainfall in late 2010 meant there was no lack of soil water at the beginning of the season, which lead to a very fast initial vegetative growth. This meant that budburst and floraison (flowering), occurred nearly two weeks before normal and it is expected that this will result in an earlier harvest than usual.

Following a strong fruit set, the continued high rate of vegetative growth led to higher susceptibility to several fungal infections of the berries, including powdery and downy mildews.

Paul Symington, chairman of Symington Family Estates, told the drinks business that following their strong fruit set, “The weather then dealt (Symington Family Estates) some tough cards.” Sadly, some growers lost all of their crop as they lacked the financial means to cover the necessary treatment.

Although powdery and downy mildews do have a negative effect on the yields, they are deemed not have a detrimental effect on the quality of wine. And Paul was quick to state, “The vines that had the necessary treatment are looking very fine indeed, so what is in the vineyard is looking very good.”

Other prestigious winemaking regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne are all predicting an early harvest following higher spring temperatures.

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