Drought causes ‘earliest ever’ harvest in the Douro

Bruno Prats told the drinks business yesterday that this year’s harvest was the earliest ever conducted in the Douro Valley, with picking at Prats + Symington starting on 28 August and ending on 21 September.

Speaking at a tasting in London last night, Prats said that he would describe 2017’s harvest as “hot, dry and very early”. In fact, he believes it is the earliest harvest ever conducted in the region with picking commencing on 28 August and ending today (21 September).

According to the winemaker, temperatures reached 42°C in June this year and it remained hot (but not as hot) throughout the summer and into the autumn.

For the second year in the row, there was little rain in the winter. Prats also recounted how one of his quintas, Quinta de Roriz, had no rain from spring through to summer.

“We had to start picking when we did as the 2017 drought was starting to have a bad effect on the vines,” said Prats.

Despite the extreme temperatures, Prats praised the schist-based soil for its ability to retain water, allowing the vines to draw on reserves in times of need.

He did acknowledge, however, that if it continues to be so dry – as it has been in 2015, 2016 and 2017 – he may need to consider irrigation.

“The problem is not temperature but humidity,” said Prats. “If it continues to be so dry, I may have to consider irrigation. Luckily that will be easy for us, being so near the Douro River”.

Prats also reported that due to the heat, there has been some raisining this year which has led to an overall reduction in volume.

“We are a little disappointed with the volume this year, but are very happy with the quality of the grapes,” said Prats.

One Response to “Drought causes ‘earliest ever’ harvest in the Douro”

  1. Adrian Bridge says:

    This has been an unusual year with the harvest starting early and already over in many places – we completed Quinta de Vargellas and Quinta da Roeda yesterday. The quality is high, with high sugar levels and long fermentations. Indeed, the challenge this year is a shortage of labour as both Port harvests and table wine harvests have been happening at the same time and down the length of the valley simultaneously.
    Irrigation is clearly not the answer. The River Douro is no longer a river but a series of lakes. As such there is no water to draw out from the lakes. Indeed, if we were looking at the Douro river pre-damming, with the weather pattern we have had in 2017, there would be places that a relatively fit person could probably jump over the river. The lakes make this an impossible feat but the reality is the same – there is no water for irrigation.

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