Violent storms batter heart of the Douro

A torrential downpour which saw more than a month’s worth of rain and hail fall in a few hours has struck Pinhão in the Douro Valley causing severe damage to vineyards and local infrastructure.

The flooded streets of Pinhão yesterday evening (photo Paul Symington)

Speaking to the drinks business, Adrian Bridge managing director of the Fladgate Partnership said that over 80mm of rain had fallen in total on Monday evening (28 May) washing away soil, damaging terraces and roads (the Pinhão to Sabrosa road was cut for several hours) across the area and even sparking a flash flood in the centre of the town.

It took just three hours for over 80mm of rain to fall which is apparently double the average amount for May for the past 30 years.

With hail mixed in, the still developing foliage and flowers on the vines were ripped apart in many places and he said that in the company’s Quinta do Junco some 74mm of rain fell and losses are estimated at 80% – the equivalent of 200 pipes or 120,000 litres of potential wine.

The damage naturally extends to neighbouring properties as well, many run by small growers who will have lost almost their entire production and, if they escaped too much damage, will still have repairs to carry out to their vineyards and properties.

The destruction is severe enough that a team from the Portuguese Ministry of Agriculture has been despatched to the area and has been assessing the damage today.

Paul Symington of Symington Family Estates said one of his company’s best vineyards, Choes at Quinta das Netas, planted with the white grapes Viosinho and Arinto had suffered around 80% losses as well and Quinta da Cavadinha (Warre’s) and Quinta do Bomfim (Dow’s) had also been caught in the downpour – although there was no mention of any losses.

As an example of just how intense but localised the rain storm in Pinhão was, only a little further down river at Quinta dos Malvedos just 17mm of rain fell while further east towards Quinta dos Canais and Quinta da Vargellas rainfall was around 5mm and further east again to Quinta do Vesuvio it was below 3mm.

As Bridge continued, severe hailstorms in the region “have been increasing each summer for the past few years,” and that freak weather events such as the storm on Monday were as much a sign of global warming as rising temperatures.

A climate change conference with former US president Barack Obama as keynote speaker is being held in Porto this July.

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