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Douro ‘well placed’ for high quality vintage

Weather in the Douro has meant that the region is “currently well placed” to have one of the highest quality vintages in recent years, according to a leading Port producer.

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Charles Symington, the head winemaker at the Symington Family Estate, which produces Ports including Graham’s and Cockburn’s as well as a number of Douro wine brands, said that Portugal had “largely been spared” the extremities of climatic conditions which have devastated southern European and central European growing areas.

The family is the leading owner of prime vineyard in the Douro valley with 1,114 hectares of vineyard, and said it had started its harvest at the end of August.

Last year, extreme heat and drought in the Port and wine producing region of the Douro produced an extremely small vintage, although some exceptional wines made it through. It was a year of heat waves and very little rainfall – more than 70% lower than the 30-year average – that ensured yields in 2022 were be dramatically reduced.

Speaking to the drinks business last year, managing director at Quinta do Noval, Christian Seely, said it was a similar profile to 2017, when there was extreme heat and little rainfall, and CEO of the Fladgate Partnership, Adrian Bridge, said extreme heat in 2022 has reduced Douro Valley yields by up to 50%, but quality shined through for Ports produced from old vines.

“2022 has been an extraordinary year on a number of different levels, geopolitically and climatically,” Bridge told the drinks business last year, reflecting on the 2022 harvest, “But to a large extent we’re used to that in the Douro. it’s not uncommon that we have two weeks in a row over 40°C. So that in itself isn’t the issue.”

Symington said this year’s harvest though was particularly good. He said: “Following a succession of challenging harvests in the Douro with prolonged heatwaves and low yields, we are currently well placed to have one of the highest quality vintages in recent years. While much of southern Europe experienced intense heatwaves over this summer, Portugal was largely spared.”

He said that July temperature for the whole country “were close to normal”, and in the Douro actually slightly below average, with the region benefiting from an anticyclone which brought cooler maritime air and more humid conditions.

“The growth cycle this year has been largely favourable,” Symington continued, “with abundant rainfall through the winter and late spring replenishing the soil water reserves, after one of the driest years in 2022. Although there was no rainfall through July and August, the combination of reasonable soil moisture and moderate temperatures, have delivered good levels of acidity, balanced maturations, and positive phenolic development.

The estate began its harvest on 21 August, he said, picking Viosinho white grapes at our high-altitude estates in the Cima Corgo sub-region, and then in the last week of August, began harvesting red grapes – Sousão, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional – from select plots of vineyard in the eastern Douro Superior sub-region.

He concluded: “We have now started harvesting across all our principal estates, following some almost perfectly timed rain across the entire Douro Valley on the 2nd and 3rd September, which will be beneficial for final ripening of the grapes and development of colour, tannins, and aromas in the wines.

“With maximum temperatures of 30ºC and cool nights forecast for the first few weeks of September, we are expecting to produce some great quality wines, particularly in the sub-region of the Cima Corgo.”

Related news:

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Old Douro Valley vines set to produce ‘very good’ Ports despite low yields

Hot, dry, low-yielding vintage in Douro could produce exceptional Ports

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