"A Cool Interlude"
2021 was a clear reminder that while the Douro is undoubtedly being shaped by the impacts of climate change, the weather continues to be unpredictable. Following a succession of very hot and dry years in the Douro, the 2021 growth cycle and harvest were some of the coolest in recent years. The region experienced an unusually cool summer with none of the heat waves that have become common. Moderate conditions in 2021 encouraged slower, gradual maturations with balanced ripening, while the harvest was defined by three key periods of rain.
Vintage Ports from 2021:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2021:
"The smallest harvest of the 21st Century so far"
The 2020 vintage was the smallest harvest this century and produced incredibly concentrated, well-structured, dark wines in very low quantities–with the most outstanding wines originating from the Cima Corgo sub-region of the Douro.
Vintage Ports from 2020:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2020:
"Lively and exuberant..."
2019 was a year to celebrate the Douro’s remarkably resilient grape varieties in an unusually dry year. Our ability to closely monitor their varying maturation cycles and adjust our picking schedule accordingly meant we were able to deliver the best expression of the different varieties. When reviewing the top wines from 2019, we felt that the best expression of our grape varieties came from our six principal quintas – this is why we made the decision to release six Quinta Vintage Ports.
Vintage Ports from 2019:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2019:
"A Rollercoaster of A Year "
The 2018 Single Quinta Vintage Ports are the result of a rollercoaster growing season – with a prolonged winter drought, a deluge in spring, and heatwaves through the final ripening period. Despite the challenges, the 2018 wines are characterised by a well-defined acidity and marked freshness, reflecting the characteristics of specific parcels of vineyard within each estate. The star of the year was the late-maturing Touriga Franca, which excelled in the warm harvest, allowing each estate’s signature aromas to flourish.
Vintage Ports from 2018:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2018:
"A Stunning Year – Concentration, Intensity, & Structure"
The 2017 vintage produced exceptional ports in the Douro. It was a dry year with compact bunches of excellent quality berries and extremely low yields. The advanced growing season resulted in our earliest ever recorded harvest start date. Nothing less than a spectacular year for Vintage Port would have justified the first ‘back-to-back’ general declaration for the Symington family since we first became port producers in 1882.
Vintage Ports from 2017:
"The Wines are Big, Aromatic and Balanced"
The 2016 harvest in the Douro brought perfectly-timed rain that turned a good year into a great one. Fortunately, despite a challenging growing season and a much adjusted and delayed picking schedule, those producers with excellent vineyard knowledge and confident decision-making, were rewarded with spectacular Vintage Ports.
Vintage Ports from 2016:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2016:
"Playing the Waiting Game Was Key"
Patience, playing the waiting game, was key during the 2015 harvest in the Douro. Confidence and flexibility in interrupting picking, or changing the order of picking, ensured that each grape variety realized its full qualitative potential. While many ‘jumped the gun’ and picked too early, Symington Family Estates’ viticulture and winemaking teams held fast and were rewarded with fully ripened fruit with balanced maturations. Due to the specific climatic conditions of the year, some of the finest wines were made in the Douro Superior.
Vintage Ports from 2015:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2015:
"The Year of the Fox"
Why ‘The Year of the Fox’? The fox is a wily creature and this year it was necessary to be wily (and lucky) and also because our wine maker at Malvedos, Henry Shotton, was fast asleep and alone one night on a mattress in the darkened winery, waiting for a lagar of must to be ready to run off sometime in the night. He awoke to feel something tugging at his boot laces. His fear can only be imagined, and when he sat up he saw that a small fox was trying to steal his boot.
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2014:
"A Challenging Year for Winemakers in the Douro"
A challenging year for winemakers in the Douro, but one that produced some exceptional Vintage Ports. Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira Vintage Port being possibly the best wine that this vineyard has ever produced.
Vintage Ports from 2013:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2013:
"Not Generally Declared"
A fairly unusual year and one where tensions ran high at times, but in the end, thanks to the low yields and relatively low temperatures during the summer the results were very good and some excellent Single Quinta Vintage Port was bottled.
Vintage Ports from 2012:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2012:
"A Great Year in the Douro "
Writing before the last lagar had finished fermenting in mid-October 2011, Paul Symington thought “this has been a good and very possibly a great year in the Douro.”
Vintage Ports from 2011:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2011:
"Not Generally Declared"
Vintage Ports from 2010:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2010:
"Not Generally Declared"
Vintage Ports from 2009:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2009:
"Not Generally Declared"
Vintage Ports from 2008:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2008:
"The Biggest Vintage Declaration to Date "
Widely declared, the IVDP announced that it was biggest Vintage declaration to date. The wines produced were generally of very high quality, with excellent structure, flavour and velvety tannins.
Vintage Ports from 2007:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2007:
"Not Generally Declared"
Vintage Ports from 2006:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2006:
"Not Generally Declared"
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2005:
"Not Generally Declared"
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2004:
"Low Yields and Classic Vintage Port"
A generally declared year, the wines from 2003 have a traditional tannic structure with attractive ripe fruit flavours. Classic Vintage Port.
Vintage Ports from 2003:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2003:
"Not Generally Declared"
Challenging weather conditions during the year and during the harvest period resulted in relatively few declarations.
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2002:
"Not Generally Declared"
A good vintage yielding dark and well structured wines. Not generally declared after the 2000 vintage, but some excellent Single Quinta Vintage Ports from major brands were produced.
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2001:
"Hugely Concentrated "
The 2000 vintage will be remembered for the immense concentration of its wines and the unusually small quantities that were produced.
Vintage Ports from 2000:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 2000:
"Not Generally Declared"
The final vintage of the 20th century produced some strongly aromatic and intensely coloured wines of excellent quality. It was not generally declared, but some excellent Single Quinta Vintage Port was bottled.
Vintage Ports from 1999:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1999:
"Not Generally Declared"
Unusual weather patterns in 1998 led to small yields of high quality, highly concentrated wines. However, only a handful of shippers declared in 1998, with many of the big names opting instead to declare Single Quinta Vintage Ports.
Vintage Ports from 1998:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1998:
"The Last Generally Declared Vintage of the 20th Century"
Renowned for full-bodied and harmonious wines suitable for long ageing, the 1997 vintage was the last to generally declared vintage to be bottled in the 20th century.
Vintage Ports from 1997:
"Not Generally Declared"
Vintage Ports from 1996:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1996:
"Not Generally Declared"
Not generally declared as it immediately followed 1994, but some excellent Single Quinta Vintage Port was bottled.
Vintage Ports from 1995:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1995:
"Monumental Wines. "
Generally declared, 1994 produced classic, monumental wines with fabulous rich fruit character and fantastic structure. An outstanding Vintag and probably one of the best of the 20th century.
Vintage Ports from 1994:
"Rich and Concentrated "
Declared by some Port houses in favour of 1991, 1992 is a good vintage with some rich and concentrated wines, the best of which are very excellent and will aged superbly.
Vintage Ports from 1992:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1992:
"The First Generally Declared Vintage for Six Years"
The first declared Vintage for six years, the longest gap between declarations for decades, was an excellent, widely-declared year and produced richly coloured and aromatic wines of great promise. The best will age for decades.
Vintage Ports from 1991:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1991:
"Not Generally Declared"
Vintage Ports from 1990:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1990:
"Not Generally Declared"
Vintage Ports from 1989:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1989:
"A Disastrously Small Vintage"
A disastrously small vintage that saw most quintas losing 50% of their production, and some as much as 70%. No declarations were made, and only a handful of Single Quinta Vintage Ports were produced. They are best for drinking fairly young, rather than ageing.
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1988:
"Few Shippers Declared"
A few shippers declared Vintage Ports in 1987 and some excellent Single Quinta Vintage Port was bottled. The wines produced were better for early drinking than long-term ageing.
Vintage Ports from 1987:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1987:
"Not Generally Declared"
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1986:
"A Great Classic Vintage "
Generally declared, 1985 was a great classic vintage and produced concentrated, rich and potent wines with huge ageing potential.
Vintage Ports from 1985:
"Not Generally Declared"
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1984:
"Muscular Wines, with Great Ageing Capacity"
Declared by most houses, 1983 was an exceptional vintage, with outstanding, powerful wines, it was unjustly overshadowed by the 1977s before and the 1985s which followed. Muscular wines with a great capacity for ageing they are often compared to the 1966s.
Vintage Ports from 1983:
"Declared by a Dozen Major Producers"
Only a dozen major producers declared, notable abstentions being Cockburn and Warre. Graham’s bottled a Quinta dos Malvedos Single Quinta Vintage Port.
Vintage Ports from 1982:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1982:
"A Greatness Only Recognised Years After the Declaration"
A generally declared year, like the ’66, the 1980 vintage only became recognised for its real star quality years after the declaration. It was also overshadowed by the 1977, and as a result a real bargain at auction. Notable for their strong colour, the best 1980 Vintage Ports have a depth and structure that places them amongst the finest Vintage Ports of the post-war era.
Vintage Ports from 1980:
"Not Generally Declared"
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1979:
"Not Generally Declared"
Not generally declared, however, the IVDP (Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto) remarks that this was a year in which many Single Quinta Vintage Ports were produced.
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1978:
"Concentrated, Long-Lasting and Complex"
Declared by all the major Port houses, 1977 is a classic vintage. Marked by well structured, balanced wines with strong tannins, the wines from 1977 have great elegance and staying power. The best of them have the tannin and structure to age for decades.
Vintage Ports from 1977:
"Not Generally Declared"
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1976:
"The First Vintage to Be Bottled Entirely in Portugal "
Generally declared, 1975 Vintage Ports are attractive, elegant wines, though not likely to be as long lived as the 70s or 77s.
Remarkable as the first vintage to be bottled strictly in Portugal by regulation marking the end of centuries of shipping in cask for bottling at destination by distributors.
Vintage Ports from 1975:
"Not Generally Declared"
Vintage Ports from 1972:
"One of the Finest Glasses of Port That You Will Ever Taste"
Generally declared, 1970 was an outstanding vintage with ripe fruit flavours and concentrated tannins, great balance and structure. Certainly one of the absolute finest Vintage Ports of the 50 years up to 1970. Now mature, it is probably one of the finest glasses of port that you will ever taste. A wine of this quality, from the best houses, will age superbly for many decades to come.
Vintage Ports from 1970:
"Not Generally Declared"
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1968:
"Preferred by Some Producers to the 1966"
Some excellent Vintage Ports were declared by a few shippers who favoured 1967 to their 1966s, such as Cockburn and Martinez.
Vintage Ports from 1967:
"One of the Very Best Post-War Vintage Ports"
Declared by most of the major Port houses, it is a vintage of exceptional quality but was always unjustly overshadowed by the 1963. Solid wines with superb structure, filled with fruit and tannins they are now recognised as being one of the very best post-war Vintage Ports.
Vintage Ports from 1966:
"Not Generally Declared"
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1965:
"Not Generally Declared"
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1964:
"A Vintage Port Against Which All Others Are Judged"
Declared by all the major Port houses, 1963 was a monumental vintage against which many others are now judged. Power, dimension and real character are all hallmarks of this most memorable vintage. And even after more than 45 years the best wines never fail to impress with their essential three components of fruit, tannin and elegance. 1963s almost always appear to be younger than they really are.
Vintage Ports from 1963:
"Not Generally Declared"
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1962:
"Not Generally Declared"
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1961:
"Elegant and Flavourful "
Generally declared, the wines from 1960 were elegant and flavourful wines, but will have more to offer if they are well cellared.
Vintage Ports from 1960:
"Fragrant and Delicate"
Declared by some but not all the major Port producers, 1958 was a good year with some fragrant and delicate Vintage Ports being bottled.
Vintage Ports from 1958:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1958:
"Not Generally Declared"
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1957:
"The Best Wines Since 1948"
Declared by 26 shippers, this was the largest declaration since 1927, and is one of the most underrated Vintages of the 20th Century. A real pleasure to drink now, the best will last well into the 21st Century if well cellared.
Vintage Ports from 1955:
"Not Generally Declared"
Not generally declared, but some excellent Single Quinta Vintage Port was bottled. By the time 1954 might have been declared the superb quality of the 1955 was apparent, so most producers opted for the 1955 declaration.
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1954:
"Not Generally Declared"
Vintage Ports from 1953:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1953:
"Not Generally Declared"
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1952:
"Not Generally Declared"
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1951:
"The "Lady's Vintage""
Declared by some but not all Port houses, 1950 is known as the “lady’s vintage”, as the wines are delicate and subtle.
Vintage Ports from 1950:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1950:
Declared by some but not all Port houses, 1948s are classic Vintage Ports, with rich and individual wines that are unfortunately rather hard to find now. Fully mature for years, well cellared the best wines can be expected to have a 100 year life. The 48’s are characterised by a rich coffee/caramel flavour and are incredibly concentrated and rich, almost syrup like in their intensity.
Vintage Ports from 1948:
Single Quinta Vintage Ports from 1948:
"Declared by Only 11 Producers"
An outstanding vintage that produced fine, attractive wines, it was only declared by 11 shippers. These wines have been fully mature for many years, but well cellared, the best wines will last for many more.
Vintage Ports from 1947:
"One of the Superb 'Reference Years'"
Declared by all the major Port houses, Cockburn being the one exception, 1945 was a superlative Vintage, the quality in the Douro Valley reflecting that of most other growing regions in Europe and is one of the superb ‘reference years’ by which all other Vintages are judged. Full-bodied wines with fantastic structure, these are wonderful long lasting wines and are the example that all other Vintage Ports must match to earn top year status.
Vintage Ports from 1945:
"Declared by Some Shippers, Despite the War"
Declared by some shippers, despite the war, in some cases it was declared and bottled in 1945 to celebrate Victory. Little known, production was small due to continued post-war restrictions, but well-cellared the wines are still a pleasure.
Vintage Ports from 1942:
"Classic, Refined Wines"
Declared by many producers (the declaration was split with 1934), the 1935s are classic refined wines, sweet and rich with fruit and tannins though without the sheer power of the 1934’s. These wines are of course mature, but if well-cellared the best still have a good life ahead of them, as they are still showing good fruit and tannin integration with lovely balance and elegance.
Vintage Ports from 1935:
"Powerful and Well-Structured "
Declared by some of the major Port producers (some opting to declare the 1935 instead), 1934 was an outstanding vintage, with powerful and well-structured wines. The wines are superb now, and are still showing their structure and plenty of flavour. If well cellared the best wines could last for a few more decades.
Vintage Ports from 1934:
"Declared by Few Shippers Due to the Depression"
Declared by only a very few shippers given the Depression, but the wines produced were exceptional.
Vintage Ports from 1931:
"A Truly Majestic Vintage"
Declared by all of the major Port houses, 1927 was a truly majestic vintage, and one of the classic vintages of the 20th Century. Outstanding wines with superb poise and class, they will last for years if well cellared. The wines continue to improve after 75 years and may well continue to do so even after 100.
Vintage Ports from 1927:
"Small Quantities of High Quality Wine"
Widely declared, this was an excellent vintage, which produced very high quality wine in small quantities. The best wines still retain their structure and intensity as well as good fruit, which shows the strength and quality of this great year. Well cellared, the wines will last for years but will not improve further.
Vintage Ports from 1924:
"Elegant in Style"
Declared by most shippers, the wines were elegant and similar to those produced in 1917.
Vintage Ports from 1922:
"The First Vintage After the Great War"
Declared by almost all producers, it was an excellent vintage, with ripe, well-balanced, wines.
Vintage Ports from 1920:
"Not Generally Declared"
Vintage Ports from 1919:
"Light, Supple, Elegant and Attractive"
Declared by many producers, despite the wartime situation. Michael Broadbent characterises this Vintage as “light, supple, elegant and attractive.”
Vintage Ports from 1917:
Declared by almost all producers, 1912 is a classic vintage, full-bodied with concentration and balance.
Vintage Ports from 1912:
"Of All That Is Best in Vintage Port."
Declared by a handful of shippers, Ernest Cockburn noted there were some fine examples “of all that is best in Vintage Port.”
Vintage Ports from 1911:
"Light, Delicately Flavoured Wines"
Declared by all producers, 1908 was a great vintage with light, delicately flavoured wines.
Vintage Ports from 1908:
"Well-balanced and Delicate"
Declared by most of the major Port shippers, 1904 was an outstanding Vintage. Another classic Vintage Port, 1904s are well-balanced and delicate and have developed into an old tawny style while being able to keep their excellent reputation throughout.
Vintage Ports from 1904:
"Not Generally Declared"
Vintage Ports from 1901:
"Wines with Appreciable Breed"
Declared by almost all producers, Ernest Cockburn said the wines showed “great delicacy with appreciable breed, and though lighter in colour and body than many previous vintages they appealed to the connoisseurs of Port Wine”. Tasted at over 100 years old, these Ports still have life and are delicate and fine.
Vintage Ports from 1900:
"Not Generally Declared"
Vintage Ports from 1899:
"Marking the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria"
Declared by a few shippers to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, unfortunately the trade had bought heavily in 1896 and did not need the 1897.
Vintage Ports from 1897:
"An Exceptional Vintage"
Declared by all producers, 1896 was an exceptional vintage. 100 years later many of these wines were still extraordinary.
Vintage Ports from 1896:
"Well Developed Wines"
Declared by some producers. The wines were well developed, though not as fine as the 1890s.
Vintage Ports from 1894:
"Not Generally Declared"
Vintage Ports from 1893:
Declared by some shippers, but in small quantities.
Vintage Ports from 1892:
"Somewhat light and dry"
Many companies declared, but the wines were known to be somewhat light and dry.
Vintage Ports from 1890:
2021 was a clear reminder that while the Douro is undoubtedly being shaped by the impacts of climate change, the weather continues to be unpredictable. Experience and knowledge of our vineyards help us to plan our harvest by picking the fruit at the optimum moment – but unexpected changes in the weather forecast continue to drive us to make daily adjustments.
Following a succession of very hot and dry years in the Douro, the 2021 growth cycle and harvest were some of the coolest in recent years. The region experienced an unusually cool summer with none of the heat waves that have become common. Moderate conditions in 2021 encouraged slower, gradual maturations with balanced ripening, while the harvest was defined by three key periods of rain.
We started harvesting the Sousão on the 30th of August, which produced some stunning wines. This was followed shortly afterwards by the Alicante Bouschet.
We experienced heavy rainfall on the 1st and 2nd September – with as much as 40mm in the Douro Superior. This was largely beneficial, and we slowed the pace of picking from the outset of the harvest to allow the vines to make best use of the rain.
On the 13th and 14th of September, unsettled conditions returned with further rain, ranging from 20mm in our Cima Corgo quintas to just over 30mm in the Douro Superior. After pausing picking for a few days, we started harvesting the Touriga Nacional on the 18th. We were particularly pleased with this decision as the grapes came into the winery at an ideal 13° and 14° baumé.
As predicted, we started picking the Touriga Franca (usually a late ripening variety) at the same time as the Touriga Nacional at some of our estates, including Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos. This proved to be one of the key decisions as it meant we harvested our finest parcels of Touriga Franca before the month’s third bout of rain at the end of September.
The agility of our viticultural and winemaking teams meant we still managed to harvest our best performing parcels at the optimum moments. Our yields (Kg/vine) across our quintas were 3.7% above the 10-year average.
While winter and early spring rainfall were roughly in line with the average, the temperatures were higher than usual. February was particularly warm, with temperatures at least 2°C above than the 30-year average. As a result, the vines emerged from their winter slumber three weeks earlier than usual, with budbreak recorded in the Cima Corgo on March 3rd. Flowering also arrived two weeks earlier than normal, beginning on May 5th. Every month apart from April was considerably warmer than the 30-year trend and the Douro experienced the hottest July on record at 3.5°C above the average for the region.
In 2020, the Douro experienced the hottest July on record, with temperatures recorded at 3.5°C above the average. The region saw heat waves in June, August, and September which registered multi-day heat spikes above the 30-year average maximum temperatures. As a result, yields were substantially reduced compared to our July forecasts – around 40% down at some of our estates.
The vines demonstrated a variety of natural responses to the conditions, including reducing grape bunch and berry sizes, which lessened the demand on the limited soil water reserves. Fortunately, there was around 15mm of well-timed rain across the Douro on August 17th and a drop in temperatures.
Maturations were naturally advanced and in the last 10 days of August it became clear that varieties that usually ripen sequentially, would need to be picked at the same time. Although a small harvest makes it easier to manage the picking schedule, the overlap of grape ripening added a further challenge.
Harvesting began on September 1st and our experienced viticulture & winery teams adapted exceptionally well – ensuring that the varieties came into the wineries at the optimal time. These unusual conditions allowed for co-fermenting grape varieties such as Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca which produced complex wines. Inevitably yields were incredibly low at 21% below the 10-year average in our vineyards across the Douro – at just 840g per vine, or 2,697 Kg/ha.
The standout varieties were the Touriga Nacional that produced wines with excellent structure, and the Sousão that delivered sharp acidity, which is remarkable given the conditions of the year. Comparable harvests are 2000 and 2009, which were also very hot years with low yields that nonetheless delivered small quantities of intense, well-structured ports.
It is common to hear local people in the Douro saying that the weather behaves strangely these days, with more erratic rainfall (less overall) and longer and more intense summer heatwaves – and the 2018/2019 viticultural year followed this ‘new normal’ weather pattern.
November to May was drier than the average of the last 39 years, with a cumulative rainfall shortfall of -22% over the period and higher than average temperatures.
March was unseasonably warm with temperatures 2°C above the 30-year average and a third of the monthly average rainfall. This was followed by a very wet April, with Pinhão recording 78.8mm of rainfall – significantly higher than the monthly average of 46.9mm.
Fortunately, the virtual absence of rain from May to late August was balanced by cooler summer conditions. In June – unlike much of Europe – the Douro Superior saw temperatures of 4ºC below average.
The cooler conditions slowed the vines’ pace, delaying the pintor (veraison) in the most precocious varieties. Maturation studies started on August 12th and showed sugar readings very close to average figures. The phenolic ripeness was particularly encouraging and further advanced for this stage in the cycle. It meant that picking could start as planned in the second week of September, after sugar readings had reached desired levels.
The 2019 Douro vintage was amongst the longest in recent years, lasting six weeks, from the second week of September to mid-October – with picking started in the Douro Superior on the 9th September.
We had ideal conditions in September, with clear days and moderate temperatures contributing to smooth maturations – evident in the superb balance between acidity and sugar levels.
We paused picking on the weekend of September 21st/22nd due to rain that fell in just the right amount to rehydrate the later ripening varieties, including the Touriga Franca. Dry weather resumed after the perfectly timed rain, resulting in the very expressive aromas of the Francas.
Yields were closer to average following the exceptionally small years of 2017 and 2018. The vines at our properties delivered an average of 1.27 kg/vine, or 4,238 kg/hectare.
Overall the quality of the 2019 wines was impressive with decent quantities. The Alicante Bouschet, Tinta Barroca, Sousão and Tinta Roriz were picked at near perfect timings, coming into the winery at between 13-14° Baumé. The Touriga Nacional was excellent, delivering very dark and structured wines, while the expressive Touriga Franca benefited from the timely rain. The hallmarks of the 2019 wines are freshness and liveliness, in contrast to the concentration of recent years.
Conditions since the beginning of the month have been quite hot, although not as hot as the last two vintages at the beginning of September. The forecast is currently giving rain for this Saturday, which — should this forecast persist —mean we may well stop picking for the day and in some cases for the weekend. This rain, on balance, may be good as the Touriga Franca will reap benefit from it and the Touriga Nacional may also be favoured through attenuated dehydration.
We assumed that we would revert to a normal year after the driest ever growing-season in 2017, but we were wrong, and the long drought continued through to March 2018. The Douro had endured 20 consecutive months with well below average rainfall.
Our pleading to the weather gods was clearly overdone as the nearly two-year ‘seca’ ended abruptly with heavy rains in March, April and May. These fantastically wet months delivered more than double the normal rainfall and culminated in a major storm on the evening of Monday 28th May. In the Pinhão area, 90mm of rain fell in less than 2 hours, with some localised but devastating hail. No soil can absorb this quantity of water, especially our steep hillside vineyards, and erosion caused severe damage. Incredibly, olive trees were scarred by the stones hurled against them by the gushing water as it headed downhill to the river. This major gale was heart-breaking, and the wise old Douro caseiros (vineyard foremen) shook their heads in despair.
Heavy spring rain is always a challenge as we go through the delicate bud break and later flowering, and inevitably this watery spring resulted in substantial losses. Vineyard work was intense and costly this year and farmers who were a few hours late in their treatments lost their entire crop. It is impossible to ignore the fact that 16,890 farmers in the Douro have less than 2 hectares of vines each and yet they represent 23% of the region’s vineyards. Most of these small holdings are notoriously under-equipped and their future is increasingly doubtful as their children flock to the cities to find easier work.
Bud break was three weeks behind normal because of the wet and cool spring and the pintor (the painter, i.e. veraison) arrived two weeks later than average. Finally, a more normal weather pattern emerged in July with average temperatures and no relevant rainfall. The vineyards that survived the strange and challenging lead-in to the final furlong were looking magnificent through a hot August, clearly benefiting from good moisture in the soil.
The indispensable long-term weather forecast (unavailable to our ancestors) predicted fine weather through to October, and this proved entirely accurate, giving adequate time to allow the grapes to reach full maturity. We felt by now that we had truly earned a calm and pleasant harvest; September was rather hotter than we would have liked, with the monthly average 3.4˚C higher than normal, but lovely blue skies persisted throughout. The warm days advanced grape maturation faster than expected and cooling the musts in the lagares was almost always necessary for each ferment.
Yields were absurdly low in 2018, with many of our vineyards producing 40% less than average. There are few that are less than 25% down on the norm. This was the second year in a row with dramatically low production and there was a desperate scramble for grapes, particularly from those with few vineyards. Prices for Douro wine grapes rocketed upwards, which is probably a very good thing, certainly for the farmers who have had a torrid few years. Hopefully the higher cost of grapes will correct the ridiculously cheap retail prices of some Douro wines that are seriously damaging the future of our region, putting us on a par with the world’s low-cost and high-yielding flat vineyards.
We produced some exceptionally good ports and wines which largely compensates the many difficulties mentioned above. At this stage it is easier to assess quality of the wines and these are of a very high quality. The Touriga Nacional yields were lower than expected although levels of ripeness were excellent. This variety has produced concentrated and structured wines however perhaps due to the excessive heat in September the aromas are not as lifted as in other years. We have had a solid week of Touriga Franca which have been exceptional in quality both aromatically and structurally, this variety has in many cases produced better wines than the Nacional this year.
Over the last three weeks we have had exceptionally good conditions for the final stage of ripening, which has been critical as due to the cycle being delayed only with conditions like this would we now be placed to have a high quality vintage. The vintage started this Monday at the majority of our properties and graduations have been generally at a desirable level between 13-14 baume. We have good colour and acidity and assuming the weather forecast is correct we are likely to have a well above average quality vintage.
Despite (and in part because of) the incredibly low yields we have made some excellent Ports and Douro wines in 2018. The Touriga Franca has been particularly good, having clearly enjoyed the hot final ripening period, and has delivered wonderful colour and particularly lifted aromas. The latter is not a normal characteristic of Franca but it will be very noticeable in our wines this year.
The Douro is accustomed to challenging conditions with low rainfall and high summer temperatures, but 2017 was even drier and hotter than usual (rainfall was 50% down on the 30-year average). It is a testament to the region’s well-adapted indigenous grape varieties that despite this, the vines would deliver a healthy and extremely high-quality crop.
Reasonable winter rainfall from October 2016 through to February 2017 created water reserves in the soil that were crucial in sustaining the vines through a long and very dry summer. Although hot conditions prevailed throughout the growing season, August temperatures were close to average and this was hugely beneficial to the vines after a spring and summer with no significant rain.
The start of the growing season in March saw a pronounced upswing in temperatures and a decline in rainfall. The vines, as though second guessing the dry conditions ahead, reacted from this early stage by reducing their water consumption. This resulted in less vigour and the development of smaller canopies and smaller berries. The warm and dry conditions had the further advantage of reducing the threat of vine disease.
Inevitably, given the year’s particular conditions, the harvest started early. It was the earliest start to a vintage ever recorded by many in the Douro and was the first time many picked red grapes for port in August. Very encouraging was the fact that graduations and phenolic development kept pace with each other through the final ripening stretch in August, and this paved the way for complete and balanced fruit ripening.
The decision to pick early was vindicated by the exceptional quality of the Touriga Nacional, most of which was picked during the first week of September; two to three weeks earlier than usual. Temperatures gradually became more moderate from September 10th, allowing the Touriga Franca to ripen to perfection, conserving excellent levels of acidity, mirrored in the freshness of the wines.
Yields were very low, between 500g and 1kg in many vineyards and these tiny yields were reflected in the incredible concentration and intensity of the fermenting wines in the lagares.
There are notable precedents in the Douro of hot and dry years producing wines that have become classics. The famous 1945, considered one of the greatest Vintage Ports, was produced following a dry growing cycle that closely resembles 2017 in terms of average temperatures, rainfall, yields and timing.
We finished harvesting our vineyards on 26th September, often the starting date of previous vintages. This has been a remarkable year but it is unlikely to be a one-off; there are clear indications that our future will increasingly be defined by climate change with higher temperatures and less rain.
Now that the dust has literally settled (the first rain for many months has just fallen) on our earliest ever harvest, we are pleased to report that the wines are very promising with purple-black colours and intense flavours. The unprecedented early start to the vintage (at least a week earlier than our previous earliest harvest and nearly three weeks earlier than in some years), has certainly been the right decision. We were picking grapes with good graduations and good phenolic ripeness, and the lagares looked very promising in terms of colour and structure.
Clearly the vintage in the Douro Superior is very much reduced due to the very low levels of rainfall throughout the year. It has not rained at riverside quintas in the Douro Superior since May. Last week we had an insignificant 2mm at Vesuvio and Senhora da Ribeira and not a single drop at Canais, Malvedos or Bomfim. Meanwhile there is no suggestion of rain forecast until the end of the month — not to mention maximum temperatures of 30-34ºC all through this week! We will in fact be finishing at many quintas on dates that would not be unusual to be starting!
In my 25 years as a winemaker in our family vineyards, I have never seen a year like 2017. The yields were extremely low, but the concentration and structure took my breath away. We have made some really remarkable wines.
The growing season that preceded the 2016 harvest consisted of a warm winter and cool spring — both exceptionally wet — followed by one of the hottest and driest summers on record. August saw two heatwaves during which weather stations recorded maximum temperatures above 40°C. The vines naturally slowed photosynthesis, resulting in the lowest sugar readings of the last 20 years by mid-August. Fortunately, much-needed rain arrived between 25th and 26th August where it was most required, namely in the Douro Superior. This rain during the critical ripening phase made all the difference in rebalancing the vines, putting maturations back on track and helping Baumés to progress.
The first week of September brought a heatwave with record-breaking temperatures above 40°C. Quinta do Bomfim registered the highest September temperature since records began with 43°C. The summer heat was mitigated by the abundant winter and spring rainfall which had provided enough moisture in the soil to sustain the vines. A late vintage was on the cards and patience was required to allow the vines to complete grape maturations at their own pace.
More welcome rain fell between the 12th and 14th September. Picking had just started when Charles Symington ordered a complete halt to allow the most prized grape varieties more time to reap the full benefit. Picking the Touriga Nacional was deferred for a second time from the 22nd and only resumed on the 26th. This timely rain was the decisive moment of the vintage, and the weather then continued benign, with beautiful warm, sunny days and cool nights. Further rainfall only returned on the afternoon of October 13th, the day after the last grapes were picked. The vintage could not have taken place under more perfect conditions.
The deciding factors in declared vintage years depend on a few critical factors such as rain just before the harvest and whether the best grapes are picked under ideal conditions. As a result, making great Vintage Port is equal parts skill and luck. The 2016 harvest in the Douro brought perfectly-timed rain that turned a good year into a great one. Fortunately, despite a challenging growing season and a much adjusted and delayed picking schedule, those producers with excellent vineyard knowledge and confident decision-making, were rewarded with spectacular Vintage Ports.
The weather throughout the vintage has been exceptionally good and this has allowed maturations to develop perfectly. Courage was needed to hold back on picking too soon. Many weren’t so patient and jumped the gun in my view. The lagares have given balanced Baumés and exceptional colour. The wines are wonderfully fresh and have great elegance as well as structure.
Picking as late as we did in 2016, knowing that we would still be harvesting late into October, was a very significant risk. To have subsequently worked through this entire period without a drop of rain and with warm sunshine, picking as and when we chose, was hugely gratifying. The wines are big, aromatic and balanced and it would surprise no one if 2016 was declared a Vintage.
Abundant rainfall marked the start of the viticultural year, replenishing depleted soil water reserves. This was to prove crucial due to the very dry winter, spring and summer that followed. The effects of the very dry winter were attenuated by below average temperatures. Conversely, the period between the start of the vegetative cycle and the initial stages of the ripening season (March to early July) was simultaneously the hottest and driest of the last 36 years. It was the hottest June of the last half-century.
Fortunately in the Douro Superior —usually the hottest and driest sub-region — rain came in May precisely when temperatures began to rise. Furthermore, it fell evenly, allowing the soil to gradually absorb the precious water at properties such as Quinta dos Canais, Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira and Quinta do Vesúvio, among others. This rain was of enormous benefit and helped sustain the vines during the very dry months of June and July. July and August were cooler than usual and the effects of the continuing drought were thus partially offset. The colder than usual August nights proved decisive in preserving the natural acidity in the berries. Encouragingly, in the run up to the vintage the crop was looking very healthy and the Touriga Franca looked especially promising.
In early September the grapes were in fine condition, although phenolic development was incomplete and there were signs of hydric stress due to the continuing absence of rain. The vintage started tentatively on September 8th, picking the vulnerable younger vines still in the hope that much needed rain would arrive to conclude the final ripening of the grapes. Although risky, Symington Family Estates head winemaker, Charles Symington decided to hold off picking the most valuable grapes. He noted: “we held back and on the morning of the 15th [September] a storm hit the Douro which lasted until early next morning, the skies then cleared and temperatures dropped to ideal ripening conditions…perfect! The vines responded to this miraculous rain and within 4 days the Touriga Nacional was transformed, skins having softened and flavours developed. At Canais, Vesúvio, Senhora da Ribeira, Malvedos and other quintas, picking resumed on the 21st and the Nacional was in fantastic condition and a week later the pickers moved on to the Touriga Franca, which was considerably advanced and showing great promise, possibly the most promising Franca I have seen.
“It is amazing how much difference 4 or 5 days can make. It is clear that this rain [Sept. 15th] was actually heaven sent and helped the unpicked grapes realize their full potential. Without it the final phase of maturation of the Touriga Nacional and especially the Touriga Franca would not have been ideal, as dehydration would certainly have occurred after such a prolonged period with no rain. That these 13 days, from 21st September to 4th October were key to the great Ports made this year, there is no doubt.”
After a mainly wet autumn, the winter was mild but very wet, with 44% more rainfall than normal. Although March was exceptionally dry, the accumulated rainfall by the end of the month was very close to average levels. Bud break was one of the earliest on record, having taken place 18 days sooner than average and April was exceptionally hot, with 31.9ºc registered at Pinhão. May was also hot and dry and flowering took place two weeks earlier than usual under favorable conditions. June showed considerable oscillations in temperature but thanks to vine development being two weeks ahead of normal with a well-developed canopy, the temperature spikes of the month did not damage the bunches. Maturation studies showed that sugar readings developed well at the end of August and beginning of September. Thanks to cool summer weather, acidity levels in the berries were ideal and everything pointed to an excellent vintage.
From what seemed like a perfect position to be in at the beginning of the vintage, the arrival of rain made for a challenging scenario. From September 7th, above-average rain fell in the Douro Superior and ten consecutive days of rain then followed throughout the valley between the the 14th and the 23rd. However in a region that is over 90km long with an average annual rainfall that varies from 1,000mm to 400mm, some very localized parts of the Douro were in fact much less affected and it was possible to make some very fine wines, particularly from Touriga Nacional grapes.
The relatively cool summer with balanced maturations was reminiscent of 2007. At the beginning of the vintage there was cause for optimism as the grapes displayed all the features of a very good year in the making: soft skins, full berries and balanced sugars and acidity. The Touriga Franca, was looking very promising. After picking some of the finest parcels of Touriga Nacional under mostly dry and sunny conditions, unsettled weather was to delay the conclusion of the Franca’s ripening cycle and consequently this variety did not quite fulfil its full potential. 2014 is thus very much a Touriga Nacional year.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this vintage was the pockets of the Douro that were less affected by the rain, highlighting the amazing diversity of microclimates of the region. Whereas very unsettled conditions were the norm during the harvest in most parts of the Douro, some localised parts of the valley were much less affected and this was particularly noticeable in areas of the Douro Superior such as Quinta dos Canais and other vineyards in the proximity. The wines made here were by far the best wines of the year. In such a diverse wine region it is certain some real gems will have been made as the grapes were in such lovely condition at the outset.
Good levels of rain fell throughout the last quarter of 2012 and both January and February 2013 were very wet. March had the heaviest rainfall for 12 years with 176 mm, more than three times the average, and serious damage was caused not only to the roads but also to the stone and earth terraces on which our vineyards are planted. In fact dangerous rock avalanches occurred, including one between Sabrosa and Pinhão that blocked the road for several hours, thankfully occurring when no vehicle was passing.
After two drought years with 40% less rainfall than average, this year’s winter rain was of the utmost importance, giving our vineyards an abundant supply of water. Many Douro vines are not irrigated and rely on the water retained in the schistous rock and soil. April at Bomfim was cool with an average 13.8°C compared to a mean of 15.0°C. May continued much cooler than average (16°C vs. 18.4°C), so the vine’s development was at least 10 days late by early June.
In June, July and August just 4.6mm of rain fell at Pinhão. This is effectively no rain for 12 solid weeks. Although these three months were only marginally warmer than average, the lack of rain was extraordinary.
The crucial month of September started with the maturation still some 10 days behind recent years, measured both by the technical analysis as well as by the traditional tasting of berries in the vineyards and the feel and look of the skins between fingers. Some important rain fell on the 5th September (14mm at Malvedos and 13 mm at Bomfim) which was most welcome. This was more rain in one day than had fallen in the previous three months.
Charles Symington and our viticulture team fixed the picking for Port at Vesuvio and at Senhora da Ribeira in the Douro Superior for the 19th September and for the 23rd at our other vineyards in the Alto Douro. These dates were based on several preceding weeks of careful assessment of grape maturity and the scene was set for an exceptional year. The picking for our Douro DOC wines had started several days earlier.
By the afternoon of Monday 23rd September, with the pickers already in the vineyards picking the Barroca and some other varieties, the long-rang forecast began to show Atlantic rainstorms coming into the Douro on the afternoon of Friday 27th, with wet weather predicted to persist for 6 days. By sunrise on Tuesday morning, Charles had changed the entire picking order that had been so carefully decided just a few days previously. All the pickers were asked to go immediately into the Touriga Nacional, Souzão and Vinha Velha vineyards. During the next 5 days, and in perfect sunny weather, some of the best grapes were picked and brought into the wineries. The lagares fermented during this period are really exceptional, with wonderful colour and aromas. Sure enough rain came in late on Friday, although sparingly in the eastern part of the valley. The unsettled weather persisted until Thursday 3rd, although on the Sunday and Monday there was no rain to speak of. We picked much of our Barroca and Roriz during these unsettled days and their tougher skins and higher Baumés did not suffer much. Some grape varieties did naturally register a drop in sugar readings at this stage, and in the lower-lying and more enclosed vineyards, careful work was needed by the pickers and on the sorting tables.
As from the 4th October, the fine dry weather returned, accompanied by a healthy wind that dried the vines and the top soil. In this phase our pickers started harvesting the Touriga Franca which gave excellent colour, with berries in very good condition. This was good news as Franca with its fragile skins, can be susceptible to excess moisture. An advantage of our steep Douro vineyards is that the land drains very well after rain,which prevents the damp earth from creating problems in the very ripe berries. Towards the end of the harvest, we returned to our higher vineyards of Touriga Nacional (300 to 450 meters up the valley sides). These grapes came into the wineries with very healthy 13° and 14° Baumés and the fine weather continued until the 13th October by which time all our best vineyards had been picked.
During 2012, up until the end of September, rainfall was 54% below the mean. When a vineyard receives just 217 mm in 9 months, which was the case of the Quintas around Pinhão, the consequences are to be feared. The first three months of 2012 were really concerning with just 16.4 mm falling over 90 days; there was no effective winter rain from 1st January until April (over 200 mm would have been normal). It seemed that the gods were against us, because we then had 128 mm in April and May, just when the crucial flowering and fruit set takes place. But the low bud-burst was what we needed; resulting in relatively low quantities of fruit so that the vines would have fewer bunches and berries to ripen.
July and August were relatively mild with average temperatures of exactly 23.7ºC in both months. The 21 year average for July is 25.0ºC and for August 25.3ºC. So these moderate temperatures had a profound and positive impact on the quality of the fruit and the wines. Charles Symington, responsible for winemaking at our Quintas, commented that this year showed beyond doubt that excess heat before the harvest is more concerning for our vineyards than drought.
Picking started some 10 days later than normal on the 13th September. The lead-up to picking had been complex, as Charles and his viticulture team analysed the relative ripeness of the different vineyards and grape varieties. The drought caused the ripening to follow a somewhat erratic pattern. Heavy rain came from the Atlantic and over the Marão on the 23rd September with 20mm and again on the 25th with a further 23mm. This rain brought far cooler nights and daytime temperatures. Charles decided to suspend picking at the top vineyards on the 29th and 30th in order to allow the vines to recover their equilibrium and to concentrate the sugars. This was a risky thing to do as the September equinox normally brings unsettled weather. The gamble paid off wonderfully and the Touriga Franca picked after the rains well into October, was harvested in perfect condition under clear skies and moderate temperatures. Yields were remarkably low with many vineyards in the Douro Superior recording drops of up to 40%.
Overall, it was a fairly unusual year and one where tensions ran high at times, but in the end, thanks to the low yields and relatively low temperatures during the summer the results were very good. As the wines were being trodden in the lagares there were signs of intensity, excellent colour and freshness in the musts.
The Douro grapes this year were in lovely condition, with small berries giving excellent colour and flavours and the musts looked really first-rate. Early tastings confirmed considerable acidity and freshness in the samples. Not all vineyards produced great wines as the drought caused some stress to the more exposed vines and to the drier parcels, but overall this year was a remarkable example of how our Douro vines can cope with drought, as long as it is not excessively hot.
The last few months of 2010 saw very heavy rain across the Douro, as well as occasional snowfall, and 2010 ended with total rainfall for the year well above average. This created the water reserves deep in the soil which were key to the progress and extraordinary success of the 2011 harvest, despite 2011 itself being a very dry year.
Meteorologically, 2011 was a roller coaster ride: cooler than average through March, hotter than usual in April and May, generally cooler again in June and July, a typical hot dry August and an absolutely gloriously clear, sunny and warm harvest period in September and early October. June did bring us an unfortunate surprise over the São João weekend, when temperatures spiked up well over 40ºC for two days only. Thin skinned grapes, particularly Tinta Barroca, suffered sunburn, effectively maturing and then turning the grapes into dried-out raisins within 48 hours, thus reducing the crop for affected varieties.
The average budburst date of 20 March was a few days earlier than average. In the unusual warmth of April and May the vines matured rapidly and flowering was on the 11th of May, one of the earliest in memory, almost two weeks ahead of average. Like flowering, pintor, the change of colour in the grapes, began much earlier than usual – as early as the 9th of July at Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha. In mid August, when we began our maturation studies, sugars were at good to high levels, with phenolic ripeness lagging a bit.
Every year the winemaking team hope for a little rain just before harvest to freshen the grapes and soften the skins after the hot dry summer and in 2011 we had our wish: on the 21st of August we received very welcome rainfall followed by cooler and cloudy weather until the 1st of September when a little further rain fell and was followed by sun and warm temperatures. This weather pattern was ideal to finalise the ripening of the grapes with the development of the phenolics, the flavour compounds, catching up and balancing the sugar levels nicely.
Whilst the remarkably early development of the vines and grapes suggested an early harvest, in light of the rainfall and the phenolic maturation of the grapes we took the risk of giving the grapes more time, and ultimately began harvest at or near our usual dates in mid September. Cockburn’s Quinta dos Canais began picking on the 8th of September, Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira and Quinta do Vesuvio on the 12th, Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos on the 15th and Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha on the 18th.
The Touriga Franca has ripened beautifully, with baumés of 13.5º to 14º, and the wines have fantastic colour. Altogether it’s looking pretty promising.
The 2011 Vintage Ports are characterised by an unusual combination of elegance with power and structure. Whereas “elegant” usually implies lighter-bodied, the 2011s have fantastic aromas and great elegance but are big wines – not an easy balance to achieve.
After three very dry years, the Douro had an absolute deluge during the winter of 2009/2010 . By the end of March 2010 we had had rainfall in excess of 100 mm per month for six straight months – a first since our records began in 1967.
We therefore entered the summer with good water reserves deep in the ground, which served us well. We had no rain at all in July and August, not one millimetre for more than 8 weeks, and in August the average daily temperature was over 35° C. The lush canopy of leaves which developed early in the season helped to shade the bunches, but vines cease to photosynthesise when temperatures are over 35° C, so maturation was slowed, though the vines showed surprisingly little stress, due to the winter’s water reserves.
Picking began a little later than usual, 13th September at Quinta do Vesuvio, the 16th at nearby Sra da Ribeira, Telhada and Vale Coelho, and also at Quinta do Tua, further down river. On the 20th we began picking at Malvedos, Bomfim and Retiro, and Cavadinha, as usual the outlier given its cooler position and higher altitude in the Pinhão Valley, began on the 23rd. There was near perfect weather throughout the harvest, a few dark clouds some afternoons but no real rain except the night of 3rd October.
It appears at the time of writing (some tanks are still fermenting) that the Touriga Franca, always a late ripener, has performed less well in some vineyards this year. Franca did not like the conditions in some areas, but in others it was very fine. But the excellence of the Nacional has more than made up for this.
The wait was well worthwhile, the Nacional musts being well balanced with good colour, producing wines with very elegant aromas
Third year in a row of drought in the Douro. Though by September we had had less than half the usual amount of rainfall, some of that fell in June which helped the vines develop good canopy for bunch shade. Luckily the summer began fairly cool and it was not till mid August that it warmed up, with a couple really hot spells (upper 30s to 40° C) in mid August and again around 9th/10th September. After that it cooled off again.
Harvest began about a week earlier than usual, Quinta do Vesuvio, Telhada, Vale Coelho and Senhora da Ribeira (all in the Douro Superior) on the 7th, Quinta dos Malvedos on the 14th, Bomfim 17th and Cavadinha on the 20th. The weather held well throughout the vintage, and only on the very last day at Cavadinha did we get the rain we had wanted all summer – all of it! 60 mm fell in just a few hours, which is more than we get most months.
Grapes were in generally good condition – no sign of any rot and only some showing the effect of the heat. Somes musts required cooling but they gave concentrated colours and aromas. Yields were substantially down as a result of both the drought and rigorous selection, by about a third in our own quintas.
Our challenging geography and our well-adapted grape varieties played decisively in our favour and fine Ports and wines were made from particular vineyards in some areas of the Douro. Barroca at about 450 metres was really excellent and enjoyed the dry weather at this altitude. Touriga Nacional had a great year in most places and showed how incredibly well adapted this vine is to the Douro climate. The late ripening Touriga Franca also performed very well.
Very little rain over the winter, but then a very wet and stormy April and May, which caused very poor fruit set. Luckily the summer was dry and cool, and although August was windy, it was not the hot, drying easterly winds from Spain, but a cool damp wind coming off the Atlantic up the Douro valley. So, although the vines were luckily not stressed, they were pretty backward in their development; our August maturation studies showed some of the lowest readings on record, according to Charles Symington, our head winemaker.
September arrived, and with it some much needed rain, followed by warm temperatures, over 30°, and Charles noted the rapid sugar accumulation in the grapes. Despite some rather terrible weather forecasts, we held our nerve and determined not to rush the Port harvest, but allow the grapes more time to mature. Although there were heavy showers in the western end of the Douro on the 21st and 22nd September, the weather then cleared off. Sun returned on the 23rd, the temperatures were very comfortably in the high 20°s every day, and barring one showery afternoon the weather was near perfect right through the end of our harvest on 15th October. On the 16th the heavens opened, but luckily all our grapes were in.
What has been produced looks extremely good, even grapes coming in at this stage from high lying areas are producing some impressive wines.
It remains to be seen how the wines will look next month and in December when we will have a good chance to assess them, but the first indications are very encouraging. It will not always be like this; last year and this we have been very lucky.
The grapes were in excellent condition and produced wonderful colour (soft and thin skins worked their magic, the result of the relatively cool ripening in July and August). Baumés were very good at 13.5° to 14.5° and the grapes had fine acidity and the musts gave good aromas.
A reasonable winter, with average to heavy rains in October, November, December and February, but a rather dry January, March and April. The winter was not unduly cold, very few frosts, and in March the weather was so good our teams were working in the vineyards in shirtsleeves. The fine weather held through April and well into May, bringing on the vines quite well, but later in May cool, overcast weather and some rain disrupted the fruit set. Cool weather and more rain delayed pintor (colour change) from the usual mid/late July into August.
On the other hand, because of the mild weather, polyphenolic development was good – temperatures over 35° actually cause the vines to shut down the work of ripening, but in the absence of that kind of heat, the vines carried on splendidly. At the very end of August we had just a bit of rain, which is nearly always welcome around that time, to soften the skins for harvest.
Picking started later than usual, at Warre’s Quinta de Telhada on the 10th September. Quinta do Vesuvio on the 14th. Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos started on the 17th and Dow’s Bomfim on the 24th. Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha, always one of the last to start harvesting due to its unique position, started on the 27th September.
The cool nights these last few weeks have been ideal for polyphenolic development, which reached unsually high levels as early as 20th August.
We are now reaching the final days of the vintage here at Quinta do Bomfim, it is another beautiful clear day with mild temperatures, we have become so used to this type of weather over the last 6 weeks that we have almost started to take this for granted. One feels very fortunate to have had near perfect conditions throughout this vintage allowing us to produce some very promising wines
A very good vintage has been completed in the Douro, this is likely to prove one of the exceptional years where the weather combines with the work of the viticulturists and the winemakers to produce some very special wines. There is no doubt that the Douro valley has produced some exceptional Ports and Douro DOC wines this year and their evolution in vat and cask over the coming months will be followed with great interest.
Good winter rains between December 2005 and April 2006, very welcome after the drought of 2004/5. Spring weather was generally good for budburst and fruit set, though strong winds disrupted fruit set in the higher vineyards. May was the hottest on record for 40 years, and June continued hot, till a freak hailstorm hit the Douro.
June got hotter until a very severe hailstorm hit some vineyards in the premium areas of the Pinhão and the Rio Torto valleys on the night of the 14th. In about 20 minutes of intense hail, several vineyards lost up to 30% or more of their crop. The vine leaves looked as if they had been blasted by shotgun pellets from a distance of a few yards. Many young and as yet green bunches of grapes were partially shredded. Fortunately the Douro is made up of many sharply contoured hills and valleys, consequently numerous vineyards were shielded from this onslaught and the storm only affected the above-mentioned areas, the rest of the Douro simply benefited from some timely rain.
July was also unpleasantly hot, the lowest maximum temperature recorded at Vesuvio all month was 37°. August began cooler and delivered some welcome rain mid-month, but unfortunately turned up the heat again after that, which held into September.
Charles set the picking dates at our easternmost vineyards, including Quinta do Vesuvio, for the 11th September. Graham’s Malvedos started on the 14th, at Warre’s Bom Retiro (in the Rio Torto) harvesting started on the 18th, at Bomfim on the 21st and at Cavadinha on the 25th September. Due to Atlantic hurricanes, we had some unsettled weather during the harvest, but what rainfall occurred was followed, most fortunately, by winds which came through the valley and dried the ripe bunches, so no real harm was done.
Baumés were good at between 12° and 13.5° and the grapes were generally in good condition although there was some raisining, a result of the hot summer weather. After the first very hot week cooling was not needed in the lagares at most of our wineries as the grapes were arriving at an ideal 20° to 21°C.
While the last fermentations are ending at the time of writing, it is clear that there are some very fine tanks and casks of Port and Douro DOC wines from the 2006 harvest amongst the total wine made this year. Overall it can be said that the average quality of wine made is reasonably good throughout the valley.
The winter of 2004/5 was extremely dry, less than half the 15 year average of rain fell. We had just 6 mm of rain in June and none at all in July and August and there was a plague of forest fires all over Portugal. Luckily, we had had a good flowering and fruit set in the spring, so yields were good, despite the drought – plenty of bunches, though the berries remained fairly small.
By the end of August the vines were showing signs of severe stress, and the decision was taken to start harvesting the younger (less than 5 year old) plantations, whose immature root systems make them particularly susceptible to water stress, beginning on 30th August at Vesuvio.
On the 6th and again on the 9th September we had steady rain for several hours, and picking was suspended to allow the rain to benefit the grapes. Thereafter, we enjoyed perfect weather with cool nights and heavy dew – it couldn’t have been better for harvesting.
While there are still grapes coming into the wineries, it is already clear that some very good wines have been made at the 2005 harvest in the Douro. The sugar graduations dipped for a few days after the rain before climbing steadily back to very satisfactory levels. The grapes filled out and the skins softened. The musts have very good deep purple-black colours and are giving very attractive aromas.
In summary, and with picking still taking place at our higher vineyards such as Quinta de Cavadinha, 2005 has proved once again the amazing ability of the vine to overcome very tough conditions.
October and November 2003 were very wet, but the balance of the winter and spring of 2003/2004 were very dry, with less than half the ten year average rainfall. Whilst bud burst and shoot growth were good, given warm dry, sunny conditions, the fruit set was lower than normal in May.
The vines were in excellent condition going into August, but we were concerned that the normally hot dry month would stress the vines. In the event, we received an extraordinary 77 mm of rain in August, versus an average of only 15mm over the prior 25 years. This was accompanied by relatively low temperatures, and ripening slowed dramatically.
Though we were concerned about the risk of rot if the rain were to continue, the grapes were just not ripe enough to make good Port, so we gambled and waited out the unsettled weather in early September. It paid off: we enjoyed 25 days of perfect harvest weather, with sunshine and temperatures around 30° C every day. When the weather finally broke on 9th October, all our grapes were safely in our wineries.
Yields were lower than average due to the very dry winter, but the colour of the musts in the lagares and the fermentation tanks was excellent. Cooling equipment was essential as our grapes were coming into our wineries on some afternoons at 24ºC and the fermentations would have been much too fast and too hot if we did not have equipment with which to cool the must. The grapes were in very good condition; Baumés were above average at about 13º.
Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional gave lower than average yields but gave fine concentrated musts. The Roriz and Barroca performed particularly well, the latter giving good yields as it was picked first, while the other varieties became more concentrated during the warm September weather.
With the 2004 Vintage Ports, we adopted a highly selective policy in the tasting room and chose only the best of the best. As a result we are bottling very small quantities of outstanding wines.
The 2004 Vintage Ports show intense deep purple-red colour, a factor that was strongly influenced by the August rains that softened the skins and allowed for better colour extraction. The nose is lifted and fresh, again thanks to the cooler August weather. The taste is rich, firm and with good acidity and fine peppery tannins. These wines are most attractive and will age extremely well.
The weather in the Douro has always been a key factor in the making of great Vintage Port. In 2003 the annual cycle of the vine was exceptionally good: very heavy rain fell from November 2002 into January 2003. Exactly 676 mm was recorded in Pinhão during this period, more than double the ten-year average; this was to prove of crucial importance later in the year.
Flowering took place under very good conditions during mid May, which turned out to be a particularly dry month. Rain fell on the 29th and 30th June and again on 15th July. Once again these heavy showers were to prove critical later.
Then came the famous “hot summer of 2003” – except for the Douro, where it was no hotter than usual. Temperatures rose to a maximum of 42ºC in Pinhão during the first few weeks of August. Persistent heat of this type results in the vine protecting itself by naturally closing down to prevent loss of moisture.
On the 27th and 28th August, 31 mm of rain fell at Pinhão with maximum temperatures of 26º. This rain was heaven sent and played a central role in the quality of the fruit harvested a few weeks later. Perfect ripening weather followed.
Those planning a very early vintage were wise to put off the starting dates to allow the humidity to benefit the fruit. The weather cleared and warm and dry weather continued virtually unchanged throughout the picking which began in mid-September.
Due to the excellent ripening conditions throughout all of September, baumés were high and fruit arrived at the wineries in perfect condition. However, the warm weather meant the temperatures of the grapes coming into the wineries were high, particularly in the afternoons. Those wineries without cooling equipment were in some difficulty, with fermentation temperatures going well beyond sensible levels if the wine was not drawn off early.
2003 was clearly a Touriga Vintage, the heat resistant Nacional enjoying the conditions, giving baumés of around 14º with balanced acidity. The wines are dark, concentrated and elegant in aroma. The Franca, a typically late ripening variety greatly benefited from the warm and dry weather in September achieving excellent baumés of 13-14º in most Quintas. The Barroca in some of the south facing slopes of the Upper Douro suffered with the heat, as might be expected; although overall the variety achieved a high level of phenolic ripeness producing classic powerful and robust wines.
Yields were a little lower than had been predicted in June/July due to the summer heat, but there is no doubt that some classic Ports were made in the Douro in 2003.
It is rare to have such good weather and the grapes in such good condition. Baumés were not too high and acidity levels were normal, both clear proof that we had not had excessive heat. Yields were very low as is the norm for the Douro. Barroca made well-structured wines, particularly from the meia-encosta vineyards. The Nacional and Touriga Franca performed particularly well, giving wines with lifted aromas, powerful colour and ripe tannins.
The winter of 2001/2002 was very dry in the Douro, with records at Pinhão showing a rainfall between November and March 30% less than normal. The clear weather meant warm sunny days were followed by very cold nights, and the extreme fluctuations led to a later than normal budburst. April frost damaged some higher vineyards and reduced crops.
The summer was dry but mild, with an average temperature of only 34 C in August. The vines weathered the summer surprisingly well, due to these mild temperatures, and a generally high level of water reserves from the previous wet winter. Heavy showers in late August were perfect to bring the fruit along, with grapes swelling, sugar readings rising and skins softening.
Picking began fairly early, between 9 and 12 September with the grapes looking exceptionally good. Unfortunately, the fine dry weather broke and between 15 and 21 September we had heavy showers. Thereafter, conditions improved. The vintage was average to small in size, with higher lying vineyards affected by the April frost.
The early made wines, which thankfully are from the best vineyards, escaped the damage done by the rain. However towards the end of the month it was clear that the weather was taking the edge off what could have been a really excellent vintage. There are undoubtedly some very good wines made in the first phase of the harvest.
The winter of 2000/2001 was one of the wettest ever, with five months of heavy rains – at Pinhão the rainfall was double the average for the period. The Douro broke its banks in Porto six times and there was considerable damage upriver in vineyards and on roads.
The mild winter temperatures resulted in an early budburst but cool spring weather brought flowering on at the usual time in good conditions in May, and we looked set for a larger than usual harvest. Extreme heat in June put paid to that expectation in lower lying areas, however, as young bunches were exposed to heat and sun without a mature canopy to protect them. The balance of the summer was pleasant, with useful rainfall.
Picking began between the 17th and 21st September in most quintas, though Cavadinha, with its higher elevations, held back until 5 October. Fruit was in excellent condition with Touriga Nacional and Touriga Francesa particularly coming in at perfect maturity. Baumés were high, 13.5 in many cases. Robotic lagares were used for the first time at Senhora da Ribeira and for the second year at Malvedos and proved their worth, particularly in the ability to evenly cool the temperature of the fermenting musts during hot Douro days.
Fruit was in excellent condition with Touriga Nacional and Touriga Francesa particularly coming in at perfect maturity. Baumés were high, 13.5 in many cases. Robotic lagares were used for the first time at Senhora da Ribeira and for the second year at Malvedos and proved their worth, particularly in the ability to evenly cool the temperature of the fermenting musts during hot Douro days.
The 2001 wines are looking extremely promising, with the best wines showing excellent colour and structure.
The winter was exceptionally dry with virtually no rain from October 1999 to the end of February 2000. There were bright blue skies day after day and temperatures were very mild. Consequently this led to an early budburst. However, cool and wet weather set in during April and the rains persisted into May, registering three times the normal average rainfall. This slowed down vine development and flowering was delayed into May.
Flowering took place under continued very wet conditions leading to very poor fruit set. This set the scene for one of the smallest harvests in many years.
During June ideal dry weather conditions prevailed. July and August saw some useful showers although the summer wasn’t one of extreme heat and as such vine development towards the end of August was slightly behind normal. September began with an unusually hot period, leading to a rapid advancement in maturity. When the harvest started the fruit was in excellent condition, the grapes looking slightly “raisined” as good Port grapes should.
It had been many years since so many of the quality indicators have been present in any one year, namely the excellent fruit quality, high sugar readings, ideal weather throughout picking, very low yields, purple colours already apparent from the beginning of fermentation, wonderful aromas from the musts and the low juice to skin ratio.
Fermentations took place under near ideal conditions, no cooling being required, in fact a little heating was needed due to quite cool nights. The ideal fermentation temperatures produced wonderfully aromatic musts.
It has been some years since we have seen such tremendously concentrated and robust wines.
I think 2000 will produce very good wines in spite of the earlier weather (spring) conditions not being ideal. The small crop with the wonderful weather conditions during summer resulted in very ripe and perfect fruit.
The winter of 1998/1999 was exceptionally cold and dry. A late budburst was followed by a wet April and early May, delaying flowering until late in the month, however conditions were then very favourable.
June and July were warm and dry, though the effects of the dry winter were seen in the slow development of the vines. Miraculously, three days of steady rain arrived in early August which had a beneficial effect on berry size and colour. Thereafter the month continued dry with some more useful rain in the first week of September.
Vintage began generally around 20th September but at the same time unsettled weather set in, with 12 days of intermittent rain, some quite heavy. Only the Douro Superior escaped this weather pattern. Luckily temperatures were cool so there was little if any rot. Madalena, in the Rio Torto and Sra da Ribeira in the Douro Superior held off until the 30th September and Cavadinha in the Pinhão valley began on the 1st October, so enjoyed fine dry conditions for their harvests.
The grapes came in quite cool and with high Baumés, so most quintas reported slow fermentations and, in the time-honoured phrase, the lagares “took a lot of work.” Three of the new robotic lagares were in use during this harvest and attracted a lot of visits from curious neighbouring wine makers.
The overall quality is looking extremely encouraging with strongly aromatic and dark wines produced – an excellent sign at this stage.
After a short, sharp winter the Douro ‘enjoyed’ an uncharacteristically hot and dry February and March; by late March vine shoots were already 30 cm in length. April and May, however, were extraordinarily wet and cool, with frost in higher lying areas. The result of this pattern was poor fruit set and one of the smallest vintages in living memory. June was mercifully mild and July and August hot and dry as they should be, and the grapes had achieved perfect ripeness in many areas.
The harvest began around 21 September and the first Baumés were promising. Sadly, the weather broke and the harvest continued in wet conditions, reducing Baumés. Senhora da Ribeira was one quinta to start early, 14 September, and complete their harvest before the rains set in, and Cavadinha, as usual, began quite late on the 1st October, also missing the rains and harvesting in fine conditions.
Although still very early to assess quality, wines produced are aromatic and of good colour and should develop well. 1998 will undoubtedly be remembered for producing one of the smallest harvests in the Douro this century.
An unusual viticultural year. Very cold in January with heavy snowfalls covering the region, even in the river quintas, which is a rare sight. But in early February conditions changed drastically with average temperatures in February and March 4° C above normal, as high as 30° C and no rainfall. This provoked a budburst some 15 days earlier than usual and rapid development of vines, with flowering taking place nearly a month earlier than in 1996.
In April and May the weather became much cooler and we had heavy rains. These affected flowering and fruit set in some higher vineyards, but ultimately were to stand in very good stead later in the summer.
Although the rains ceased, the cooler temperatures persisted though to mid-August. Only in the final stages of maturation from mid-August and throughout September did we finally experience high temperatures, sometimes reaching 40° C, This extremely hot period was accompanied by some very welcome rainfall on the 24th and 27th of August, refreshing the grapes at an opportune moment.
This ideal final ripening period proved decisive to the outstanding quality of the year, and ensured the grapes were in excellent condition and at peak maturity with sugar readings on average an optimum 13 Baumé.
Picking began on 18th September at Vesuvio, on the 22nd at the river quintas in the Cima Corgo, and at Warre’s Cavadinha on 29th September. Harvest took place in dry conditions and although yields were low, it was soon apparent that great wines were being born, due to the intensely fragrant and concentrated musts and the enormous amount of colour visible during fermentation.
From a winemaking point of view this year was extremely straightforward. The quality of the grapes was good with generally high graduations and little or no rot to be seen. The temperature of the grapes on arrival in the winery was between 18-20° C and therefore little cooling or heating was required in most cases.
This was a year of low yields in the vineyards and it would seem, although it is early to say, that it was also a year of low juice extraction in the presses. What was particularly striking this year was the amount of colour produced during fermentation.
After one of the wettest winters on record and flooding on the Douro, spring and summer were mild, and flowering and ripening took place under near perfect conditions. The mildness continued throughout the summer, however, making for quite a late harvest in order to achieve ripeness. Harvest took place under warm and dry conditions, with cool nights.
Harvest began at Vesuvio 16 September, the river quintas in the Cima Corgo began picking between the 23rd and 26th September and Cavadinha, as usual the late outlier, did not commence harvest until 8 October.
Grapes were vintaged in a healthy state and little or no rot was to be seen. The wines varied but the overall quality was good, improving consistently as the Vintage progressed. Towards the middle and end of the vintage some excellent wines were made.
What is particularly noticeable about the wines is that they are very aromatic and well balanced, although the colour and structure is not as impressive as in the last two years. This was partly due to the large yields achieved in the Douro this year, provoked by the very wet winter.
What is particularly noticeable about the wines is that they are very aromatic and well balanced, although the colour and structure is not as impressive as in the last two years. This was partly due to the large yields achieved in the Douro this year, provoked by the very wet winter.
The viticultural year began auspiciously with a good wet winter. March and April brought fine and unseasonably hot weather, which caused an early and prolific budding and considerable early growth. Unfortunately this came to an end with a sharp cold snap, even some severe frosts which adversely affected the flowering on the highlands.
Mid May through July were relatively mild, and intense heat really only set into the Douro in August, with many days around 35°C, and even some up to 40°C, and temperatures remained high through early September. The heatwave was causing some anxiety about the condition of the grapes, and a few farmers panicked and began picking as early as late August.
Those who waited were rewarded. The weather broke on 5 September with over an inch of rain falling in the Cima Corgo over the course of three days. Grapes picked after the rain made substantially better wines: slightly desiccated grapes swelled with the additional moisture and skins softened, allowing for better extractions of flavour and colour. From the 10th September the weather was dry, clear and sunny with cool nights, ideal for harvest. All the top quintas had finished by 26th September, the harvest on each having lasted about two weeks.
All our finest Quintas, Vesuvio, Graham’s Malvedos, Warre’s Cavadinha and Dow’s Bomfim, have produced excellent wines. Sugar readings were exceptionally high throughout the Douro and thus remarkably rich wines have been made. Bouquet and flavour are outstanding and colour is magnificent in all but the wines made earliest.
The rains that marred the 1993 harvest continued throughout the winter of 1993/94, with only one brief period of respite in December. Total rainfall was double the aver- age for the period, but after three very dry winters in a row, this was actually quite welcome.
Spring weather was warm, rapidly bringing on the development of the vines, but just a bit unsettled, with rain in May affecting the flowering, leading to a relatively small crop. Conditions through the summer were good, not much excessive heat and only enough rain to be beneficial. By early September, after one last light rain to swell and freshen the fruit, the grapes were in perfect condition and free of any disease.
Harvest took place under ideal conditions: warm, mostly sunny days and cool nights. Start dates were: Bomfim 16th September, Vesuvio 19th, Malvedos 21st, with Cavadinha, as usual, starting latest of all on the 29th. Quinta do Vesuvio, in the Douro Superior, typically begins roughly a week before the Cima Corgo quintas, but winemaker Peter Symington decided to delay picking well beyond the traditional starting date in order to produce even more concentrated wines.
The grapes were in an excellent state of maturity, the musts had magnificent colour and bouquet. Sugar readings were very good, as high as 14.9°.
The winter of 1991/92 was one of the three driest in Portugal since records have been kept. Producers and shippers became anxious as the vines survive the long dry summers of the Douro by drawing on underground water reserves created by winter rains. A little rain fell in May and June, but the flowering took place successfully in dry conditions.
Although August was not as hot as usual, the vines, particularly young ones, were showing signs of stress.Tremendous thunderstorms on the 7th and 8th of August and another three days of rain at month end made for very high rainfall for an August: 2.76 inches. The rains helped swell the grapes and soften the skins and maturation proceeded favourably, with the grapes in excellent condition for harvest.
Picking began in mid-late September, and some further rain late in the month was not helpful to those who were still harvesting. At Malvedos, in the heart of the Cima Corgo, harvest started on the 17th and finished on the 27th. Vesuvio started on 14th September, Bomfim 21st and Cavadinha on 28th.
In general the fermentations have shown excellent colour and nose. The grapes have been in good condition although yields were 20% below those achieved in 1991. This is not surprising considering the dry winter. There has been some uneven ripening due to the winter drought, but in general it can be said that some very good wines have been made. Fermentations showed excellent colour and nose, and grapes were in good condition, though yields were down.
In general the fermentations have shown excellent colour and nose. The grapes have been in good condition although yields were 20% below those achieved in 1991. This is not surprising considering the dry winter. There has been some uneven ripening due to the winter drought, but in general it can be said that some very good wines have been made.
15 October 1992
The wines look extremely even and well balanced with an excellent purple colour. It will be interesting to see in a few months time whether the best 1992s will show as well as the top 1991s which are looking splendid.
A good wet winter (much needed) followed by a dry spring and a hot dry summer. By mid-August the grapes were looking a bit shrivelled, however in the second half of the month there was heavy dew at night which enabled the grapes to swell to normal proportions despite the lack of rain. Some rain fell on the 11th and 12th September which interrupted picking for a few hours, but wind soon dried the grapes. Otherwise, harvest conditions were excellent
Picking began at Vesuvio on the 9th September, Malvedos on the 11th (at temperatures of 40° C), Bomfim 16th, and Cavadinha and Rio Torto Valley 25th. Yields were lower than average. What was lacking in quantity, however, was made up in quality and concentration of colour and aromas as well as excellent sugar levels in the musts. The cooler weather during picking forced certain producers to heat the must slightly in order to start the fermentations. However, it became very apparent that some classic wines were being made.
The depth and quality of colours and aroma this year is perhaps the best since 1985, with great intensity and a purple hue. In general grapes contained little juice, thus the skin to juice ratio during fermentation was high, giving rise to highly coloured and tannic wines.
There is no doubt that the 1991 vintage in the Douro has produced some excellent wines… the depth and quality of colour and aroma this year is perhaps the best since 1985 with great intensity and a deep purple hue.
It was apparent during the vintage that the 1991 wines will be excellent and may well prove to be exceptional. The grapes were in good condition and free from disease; colour and aroma during fermentation were both very good indeed. Tannin levels are also good and it seems that overall the wines will be very well balanced.
Rainfall for the year up to the time of harvest was only about half the average, but what did fall came at nicely spaced intervals throughout the spring and early summer. Budding was heavy and led everyone to expect a large crop.
There followed an exceptionally hot summer and the grapes seemed to shrivel before they had even ripened. Rain finally arrived 21st August and further rain in early September brought cooler weather; by mid September temperatures finally dropped below 30° C for the first time in almost two months. The rain allowed the grapes to swell and ripen fully. Grapes were uniformly healthy from start to finish, without a trace of mould or rot to be seen.
Harvest at Cavadinha began on 21st September.
The Douro 1990 Vintage can be summed up in just four words – production, enormous – quality, excellent. The 1990 Vintage has probably favoured not so much the very early starting quintas, but those whose grapes were picked from the third week of September onwards; however, overall quality promises to be good to excellent.
The winter of 1988/89 provided only about half the average rainfall, however the vines matured nicely, helped by a bit of rain from occasional thunderstorms through late July. But severe heat in late July and August – as much as 42° C in the shade at Pinhão for four days running – caused some vine stress.
With no rain forecast and grapes now starting to dry rather than mature, the decision was made to begin harvest around 7 September in the more advanced areas. On the 8th and 9th September heavy rain did fall in the Cima Corgo, but very little east of Tua. Quinta dos Malvedos, near Tua, reported only “a little rain” on the 8th and 9th. The vines responded well to the rain and the perfect harvest weather which followed and grapes picked after those dates showed much higher sugar content and gave greater yields.
The main crop of Upper Douro grapes has produced wines of excellent quality, dark, full-bodied yet with attractive freshness. And the always more backward quintas lying at higher altitudes, and the whole of the lower Douro and “Altos” have undoubtedly produced wines this vintage of outstanding quality for their districts.
The wines look very good and every single grape was in perfect condition except for a very few which showed signs of passa (raisinning) due to the great heat. No disease at all was in evidence.
Spring and early summer were characterised by exceptionally bad weather, exemplified by the record at one unfortunate quinta: a production of only 4 pipes versus an average of 130, as a result of mildew, desavinho (abortion of flowering and fruit set, usually due to adverse weather at the time of flowering) and finally hail.
The summer was relatively cool and approaching harvest in late August the vines were fairly backward, but from 5 September a scorching heat wave set in. In Porto shade temperatures were as high as 38° C, extraordinary for a city on the Atlantic coast. In the Douro temperatures were 40° C and more, 42° C recorded officially near Pinhão and 45° C on the verandah at Quinta dos Malvedos. Temperatures did not drop to more normal levels (30° C) until 12 September.
However uncomfortable it was for people in the Douro, the grapes responded well to the heat and caught up their maturation.
Picking began 22 September in Rio Torto, Pinhão and near Tua, and by 26th picking was in full swing throughout.
Colour seems good, and initial impressions are that the quality of what little wine will be made this year, should be very reasonable, and certainly much better than had been feared only a month ago.
The quinta [Malvedos] produced only 54 pipes when we had hoped for 130 or so. Throughout the Douro production is tiny compared to normal years. For instance in the Vale de Vilariça Cockburn’s had only 20 pipes when they usually have about 300.
Winter provided less than half the average rainfall, but in the spring the vines seemed to set an extraordinary quantity of bunches, with little loss during the flowering period in May. But from mid-June the region “enjoyed” three exceptionally hot and rainless months, with only a couple brief thunderstorms that had little impact on overall conditions. By early September the vines were heavily laden with small bunches of distinctly dried up grapes. Because of the dry winter, there was less leaf cover than usual, which led to some “sunburn.”
Harvest began in the Douro Superior around 7th September, quintas near Tua began on the 14th and by the 18th the picking was in full swing across the region, in hot dry conditions, with temperatures around 38° to 40° C. On the 21st, however, the weather broke with strong winds and rain. There followed a generally overcast, warm and showery three or four weeks, with only a few days of clear sun at the very end of September. As Paul Symington’s harvest report observed, “Apart from the discomfort of picking from wet vines, and general mud and slush under foot, the continued damp weather has proved to be of very positive benefit to the very dried up bunches of grapes.” The rain softened the hardened skins of the grapes which swelled with the moisture and the quality of the musts improved day by day, with the grapes generally arriving in healthy condition.
Sugar readings were high – mostly around 14° at Malvedos – but production was low: 820 kilos of grapes to produce one pipe of must (normally this figure would be around 750 kilos).
While it would appear that the early made wines – picked before 21st September – will need careful watching owing to the dried up state of the grapes and high fermenting temperatures, the vast bulk of the 1987 Douro Port vintage looks extremely promising, and certainly well above average quality wines have been made throughout the region.
Fine, very dark wines have been made. Perhaps due to the extreme heat during ripening the wines are a little lacking in aroma but they are extremely intense.
Apart from a little rain in late June, drought conditions prevailed until 10 September, when it began to rain, at times very heavily, only clearing after the 23rd. The rain was succeeded by perfect vintage weather – fine hot sunshine, temperatures no more than 32° C and cool autumnal nights.
Zimbro and Malvedos quintas, near Tua, began picking on Monday 22nd September in damp conditions, Bomfim and most of the Rio Torto quintas startded on the 25th. Upper Douro quintas showed sugar graduations of 12° – 14° and better than expected yields, with very healthy bunches; thankfully no rot or mould despite the mid-month rainfall.
Concerning the likely quality of the 1986 Port Wine vintage, it can safely be said that the upper Douro has produced good sound wines of above average quality and yields everywhere were surprisingly high. It is unlikely, however, that any great quantity of really outstanding Port has been produced this year.
We have vinified different grape types separately on an experimental basis and it will be interesting to see how these develop.
1985 was a model year for the growth of the vines. A wet winter followed by a moderate spring led into an extremely warm June and a hot July and August.
Harvest took place under perfect weather conditions, and the fermentations went well also. From the very start shippers were predicting outstanding wines.
Heavy rain since early November, looks like the first wet winter for four years.
It rained throughout this cold and wintery Easter weekend: vines now two weeks behind-hand. Snow reported from Serra da Estrela.
Never can the grapes have been gathered under better weather conditions than this 1985 vintage now in its last stages. 1985 Vintage will surely prove outstanding. What a pity that only 95,000 pipes were “authorised” this year. All in all, we have every reason to be extremely pleased with the 1985 vintage which has undoubtedly produced well above average quality wines throughout the region.
Normal rainfall during the winter was followed by a cold wet spring, and summer not really starting until June. The first three weeks of September were fine, hot and dry, but on 28th September the temperature dropped sharply and it rained heavily. Within 24 hours the sun returned, but temperatures never recovered to pre-rain levels. Heavy rain on 3/5th October, picking temporarily suspended, then good weather through to 18 October.
The vintage started on 17 September at Quinta dos Malvedos in the Cima Corgo, in fine weather with cool nights. Sugar graduations from 12.5° to 14°. Elsewhere, Bomfim and Rio Torto quintas started between 24 and 27 September.
The made wine looks very nice and has a very nice rich purple colour.
Here at Bomfim … the greater majority should prove to be well above average in quality.
Vineyard development through the spring was a bit backward, but this proved an advantage when damp cold weather arrived in May. Had the vines been more forward they might have suffered far more desavinho (abortion of flower and fruit set) than they in fact did. Towards the end of August there was some concern that the vines were still generally two to three weeks behind in their maturity.
September, however, was exceptionally hot and sunny, and the grapes came on wonderfully, and the month finished with exactly the kind of showers needed towards the end of the growing season to freshen the grapes.
Harvest started in the Pinhão and Rio Torto valleys in early October, with grapes at perfect ripeness and high sugar readings and the weather continued dry and hot throughout the harvest period, to the end of October.
No rain for weeks and very cold. We were surprised to wake up on the morning of the 11th to find it snowing and the ground covered with a light fall, it had not snowed at Bomfim for 12 years.
Just when it seemed summer had at last arrived – 32° C on Saturday – heavy rain fell on Sunday 5th and during the night… Vines here flowering and good, hot dry weather badly required.
Few coloured bunches even here at Bomfim, and development continues some three weeks or more behind normal for this time of year. 1983 will certainly be a very late vintage.
As foreseen, a very late starting vintage. Quantity will be down everywhere, quality uneven tho’ this present hot, fine September weather will have been of great help to the general backwardness of all areas in the Douro.
Sugar graduations in the Upper Douro were on average at least 1.5 degrees higher than last year… our own impression is that certainly above-average wines have been made throughout the Upper Douro and we are sure that some will prove to be outstanding… the fresh nose of the fermenting musts was most noticeable and reminded one to the similar lovely fermenting nose of the 1977s and 1980s… the overall production of the Douro region is some 20-25% down on last year.
Some frost damage in early May in fringe areas, otherwise by end August vineyards looking very healthy.
No rain from early June until 28th August. Heavy rain that weekend had such great effect that then-current estimates for the harvest start date were brought forward 10 to 14 days! This was followed by excessive heat (38° in the shade at Pinhão) and rather oppressive thundery conditions in the first half of September.
Picking in Rio Torto and Pinhão started generally 13 September, with the grapes in perfect condition and graduations of 13° to 14°. From 16 September temperatures dropped into the upper 20° s and although the weather continued a bit unsettled sugar levels remained high. The first few days of harvest, before the temperatures broke, grapes were coming into the lagares at 28°-29° – leaving not much room for working the wines before reaching the “danger” level of 31° . After 16 September fermentations proceeded at much more ideal temperature conditions. On 10 October bright sunshine and warmer temperatures returned for the last few days of the harvest.
The 1982 Vintage has certainly produced wines of above average quality from every point of view…
There can be no doubt that taken as a whole and across the whole spectrum of qualities from the Upper to the Lower Douro, the 1982 Vintage has certainly produced wines of above average quality from every point of view, including that of a very considerably above average sugar content of the grapes, thanks to the very welcome rain that fell throughout the whole district over the weekend of the 28th/29th August … which allowed the grapes to swell and the juice to convert into a higher degree of sugar than has been seen for several years.
Spring was very wet, the weather only became warmer at the start of summer. Flowering in the Douro was generally rather poor resulting in lower yields than usual. Temperatures rose substantially as the summer progressed which greatly helped a generally difficult year. A little rain fell just before harvest in late September.
Sugar readings tended to be rather low due to the variable growing season, however the heat during the vintage ensured a good start to fermentation and wines with plenty of good colour were produced.
Unusually early spring with hot sunshine and 20° C in shade, and vines already budding. This is much too early, and we may well pay for this later on.
Overcast and very muggy weather. Temperatures 34° C at 8pm… vines looking nice and have evidently caught up nicely having been rather behind-hand before.
Yields were surprisingly high… Temperatures were high and some lagares had to be drawn off before repisa (re-treading) when they approached 30° C… colour seemed excellent and the musts smelt fresh and most attractive… reminded one of 1977. 27 September – 8 October 1980
From a price/purchasing angle this vintage has been completely calm and free from the tensions and speculative fever… But with the price of brandy almost double that of last year… the cost price of a pipe of 1980 Port will stand at 22-25% above that of a pipe in 1979… from a quality point of view the prospects are excellent and a good stock of young, good quality full-bodied Port wine is now in existence.
Very wet winter and spring followed by a dry hot summer and no rainfall from late June until 18th September.
Picking began at Bomfim on the 24th, with fine weather holding till 5th October. A few unsettled days, and clear again from 8th October on. Yields everywhere very high.
Bad weather in spring and early summer which lead to desavinho (abortion of flowering and fruit set), followed by a drought which lasted from 25 June to 8 October, with intense heat in the first few weeks of September.
Picking started at Bomfim and Rio Torto on 28 September and yielded sugar graduations of 12°-13°.
Musts showed exceptional colour and body and very dark heavy wines have certainly been made. Not a trace of mould or rot was to be seen on the grapes coming in, and seldom can a Vintage have been made from more uniformly healthy grapes.
Except one brief spell in July, extraordinarily cool and unsettled weather the entire summer, flowering in June marred by desavinho (abortion of flowers and poor fruit set). By late August development in best areas was behind, but up in “Altos” late by as much as 3 to 4 weeks.
The first fortnight of September was hot and dry, which was an immense help to the vines. This was followed by some beneficial rain and prospects for the vintage improved substantially.
Quinta das Lages in the Rio Torto started picking on the 26th September, Zimbro (near Tua) 27th, Bomfim the 28th, the Rio Torto generally on the 29th and up in the “Altos” picking started as late as 10 October. Two days of rain interrupted picking on the 7th and 8th October, but little harm was done to the grapes, and there after, though cooler, the weather was clear. Grapes continued to come into Bomfim as late as 30th October. Graduations were on the low side but the colour and flavour was excellent.
A very hot two weeks (35-36° C daily) with little or no wind has had a dramatic effect on the wines: at Bomfim sugar testing on 1st September gave 10.5 – by 8th it had risen to 11.5 and is now over 12. If the hot weather holds, the prospects for a good quality Vintage are much improved.
Overall wine production in Portugal is some 50% down on average, and the quality too, not outstanding, but in the Douro we have been fortunate and certainly good average wines have been made, and it is thought a few outstanding lotes (batches) will emerge.
Following the driest winter on record there was a total drought throughout the summer, until the end of August. Very low production.
All districts began picking nearly simultaneously between 23rd – 27th September and the harvest was a very short 2 1/2 weeks (4 to 5 weeks is more typical). The vintage period was characterised by very cool temperatures – only 20° – 22° C – and rain.
The main characteristic of this vintage has been very low production from all Quintas and very low yields from the grapes themselves in the lagares.
In spite of the rain, graduations were uniformly high and the colour of all wines excellent. 1976 will certainly turn out to be a year of dark, full bodied Ports but possibly lacking in ‘freshness’ – this quite understandable after such an exceptionally dry year.
The summer of 1975 was long, hot and dry. By late August development was looking pretty backward due to the lack of rain. It rained heavily in early September and prospects for quality appeared excellent. It became quite hot again, with just a little more rain at the end of the month, which cleared away on the 30th, and then continued hot and dry for the remainder of the vintage.
Harvest began 29th September in Rio Torto and 6th October elsewhere. Graduations were lower than expected however musts showed very well.
Musts everywhere showed excellent colour, body and flavour and fermentations were at an excellent 23° to 26° C. The quality of the grapes coming in was uniformly high and the continued hot fine weather increased the graduations. Some outstanding and maybe even ‘Vintage Worthy’ ports have been produced in the Upper Douro.
A summer long drought ended with a short period of rain in early September, which was followed by fine weather.
Picking dates were set for 25th September for Bomfim, Rio Torto, Senhora da Ribeira and other best districts. Cool, overcast weather arrived on the 21st with some showers, but early picked quintas were not affected. Although this pattern continued throughout the vintage, luckily there was no rot.
Sugar readings generally low, fermentations were cool, musts showed excellent colour, freshness and flavour. Yields were low, some quintas reporting their lowest on record.
Those wines made during the early part of the Vintage from the best Quintas, though in very short supply, show great promise and could well prove to be very well balanced and outstanding in quality.
The first two months of the year were rainy but the weather turned even cooler as well as dry in March. After a warm April the weather was ideal until rain fell in early September.
The grapes were in excellent condition when picking began at Bomfim, Zimbro, Madalena and Lages on the 21st September, Sra da Ribeira on 24th, and Bom Retiro on the 30th. Harvest began in excessive heat – 34° to 35° C in the shade. From the 26th the weather continued fine but a little cooler particularly at night, which greatly helped the fermenations, and only on 7 October did the weather break and a few clouds appear. It rained on 8 and 9 October, heavily in Régua but only slightly at Pinhão, after which the weather cleared again.
The extreme heat at the beginning of harvest made for some very high temperatures in the lagares, so fermentations were rapid but colour was nevertheless excellent. Initially graduations were not particularly high, but due to the hot weather there was a certain amount of passa (slighly drying of the grapes) so that sugar readings often rose after fermentation started. With the cooler weather after the 26th fermentations were steadier and colour continued to be outstanding. After the rain on the 9th October the lagares were actually very cold and took an exceptional amount of work – at some wineries there were lagares that had four days and four nights of work.
Thunder showers these last few days have amounted to several hours steady rain, very welcome and ideal providing it now clears. Prospects in the better districts for good quality and average yield.
It is unlikely that the early high fermentation temperatures will prove to have been dangerously high and it is likely that the 1970 wines will prove to be quite outstandingly good. Their colour is exceptional and very purple and they seem to have plenty of body. Everybody seems delighted with the 1970s and it would surprise nobody if the year produced a Vintage.
Dry, hot summer, no rain whatsoever in June and July, and only a little in August and September.
On the whole, 1968 should have produced good, stout wines, with reasonable to good colour and fine graduations. We can look forward to our December Tastings of the young wines with confidence. The ‘middle quality’ districts have probably produced better than average wines.
Not much real heat in August or September, the grapes were a bit backward and the harvest later than usual, with river quintas and most of the Rio Torto starting on the 20th September, Madalena on the 22nd and Bom Retiro on the 28th. Barring a few brief showers the 28th/29th September, the weather held warm and sunny through the end of October, which certainly benefitted the later-harvested grapes.
Fermentations were steady and cool. Graduations steadily improved over the course of the harvest, initial readings of 12°/12.5° at Madalena and Retiro rising to 13.5°/14°.
To sum up the 1967 Vintage, there can be little doubt that it all started a little too early in the best areas (for fear of the rain which had marred the cutting of our last three Vintages) and rather ‘fresh’ wines should result, but from all the ‘middle class’ areas excellent and sound wines will have been made, probably above average in quality. Quantity was however low as in 1966.
A wet winter followed by storms and low temperatures in May with the sun only showing itself at the end of the month. A fine and hot July, more leaf than usual on the vines prevented burning.
August was exceptionally hot, twice 45° C was recorded. Fortunately the month ended with cooler weather and a little rain fell, but the first week of September saw a return to fine hot weather.
The vintage started at Bomfim on 19th September in continued fine, hot weather, with the Rio Torto and other areas generally starting on the 26th. Unfortunately, rain interrupted the harvest for a few days at that point, but it did little harm to the grapes. By the 29th the weather had cleared and become much cooler and harvest continued until 2nd October when the weather broke completely with two days of torrential rains. After that fine weather returned and the harvest continued in ideal conditions.
The overall harvest was small but of very good quality and in the first few days of harvest at Bomfim, graduations were all over 14 Bé and while temperatures rose to over 32° C the fermentations were slow and the colour and flavour of the musts appeared excellent.
The nascença (emergence of flowers) is looking very healthy and plentiful.
The vines and grapes are not as dried up as the [intense August heat] would indicate, as the exceptionally wet winter left good reserves of moisture in the soil and leaf growth is above average. In the Upper Douro yields will be less than last year but the prospects for quality are good.
Musts everywhere showed higher than average readings and the colour is excellent. Yields on the other hand are the lowest for many years, some quintas being as much as 30% down on their 1964/5 productions.
We are delighted with the prospects for the 1966’s. It will be surprising indeed if 1966 does not prove to be an excellent vintage for Port.
Michael D Symington
9 October 1966
A very dry year. Some very welcome rain in early March, but hopes for more went unfulfilled, as was repeatedly chronicled in the Bomfim guest books:.
Very hot and dry and rain badly required. A little rain fell during the night of 5th-6th but not enough to do much good.
After the long summer drought the vines are all very dried up.
Rain and thunderstorms at the end of July were followed by a hot, dry August. Vines which previously had been rather backward caught up and were “all looking splendid” [Michael D Symington] in late August. The wished-for last little bit of rain to freshen the grapes before harvest did not materialise, instead temperatures were quite high, 102° F at one point.
Harvest began at Bomfim 21st September, Sra da Ribeira and Rio Torto quintas on 26th and in general on 28th in better districts, with cooler districts not starting till 1st to 5th October. Weather fluctuated during the picking period, from hot the first week to periods of cool and overcast, then hot again, and even a few heavy showers that stopped picking in some areas.
Fermenting temperatures early in the harvest were high in the lagares, but considerably cooler – as much as 6° C cooler – in the new cubas de fermentação (fermentation vats) at Bomfim. Sugar readings throughout the vintage were good and higher than the previous year.
The grapes are looking splendid and the prospects for 1964 are good both in regards to quality and quantity. The grapes are a little burnt due to great heat latterly and a little rain within the next 2 or 3 days would help to freshen up the grapes.
The forecasting of the quality of this year’s wines is a difficult and open question, as rarely have weather conditions varied to such extremes during a vintage. It would appear however that while some wines will probably turn out very well and above average quality, the best and hottest districts should vary considerably, some probably showing very well according to when they were vintaged.
A typical winter with rain and snow. It began to dry out at the end of April, the vines showing promise already. It was cold and wet until the middle of June, when a sudden hot spell at the end of June caused a little desavinho (abortion of flowering and fruit set), but it cooled off again. July and August were fine, with very dry weather and there was just enough rain, perfectly timed, on 10 September to freshen up the grapes.
Picking started 19th to 25th September in perfect weather. The weather continued absolutely perfect, right to the end of harvest, 20th October when the last grapes came in from the high, cool districts.
Vines looking very nice, but have suffered a little desavinho (abortion of the grape flowers) owing to the heat, which has come suddenly this last week. If weather continues favourably without too much intense heat, prospects for the coming vintage are still very good. Much will depend on the coming 8-10 critical weeks before the vintage.
The drought that had lasted since Whitsun broke on the morning of the 10th September with three hours steady rains. This was followed by several heavy thundery showers on the 11th, all of which has done a great deal of good. Now fine weather is required until the vintage.
Wonderful weather for the last three weeks, which was just what was required after the rain. The last weeks of the most perfect weather cleared up any podre (rot) that was threatening. Mostos (musts) look very nice indeed and seem to have plenty of colour even if perhaps lacking a little in guts. Graduations on the whole are very good and the grapes, especially in the early part of the vintage, produced a great deal of wine. Nights have been cool and temperatures have been very satisfactory. We have every hope that some very good wines will have been made.
Long drought from April right through the start of vintage, with intense heat only in August and September, so vines were a bit backward.
The vintage started at Bomfim and Zimbro 10th September, and wines were made during intense heat. The much wanted rain only came later in the vintage, after these quintas were done.
It is rare however to see grapes in all districts looking so perfect as this year, completely lacking in any form of disease and bunches requiring no escolha (selection) at all. … some musts were very pleasant even if on the green side and some had very good colour. When grapes are as exceptionally perfect as they were this year one often gets surprises and wines turn out much better than expected.
Disastrous thunderstorms July 2nd reduced the crop a bit, though not as much as feared.
The harvest started in extremely hot conditions at the river quintas on 4th September, but other areas started anywhere from the 11th to the 26th, making it a long drawn out vintage. The weather held well until some some heavy rain on 29th and 30th then settled down again and held to the end of harvest (around 15 October).
The picking in a great many places required a very rigorous escolha i.e. selection which entails the women picking out the burnt and imperfect grapes from the bunches before putting them in the baskets. This naturally led to lagares taking longer to fill than usual.
Very severe and wet winter, but beautiful hot April weather brought the vines along well. Summer continued hot, and the harvest began generally early.
Picking started in intense heat at Zimbro on the 8th September, Bomfim on the 12th, Sra da Ribeira and the majority of quintas on the 19th, and Quinta das Lages on the 26th. Strong showers off and on from 15th to 17th September were “just perfect” to freshen the grapes for harvest, without stopping picking. On the 26th the weather broke and there were showers again, which occasionally held up picking, but the greater part of the vintage was complete by then.
The first lagar [at Zimbro] took a fair amount of work and the graduação (sugar reading) was 13° rising to 14°. The mosto (must) from the first lagar looked very good indeed, ripe, and with good colour but no burnt flavour. Very hot throughout the week and temperatures were higher than we like in the lagares. The grapes are looking wonderful and all points to excellent wines being made if the weather continues good for the next three weeks.
The very much wanted rain came at last with good strong showers off and on from 15th – 17th September. This was of course excellent as it was just perfect for the majority of us whose general starting date was 19th but it even did good to those vintaging at the time as it was not too much to hold up the vintage and it brought the intense heat to an end and the lagares took more work which was just what was wanted. It hardly lowered the graduações (sugar graduations) and the mostos generally had very good colour and looked very nice as a result of the work they took.
We are optimistic in thinking that a great proportion of the wines will turn out exxceedingly well, as the majority of the mostos were very good indeed.
The first half of March was dry and sunny, but the second half brought gales and rain. April was cold and then the weather was fairly typical for the time of year until June, which was hot and with the highest rainfall experienced since 1896 (which was an outstanding year for Port).
July was sunny and fine, the first half of August was fine and hot, but later in the month it turned cold and rainy. September started with an unsettled patch, but this was followed by a week of hot dry weather just before harvest. Showers off and on during the harvest period occasionally were heavy enough to stop picking. The bad weather was general throughout the Douro.
Picking started 18th September at Zimbro with excellent musts, very good colour. Bomfim, which started on the 25th, made wines which needed a lot of work, though graduations were high, mostly around 13.5° – 14° but rising to 15° and even 16° on one or two occasions.
The grapes generally speaking are looking very healthy and nice.
John D Symington
12 September 1958
Throughout the vintage the weather was most unfavourable with showers of rain which developed some of the days into continual pouring rain causing the picking on several occasions to come to a stop. The lagares took quite a lot of work. I think possibly in the better districts some quite good wines will be made but I very much doubt if any will be outstanding. The quantity generally is very much less than was expected, Bomfim producing about 54 pipes which is the lowest production for very many years.
Ronald A Symington
5 October 1958
Three days of rain “that came to schedule just at the equinox from 19th – 21st September” greatly benefited the grapes, softening the skins which had been hard and dry.
Harvest began at Bomfim and Senhora da Ribeira on 23rd September and elsewhere between 23rd and 30th. The lagares were taking a lot of work, but graduations at Bomfim were around 12.5° and later gave up to 14°. Bomfim [musts] had none of the burnt flavour which we had expected before those three days of rain. Some of the musts had very good colour and flavour. In the Rio Torto and Costa good wines should be made as the grapes looked excellent. The weather conditions at the vintage could not have been better and we hope that some very fair wines will be made with some good ones among them.
After the February rain there was a heatwave in April and the first half of May, which was followed by rain. The vines flowered well and had the benefit of further rain in June. July was satisfactory and August hot, with the grapes in good condition.
Vintage started 19th September at Bomfim and many of the hotter districts. Fine, warm weather throughout vintage, with one night of heavy rain, which freshened the grapes nicely for those still picking. The lagares took a very fair amount of work, with graduations of 14° to 15°, temperatures a bit on the high side occasionally, but on the whole not high enough to cause any anxiety.
Vines looking wonderful, both bunches and grapes are much larger than last year. A few showers between now and the vintage should produce an excellent 1955.
After a week of great heat the weather in the first days of September has turned much cooler and the Upper Douro has enjoyed heavy thunder showers. If conditions continue as they are, the 19th should be a good starting date.
The production at Bomfim was most disappointing as shortly before the vintage we had hoped to get about 80 pipes but owing chiefly to the heat and the East winds we had during the last three weeks, the quantity dwindled to 67 pipes. The musts on the whole were very pleasant and generally speaking the later lagares were better than the earlier ones. We think some very good wines should be made as the colour generally was good and they were also very nice on the nose and palate.
Vintage started on the 27th. No rain just before vintage, but the grapes looked healthy and free of any disease during the year.
The grapes at Bomfim have both sweetness and grip.
There was practically no escolha (selection) … The graduações (sugar readings) were good and the mostos (musts) had very excellent colour and had plenty of grip. They were also full of flavour and were most pleasing to the nose and palate. [1954s] should turn out excellent wines.
Nascença (fruitset) had been large, but the year long severe drought reduced the size of bunches and size of the grapes themselves, many grapes ‘raisinning’ without ever achieving full ripeness. Bomfim particularly suffered from a thunderstorm and hail in June. The same storm was felt at Sra da Ribeira (approx 30 km upstream) but did not do as much damage.
Rainfall a few days before vintage “did an incalculable amount of good” and weather throughout the vintage was perfect. Harvest started 16th September at Zimbro and 21st at Bomfim and Senhora da Ribeira. Vintage lasted a few days longer than usual due to the need for rigorous escolha (selection) to remove the burnt and shrivelled grapes from the bunches. Musts at Bomfim, Zimbro and Ribeira were generally 12.5° to 13°, and those from the Rio Torto generally higher, at 14° to 14.5°.
The musts showed a certain degree of greeness due no doubt to the intense heat which shrivelled a great many of the bunches of grapes before they reached their full ripeness. This greeness however should be quite useful as our quinta wines are inclined normally to be rather burnt and over ripe as a rule. The mostos (musts) on the whole were quite pleasant and had a fair amount of colour but lacked flavour and firmness.
The production at the Quintas was approximately as follows: Bomfim 69 pipes, Zimbro 27 pipes and Sra da Ribeira 60 pipes. At Bomfim we filled 8.5 lagares, which shows how little the grapes were producing.
The weather throughout the vintage was perfect and the temperatures in the lagares just what was required, and as the grapes were free of disease the Coronation vintage may turn out well, or at any rate better than expected.
Ronald A Symington
The vintage started at all three quintas [Bomfim, Zimbro and Sra da Ribeira] on 25th September. The mostos (musts) have on the whole good colour and they are certainly better than we had expected, as the weather conditions throughout the year had been most unfavourable. The rain we had about a month before the vintage followed by good weather improved matters beyond all expectation. The grapes “rendered” very well and we got a great deal more at Bomfim than we had expected, 94 pipes, only two pipes less than last year. All the lagares took a lot of work and the sweetness of the lagrima (literally, tears, referring to the musts) was around about 13.5°.
The mostos (musts) are less green than last year and have perhaps more colour but they have none of the usual burnt flavour of our “Quinta” wines. The mostos are clean and nice and may turn out very useful wines but they seem to lack the firmness and grip which is the usual characterisic of our Quinta mostos.
In the Rio Torto the grapes were wonderful and in perfect condition when they came to the lagares. The mostos were little greener than our mostos here, but they also had good colour.
Vintage started in the three quintas [Bomfim, Zimbro and Sra da Ribeira] on 1st October. One or two showers on 30th/1st only did good. Perfect weather throughout the vintage, which only broke after all our grapes were in. The lagares took plenty of “work”: colour good. Temperatures felt low in the lagares. Grapes rendered more than estimated. Bomfim musts approximately 96/97 pipes. Zimbro about 35 and Sra da Ribeira (excluding outside grapes) about 70. There seems no reason not to be satisfied with this vintage from every angle.
The dry weather continued through April until May, at which time the rain came to stay until the second half of June.
Harvesting began on the 25th of September under ideal conditions. The musts were of excellent quality.
The vintage started on 25 September. Conditions throughout were ideal, cool nights and never too hot during daytime. Graduação (graduation or scale of sweetness, i.e. Baumé) was 13.5 / 14. Colour was very good and the musts looked very nice. The Quintas produced more than had been anticipated. There seems every hope that the wines of this vintage from the best districts should turn out to be really good.
The vines budded well but early, and flowering was prolific. July remained distinctly cool with no real heat. August and September were very hot indeed and the grapes ripened quickly.
Harvesting took place in very hot conditions. The yield was reduced because of the lack of rain and the dehydration of the grapes in August. The quality, however, was sound.
Grapes looking healthy and nice and very sweet.
This vintage seems to be similar to the 1926. Very high sugar content, slow fermentation even after a tremendous amount of work.
There was a very heavy rainfall in March, which was followed by fine weather at Easter. June was variable but the vines showed great health. It became very hot and until early September there was a drought. The rain which then followed was very helpful.
The harvest started on the 22nd in perfect conditions – sunny and not too hot.
Vintage started on the 22nd. Quantity as anticipated was small, but the grapes very sound as the weather ideal. The wines took plenty of work, colour was excellent and there seems every reason to suppose that the 1947’s will turn out very well.
It was a dry year, with a very hot summer; it only rained at the very end of August.
Weather conditions were perfect for a very early harvest at the beginning of September. The quantity was low, less than 1 kg of grapes per vine in the Upper Douro, but the quality was superb.
A dry winter and exceptional heat in May. Welcome rain arrived in August and by the beginning of September the outlook had improved considerably.
Harvest began 23 September and weather throughout was cloudy with occasional rain, though not enought to delay the picking or prejudice the grapes.
The grapes looked sound and healthy, but unfortunately they rendered very little and we have made much less wine than we had expected even up to the time the picking started. The mostos (musts) seem quite good and it is possible that the wine will turn out fairly good. All the lagares took a good deal of work.
Another generally dry winter, though some good rain fell on 15 December (1934), and no significant rain fell again until early April. A cold spring led to a poor fruit set. July and August were hot, with a little rain mid-August and almost no dew at night.
The weather was hot and fine throughout September. The harvest began from 23rd September under perfect weather conditions.
I am inclined to think that the quality and good colour inspires hope that the 1935 may prove good enough to make a Jubilee vintage – quantity is less than last year – but quality appears to be better.
The winter drought was broken when ten days of rain arrived in March, though they were accompanied by strong winds and some hail, and caused some flooding. Fortunately the vines were not damaged by this weather, though the season got off to a slow start. Heat arrived in the Douro with July and it was hoped the vines would catch up, but there was no rain again until mid September.
Vintage began at Bomfim 24 September and was general in the region by 1st October. The weather was fine throughout, the grapes looked nicer than they had for some years.
The vintage started on the 24th September. Except for one day of rain it’s been perfect vintage weather and fairly warm most days. The grapes have all come in looking fresh and very healthy and in fact seemed in perfect condition though the grapes were small. It should prove good wine and there was an absolute absence of disease of any sort or kind.
Visited all three Quintas. Not surprised to find the 1934s very good… the wines show good colour and flavour. There is every prospect of 1934 being a good vintage.
Very little rain over the winter, and excepting a few hot days at the end of July an unusually cool summer so the grapes never ripened properly. The rain and warmer weather of September was almost too late to be of service.
Harvest began in the last week of September, with summer heat at last, but accompanied by a drying East wind, and some unsettled days.
In the finest vineyards some good wine with plenty of colour is promised but elsewhere the mostos (musts) are thin and green. There was however very little if any mildew this year and consequently no escolha (selection) was necessary… As the vines were free of disease and the fermentation of the musts regular it is probably that the wines will be sound.
Rain in July and August was followed by fine hot weather that burned some of the grapes. In September there was hardly any heat or sun during the day and the evenings were cool. Just before 28 September some rain fell which did no harm.
In October, just as the harvest was beginning on the 3rd, there were 10 days of fine weather which transformed the situation. The late harvest meant that the grapes were very ripe, and the quality was outstanding.
In the Quintas and other good districts, grapes were exceptionally far advanced at the end of July; during August they ripened more slowly, but without any serious check, so that they are today just about correct for the time of year. Vintage on 3rd October? Quantity is not abundant, but condition so far is excellent, promising good wine, but less than average yield.
Saw the samples at Pinhão. 1927s and Quinta wines excellent. The altos (high vineyards) have turned out very well and should prove most useful, the majority being clean, firm wines.
Summer was unusually cool but dry, however a fair amount of rain in early September improved the situation.
Weather during harvest, which began 29 September, was satisfactory. Quantity was below the average.
Vintage began at Zimbro and Sra da Ribeira on 29 Sept, elsewhere on 6 October under favourable conditions, weather being fine throughout the gathering. The mostos (musts) showed good colour and life. That the ’24s will turn out to be better than an ordinary vintage seems to be the general opinion. The quantity, however, has been considerably reduced by the queima (sunburn) which occurred three times during the early stages of ripening.
Two days of rain at the end of September and harvest began generally 2 October. The weather was perfect, hot by day and cool by night.
Lagares took a good deal of work and graduations averaged from 12.5 to 13º
Visited Sra da Ribeira and Zimbro, where vintage had begun on 25th. Musts looking excellent. Bomfim started on Thursday 29th. Weather has been kind, though a certain amount of rain fell on 25th and 26th. This was good, however, as it softened the skins which were inclined to be thick. From 27th on, the strong sun and heat greatly helped to ripen the backward grapes. … As far as can be judged at this early stage, the wines from the best districts should be distinctly above the average.
The early months of the year were favourable, but May was cold and variable. There was some trouble with mildew in June, which was checked as the weather warmed up. Intense heat arrived in July and some grapes suffered as a result; August was mainly warm and fine with a little rain.
September was decidedly favourable. Vintage started 27 September in good weather, which broke on 4 October with heavy rains. By then, however, most grapes had been picked.
1920 will be very short – possibly only two thirds of last year. The sun has burned a good many grapes but what are left promise well.
Vintage began generally on the 27th September. The yield is very small but quality promises well. The mostos (musts) show here and at Zimbro about 15 degrees after the first half night (of treading).
Damaging frosts over the winter and a flood in mid-February interrupted the shipping of the prior year’s wines down to Gaia.
Vintage started 18 September, the weather was generally good but variable with some rain which did no harm.
The Vintage began at Zimbro on the 18th September and at the other quintas on the 22nd. The mostos (musts) have 14ºto 14.25º at Zimbro and the lowest degree at any of the quintas was 12.5º. Colour medium, not much life or aroma evident. Quantity larger than expected. Weather fine throughout vintage except for one or two showers.
Our own 1919s have turned out very much as expected – not very big but very serviceable wines.
Late spring, dry summer, first two weeks of September were very hot, and some thunderstorms at the end of the month.
Harvest started generally 8 October and weather was fine throughout.
The winter was wet and stormy, with warm weather in April bringing on the vines. May was intensely hot, but the summer was cooler from July onwards, though no rain fell till 1st September and again on the 17th.
Harvest began on the 18th September and continued in fine weather, which broke on 2 October with 3 days of rain, though most of the best grapes had already been harvested. The wines were sound and stood a lot of work, were clean with good average sugar and considerable flavour but the yield a bit short.
This last shower (17 September) allowed the vintage to begin most favourably on the afternoon of the 18th. The grapes in all the fine vineyards were uniformly ripe and had all been gradually brought to this state of perfection.
The musts have plenty of flavour, body, firmness and colour and promise to become very fine wines. Veremos (We shall see).
Heavy rains in November and December 1910 were beneficial, and followed by heavy frosts in January. Vines were late but doing well in April.
Vintage began 27 September in exceedingly hot weather.
Though rather too soon for the provas, tasted all the 1911s and found them, for the most part, already bright. The impression remains that all the first quality wines have good colour and are already showing the body and flavour promised by the musts.
Despite very little rain early in the year, there was a good fruit set. Welcome rain arrived on 4 and 24 August, and conditions ahead of harvest were noted as very similar to those in 1896 (a legendary year).
Harvest began at all three quintas 17 September and was general by the 21st.
We began the Vintage at the three quintas on the 17th, the grapes being free from any disease and have matured evenly and well. On the 21st the gathering was general in perfect vintaging weather and from that date until today 29th when JW (John Warre) left for England, everything points to 1908 turning out the best year since the phylloxera swept away all the Portuguese vines.
1908s all well and showing a remarkable character.
The winter of 1903-1904 was long and very wet with some frost. April and June, however, were favourable, and flowering and fruit set were most successful. The year was generally dry and there was intense heat in July and August, but rain at the beginning and middle of September was very beneficial for the quality of the grapes.
Yields were abundant with quality the best since 1900. Observers commented they had never seen the Douro vineyards present such a luxurious appearance as they did in August 1904. Harvest began 19th September and the weather was perfect, cool and a few showers. The majority of grapes were picked in excellent condition.
Fermentations slow, many mostos (musts) showed 13º.
Vintage was general on the 19th. Rain on the 13th and 18th completely altered the outlook, and in a few days the grapes which had been parched and dry filled out to such an extent that a better vintage will not have been made for many years. The weather throughout was quite perfect.
Grapes looking excellent, promising a first-rate yield, to follow 1878. Very choice bouquet. Perfect vintage weather and perfect grapes.
Wines very backward through, no doubt, the heat, which continued after the vintage. 1904’s may lack a bit of colour but no one can complain of their not having plenty of aroma.
Very cold winter, backward start to the year with the vines 3 weeks behind normal, though weather in May was “fine and fresh.” Heat in July was noted at Bomfim as “splendid for vines but unpleasant for humans 94º in shade at 4 pm.”
Considerable rain fell in early September, but then cleared and “the most perfect weather for Vintage purposes set in.” Harvest began 23rd September, and finished in Pinhão on 5th October. The fermentation was very equable and the lagares took plenty of work.
Not having been present during the vintage, its result was all the more interesting to me at this period and I can safely say that for many years, in fact ever since we adopted the present system of making lots at the Quintas, has the “lotta” been more easy to make. The wines are all perfectly clear and as far as I can see free from defects…. The weather since and during the vintage has been all that could be desired. Hard frosts at night and beautiful days of brilliant sunshine.
The 1901s continue to merit favourable opinion and promise well for the future.
An “unusually long wet winter“ was followed by a spell of “summer heat“ in mid April. Though the development of the vines was nearly a month behind, the flowering period was satisfactory. On a visit to the Douro in mid July, George Warre commented, “prospects very favourable. Many vines which seemed hopelessly done for last autumn have resuscitated and are now splendid.“ Towards the end of July and the beginning of August it became extremely hot, with the thermometer reaching 42ºC. In mid-August the weather broke, becoming cooler and raining for 10 days. After a fine spell, rain was welcome again in late September, and the harvest was made in good weather beginning on the 21st of September.
Began vintage here 21st [September], mostos (musts) showed 13 degrees. The weather is thundering and a lot of rain has fallen when it was least wanted…rigorous escolha (selection of grapes) is absolutely necessary and more so every day.
No one remembers a colder winter. There is no doubt that many 1900’s would have gone wrong had the weather been as usual during the winter.
Heavy rains in March followed by heat in early April brought the vines along well and were followed by“some beautiful rain“ in mid-May. Great heat was noted in July, and the grapes very forward, ripe enough to eat.
The vintage started on the 4th of September in the finest situations, with more starting on the 11th. Thunderstorms occured on the 6th and 18th of September doing good and the “most perfect vintaging weather prevailed.”
Being the “Peste Bubónica” year in Porto, nobody was allowed to leave the city and the vintage at Zimbro, Bomfim and Sra da Ribeira commenced and were practically finished when we arrived.
After tasting through all our 1899s I consider them quite up to my expectations. They have good colour, are free from all nasty flavours…
Heat in March brought on the vines very quickly, and flowering was in early May. Scorching heat in June continued into July, but after rain on the 18-20th the “grapes improved greatly” according to George Warre. Unfortunately, by September five months of drought and drying winds from the east had reduced the crop, probably to around 30% less than 1896.
The vintage had already started at Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira when George A. Warre arrived on the 20th of September and though daytime temperatures continued hot, the nights became cooler and even cold.
Heat very great. Vines looking well. Grapes had suffered from the scorching heat in June. The grapes very forward and if a little rain would fall they would soon be ripe. Grapes colouring. Old Portuguese vines much affected by phylloxera.
Tasted a number of samples of 1897 and found some tonels of fine wines, finer perhaps than in 1896 but they are few and far between.
Although there was unseasonable heat in both March and April, George Warre noted that the vines were looking well but wanted rain, and later that rains in May had done wonders and prospects were good. Rain on the 10th of September as well as night time showers on the 12, 13th and 14th, followed by fine weather did a great deal of good.
The vintage started on the 10th of September at our quintas and more generally on the 14th of September, in favourable weather, which turned cooler after the 20th.
The weather throughout the vintage has been “to order.” This year’s wines are I consider better than any since 1878 and will I hope and believe start a new era in the Port Wine trade. I tasted through a good many 96’s which are progressing well.
Tasted 139 samples of 1896. Vintage far superior to any of its immediate predecessors.
In June the grapes had just set and the vines were looking well, though extreme heat destroyed the olive crop. The weather was good in July and August was hot, but rain was much wanted.
Fortunately, wet weather arrived on the 21st September and thereafter the weather was favourable for the vintage in October.
Very fine weather all through the vintage.
94’s giving satisfaction.
Mildew was exceptionally prevalent this year.
The vintage started in the third 3rd week of Setpember and some good lagares were made in the Cima Corgo, though no really first class wines.
Hot weather noted in mid March, some rain in mid April. Very dry and hot in July, August and most of September, but rain on 20th and 21st.
Harvest began thereafter, and the weather improved till more rain arrived around 7 October. The grapes were clean and ripe, though they had suffered from the drought. Yield was better than 1891 however.
Hardly any rain in the Douro through mid September, when some rain finally fell. Harvest began after that and continued in good conditions, though the grapes were not yet fully ripe, lacking sweetness and juice. Some lagares made towards the end of the Vintage were fine.