I really feel that the Douro is being discovered! It is a very exciting time for us all in the valley. Our wines are being sought after from many parts of the world and tourism has never been better. We were completely full for most of the summer.
Investments 2015 has been a time of consolidation and repayment of bank loans. This is largely because it has taken over 3 years to get final planning permissions sorted. The winery’s permission came through in August and we are now waiting for the final tranche of subsidy from PRODER. The B&B rooms still aren’t fully approved! Bureaucracy in Portugal is something else. Inspired by my trip to South Africa where ‘front of house’ tasting/visitor spaces and restaurants are very well done, we are looking to open a reception/tasting area and restaurant next year.
Year in the vineyards: The fabulous quality of the grapes this year has taken everyone by surprise. We didnt have the ideal meteological conditions to indicate it was going to be a great year so we were really pleased with the beautiful grapes that came into the winery. The winter and spring was dry with little rain. Stable weather allowed for good flowering so production was always forecast to be abundant (good news after two relatively small years). The summer was hot. There was little rain and few storms, apart from a huge one in May. So by August the vines were under intense water stress and their leaves were browning – especially younger vines with shallower roots. But the good news was that the fruit stood up well to this stress so that almost perfect grape came into the winery.
The vintage was long and slow. Jorge always says that the most important decision he makes every year is when to pick and this year wasn’t that easy. We started picking the white grape early, in the middle of August, moving on a little later to pick the La Rosa red grape (Vale Grande) on 7th September then Vale do Inferno two days later. Torrential rain came for a couple of days (tail end of Hurricane Henry) so we stopped picking on Tuesday 15th September to let the grapes dry out. Picking resumed a week later until we finished vintaging with Cereijinha, our north facing vineyard, on Saturday 3rd October.
Special bottlings: Being small, we continue to get satisfaction out of bottling special blends for important customers. We have bottled & labeled a unique 10 Year Tawny for Galvin restaurants (www.galvinrestaurants.com) - thanks to Chris & Jeff Galvin and Andrea, their sommelier. We are supplying Intermarché in Portugal with Selecção de Enófilos – Private Selection which will be their most expensive Grand Reserve wine on sale.
New Importers/Sales: Our wines are being sold to many small importers throughout Belgium thanks to our newly appointed agent, Patrice Robert. We made our first sale to Beirut (my birthplace) to the Bread Republic! My father was a great friend of the Hochars (Chateau Musar) and its rather exciting for him to think you can buy La Rosa wines in Lebanon. I managed to persuade the best Brazilian importer of Portuguese wines, Adega Alentejana, to start distributing La Rosa. It is one of the major markets where we have struggled to get much recognition so I am excited by the new opportunities this will open. Sales in the UK have gone from strength to strength especially in Scotland (Woodwinters) and getting douROSA red into the Mitchell & Butler group (thank you Richard Maltby, FMV).
Visitors: We have had a very busy year with many visitors, both linked and not linked to the wine trade. The most interesting dinner was when my importers and customers from the USA (Wine Sellers) and China (Guangzhou Kasum) sat down for dinner together. Political entente! A memorable evening was when the Angolan importers went treading! FMV trip with Doug from Woodwinters was memorable (I wont be showing pictures of the lagares that night!) Damian Joubert-Winn ably helped us in the winery together with the energetic duo, Katie Withers Green & Charlie Lilwall who were everywhere! Lots of media coverage of La Rosa in Portugal with some TV appearances. We are also mid production of a 5mins video due to be released shortly.
Opposite Hill Challenge: will be held on Saturday 11th June so please try and come, preferably with a team. We had great fun with Dutch, UK and Portuguese teams last year and I would like to make it into a truly international event. It is now officially registered as a biathalon!
Other News: Last year Jack Tuttle proposed to Lorraine by our swimming pool. A year later we hosted their 3 day wedding for 80 guests. It was magical but I am still recovering…and considering if we should be organising more weddings?!
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