"Our wines speak of the soil, the air, the sun from where they were grown"
At Quinta de la Rosa we are firmly committed to sustainable farming practices in order to protect the environment and ensure the longevity of wine and port production in the Douro Valley. Our approach is to optimise the vineyard's natural balance by encouraging a biodiversity which reduces the need for pesticides, promotes soil health, guarantees the quality of the wine and is at the same time economically viable. Our aim is to grow vines
with as little interference as possible so we can produce wines that express the distinct and unique qualities of the Douro Valley. It is this responsibility to the land that guides La Rosa's viticultural and winemaking processes and helps towards producing wines and ports of purity.
Our vineyards are certified as sustainable by ADVID, an organisation which promotes and develops an integrated approach to wine growing in the Douro Valley. We follow a specific code of procedures which encourages biodiversity, reduces pesticide use and respects the environment. For example, we are only allowed to use products in the vineyard that leave no lasting residue in the soil and have been approved by ADVID. ADVID makes regular visits to La Rosa and keeps us up to date with the current approved practices and recent research.
Matching the vines to the site
One of the most important aspects of sustainable viticulture is matching the correct vines to the soil type and location. This involves choosing the most suitable rootstock and cultivar for a given vineyard and ensuring that we source the best available benchgrafts (young vines) from well respected nurseries. In addition, the spacing of the vines and the trellis type is taken into consideration. We find that healthy, strong and well-balanced vines are less likely to succumb to disease pressure and attack from insects.
As the health of the vines is of paramount importance we ensure that the nutrient needs of the vines are met each year. We determine whether we need to fertilize by using three methods - observing visual symptoms of nutrient deficiency, such as yellowing of leaves for nitrogen deficiency, and by taking soil and tissue (leaf) analyses.
Leaf analyses are particular useful as they can determine the nutrient status of the vines and identify a suspected deficiency in the vineyard. We take regular leaf analyses in May with the aim to fertilize when the vines need additional nutrients. Our goal is to prevent nutrient deficiencies from happening in the first place - when visible symptoms are present the damage on growth, yield and fruit quality has already occurred. In general, we have to make nutritional amendments for potassium and nitrogen. One of the ways we replenish nitrogen to the soil in a sustainable way is by sowing and mulching the cover crop clover, a nitrogen fixing legume.
We find that soil testing is important especially before a new planting, as well as for our established vineyards, as it gives an indication of the overall balance of major nutrients and determines the soil pH. We analyse our soils every two years in November, however we are aware that a soil test is not a reliable indicator of the nutrient status of the vine. Simply put, a soil may have a high reading in a particular nutrient while the vine shows a deficiency; or the vine may show sufficient level of another nutrient while the soil test indicates a deficiency.
We employ a number of different canopy management techniques such as suckering, leaf removal and shoot positioning to optimise the ripening conditions of the grapes. We aim to achieve balanced vines so the grapes have sufficient sunlight exposure to produce optimal flavours and colour and therefore better wine. Excessive shading leads to poor fruit ripening whilst too much sun exposure, in hot climates such as the Douro Valley, leads to burnt fruit and poor colour development. When the leaf to fruit ratio is at an optimum, the vine is in balance, and there is no need to manage the canopy.
The improved air circulation and light penetration of well managed canopies also reduces the incidence of diseases, such as Botrytis bunch rot and Powdery Mildew, helping us to reduce the use of pesticides.
Every winter we seed our vineyard rows with a cover crop of grasses and clover which grows throughout the spring and dies back in the summer. The cover crop prevents undesirable weed growth and benefits our soils by improving the soil structure and decreasing the risk of erosion. The cover crop is mown twice a year, in March and at the end of July, in order to minimise the competition for water and nutrients needed by the growing vines. The mown cover crop is left as a mulch which adds essential nutrients such as nitrogen and organic matter back into the soil, as well as improving the soil's moisture content.
We also have areas near the vineyards which have been left as natural vegetation in order to encourage the presence of beneficial insects and to increase the overall biodiversity of the area.
We practice minimal till which reduces soil compaction and erosion, conserves moisture, and minimises fuel consumption and therefore pollution. We only plough when we need to fertilize the vineyard, which on average is once every three years.
During the growing season, our viticulturist and vineyard workforce continually monitor the vineyards for both pests and diseases. Occasionally, we have to check the vines for the European Grapevine Moth and Cigarrilha Verde (a type of green caterpillar) but in general we are fortunate that we very rarely have problems with pests.
Diseases, such as Powdery Mildew, are monitored for on a weekly basis and are only treated when signs of the disease are present. In the past, the standard practice was to spray according to the calendar which meant there was an unnecessary overuse of pesticides. Early treatments, together with good canopy management, normally controls the spread of the disease and reduces the need for further treatments.
At La Rosa we minimise the use of pesticides through maintaining good vine health, monitoring for pests and diseases and practicing cultural practices such as canopy management and vineyard sanitation.
When we have to treat the vines we mainly use products that are certified for organic use such as Sulphur and Bordeaux mixture. In an average year, we spray once with Bordeaux Mixture against Downy Mildew and a few times with sulphur against Powdery Mildew. We ensure that all treatments are made in a manner that minimises the risks to human health, other organisms and the environment.
In mountain viticulture, such as at La Rosa, erosion control is a constant challenge. In our more recent vineyard developments, we have used a system of narrower terraces where the inclination of the slope is less steep than in our older patamares. Consequently, the rain is able to percolate into the soil more easily minimising top-soil erosion.
On the slopes, we leave the native plants to grow which helps maintain the structure of the patamares and increases the biodiversity in the vineyard by providing a habitat for insects. Any plant growth is then controlled by mechanical means thereby reducing the need for herbicides. A cover crop is planted in the vine row which helps maintain the structure of the soil and helps minimise erosion. Every autumn, we also ensure that our drainage systems are well maintained and functioning before the winter and spring rains arrive.
All our vineyards are dry-farmed except during the establishment of a new plantation of young vines where we use a carefully monitored drip irrigation system.
We have experimented with organic viticulture and plan to have some vineyards farmed organically in the near future.
Systems are in place in all our facilities to recycle paper, cans and bottles.
We try and use the lightest weight glass for our bottles within the demands of our customers.
All our corks are natural and biodegradable.
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