We have finally finished the vintage and the good news is Jorge is extremely happy with the wines and ports he has made.
The vineyard stood up surprisingly well to a challenging year. The flowering was late and then the Douro suffered from caterpillar attacks and oidium. The caterpillar digs deep into the youngly formed grape and forms its chrysalis. This mainly affected Touriga Franca. The summer seemed to be marginally cooler and wetter than normal with numerous thunderstorms but the meteorological data shows otherwise and we seemed to have had a pretty normal, hot summer. There were plenty of hail storms, especially in the early summer, and the top part of the Lamelas vineyard got quite badly hit. The vine leaves had huge holes taken out of them. We did lose about 20% of our crop but only in a small area around the Lamelas house. In general the vine recuperated quite impressively.
By mid August we were looking at a two week delay in starting the vintage at La Rosa. But a few days of intense heat brought the grapes on with a great spurt and suddenly some were ripe. We picked the more delicate Touriga Franca first starting slowly on 25th September (relatively late for recent years). We had a few days of blissful sunshine but then thunderstorms built up and we ended up having rain almost every afternoon over a two week period. For few days the rain was for longer and heavier and we stopped picking. The harvest ended up in being very drawn out and we ended up finishing picking on 9th October.
I cannot remember having had so consistent rain over a long period and we were all fearful for the grape quality. But the grape stood up to the wet weather incredibly well even though the vine was quite stressed after the difficult year (caterpillar, oidium and hail). I believe better vineyard management over the last decade meant that the vine was stronger and more able to stand up to the stress. We have worked hard at making sure the vine is in balance with its environment and age - pruning so the vine produces what it is capable of. Being sustainable we spray much less and listen to the vineyard more. We have worked hard on canopy management as well.
Jorge said 'When I started working in the Douro over fifteen years ago, a year like this would have resulted in a mass of powdery mildew. The boxes of grapes would have given off a cloud of white powder when they arrived in the winery.'
We started picking Bandeiras in the Douro Superior which is always drier and hotter a month earlier (26th August) so we missed the rains. The Passagem wines are all Reserve quality at this stage.
Thanks once again to Jorge, Nuno and the La Rosa team. We had Harry May from Berry Bros and #mynephewJack helping us as well as Tania Davey (Merchants Tavern). Everyone worked incredibly hard but it was full of laughs as well!