Tag Archives: Harvest 2008

December 2008 Douro Insider

The month awoke to a scattering of snow on the high ground and ice almost everywhere else.  There were actually quite heavy snowfalls on the Serra do Marão and even significant amounts on the Alto de Quintela.  It wasn’t just the north of the country that was affected as the bad weather caused chaos on the roads in other parts too, and played havoc especially with the daily commute when people returned to work after the first long weekend.  Roads were closed in some of the higher mountain ranges, and the main road between Porto and Vila Real was shut for some time when the peaks of the Marão became impassable.  It even snowed a little on the very tops of the hills in the Douro, reaching one or two quite high vineyards, but it didn’t quite stretch down as far as the river quintas. Full Report

November 2008 Douro Insider

November got off to a very grey start and, although the air was decidedly damp, nothing of any consequence in the way of rain was forthcoming.  Thick, wet and very clingy fog hung in the lower-lying areas.  To begin with, at least, it appeared not to be too cold, but towards the middle of the month the mornings chilled down considerably, especially for those right in the thick of the murk at the bottom of the valley.  Then as the foggy spell finally lifted the insulating effect of the blanket of low-lying clouds was no longer felt.  The skies cleared, and with this came an increase in of the range of daily temperatures: when the days were clear sunshine warmed up the earth pleasantly (albeit briefly) but the nights were distinctly icy as there was no cover to prevent this meagre heat from being radiated back into the night sky.  Thus began a downward turn, and winter started to take hold. Full Report

September and October 2008 Douro Insider

The final stretch of a remarkable agricultural year brought similar patterns to those we had been experiencing almost from the start.  It was cool and it was very dry.  But the weather differed from the rest of the year in one critical aspect too – in that the months of unsettled or overcast weather finally gave way to one long, calm spell of perfect harvesting weather, with day after day of bright sun, clear skies and not even a whisper of a breeze.  Without a doubt this serene autumn saved the harvest.  It had been a difficult year thus far, and the potential for a disastrous vintage was looming ominously.  Had it rained significantly all would have been lost, and another year like 2002 would have ensued.  As it turned out, we were blessed by an excellent harvest.  If any criticism could be made, it would be that some rain right at the start of September brought about dilution of sugars and, especially, acidity.  This of course had to be corrected in the winery.  Unfortunately there was none of the intensely hot weather required to initiate dehydration – a factor which is essential for producing really concentrated wines.  Phenolically the skins were also a little hard to start with, although they understandably softened up as the vintage progressed. Full Report

August 2008 Douro Insider

Another month goes by, and with it come more strange climatic patterns.  All across Europe reports were pouring in of appalling weather so in many respects we were lucky that the worst the Douro suffered was one wet weekend and some rather cool temperatures.  The month kicked off with a freak tornado in northern France which killed three people on the 3rd, and then another one hit Poland 12 days later with the same death toll.  In the UK they were also having a horrible time with one of the worst summers on record.  Over there August was phenomenally wet and the sun barely appeared. Full Report

July 2008 Douro Insider

As one would have expected for a Portuguese July, it certainly got off to a hot start, but less predictably it was also rather muggy.  Proximity to the river increases evaporation and obviously exacerbates the humidity.  Meanwhile, as the  water warms up, algae gradually turn the Douro a  slightly sinister greenish shade.  But the summer that we all thought had finally arrived at the end of June turned out to be fairly short-lived or perhaps yet another false start.  The high temperatures soon evaporated and we then had another few days of what can only be considered very cool weather for the time of year.  One or two days barely crept above 20º C, and the nights were, frankly, cold.  Daily minimums below 10º are not usually part of the script.  In spite of the cool temperatures it was still an exceptionally dusty month (much worse even than the usual gritty situation) as the rain held off and some gusty winds desiccated the topsoil.  After the second week things began to heat up again, peaking around the 20th when southerly winds brought some real African heat to Iberia.  It then began to tail off once more, and we had a dodgy end of month, especially the last day.  This gave us a rough pattern of one cool week, two warm weeks, and then another cool week to finish off. Full Report

June 2008 Douro Insider

For those involved in agriculture in the north of Portugal, it has been hard to know what to make of the weather so far this year.  And for regular readers, it must be becoming tiresome to read every month that things are not following predictable patterns.  Thus it may come as some relief to hear that in June it appeared that things are more or less returning to normal.  What June typically brings us is generally fair weather, dominated by hot and sunny days (although not usually featuring scorching temperatures) that might be interspersed with one or two overcast days.  There are two common features of June, however, which make it different from just a cooler version of July.  Firstly, the amplitude of the range of temperatures is normally far greater, principally as a result of relatively cool nights.  Secondly, although rainfall would not usually be expected, it is still fairly common to have one or two major downpours.  Thus precipitation figures for the month are either very low (when there are no thunderstorms) or really quite high (months with total precipitation in excess of 70 or even 100 mm are by no means unheard of).  As this talk of thunder should imply, humidity can often be high. Full Report

May 2008 Douro Insider

May started a little curiously, with the weather still undecided (as it has been for most of the year so far) but it was changeable in a different way from April.  Rather than fluctuating from one extreme to another from week to week, there were a number of days that, at breakfast time, appeared to have little idea as to what they were going to do until dinner.  There were often spells of overcast skies bringing with them some light showers but these gloomy patches were broken up by sticky, sunny spells that tempted out the  first snakes of spring.  Whilst precipitation was not especially high by the usual standards, it trickled in consistently throughout the month (particularly in the second half), a slow but steady stream that ensured that the air remained decidedly humid and, coupled with the cloudy conditions, might have favoured powdery mildew had precautions not been taken.  Unfortunately things didn’t really clear up in time for flowering and by mid-month a heavy depression could be found camped broodingly over the Iberian peninsula for about a week or so.  Thus things remained variable but thundery, basically quite grey but with plenty of showers.  In any case, it is turning out to be quite a challenging spring as far as the treatments go. Full Report

April 2008 Douro Insider

April got off to a very fine start – indeed, April 1st was the first day of the year which could reasonably be described as hot.  Seriously, it was.  What with the changing of the clocks a few days before, the golden evening light hung on until much later, joined by warm, soft breezes that insistently whispered the words ‘gin and tonic’ until their demands were satisfied.  The impression that summer was creeping upon us was further enhanced by the onset of the hay fever season, another of the annual rites of passage.  The evenings were hot too and plenty of people were seen wandering around in shorts and T-shirts at night as if on holiday.  All this occurred, oddly enough, when much of the UK was still plagued by snowfalls.  The early summer was somewhat short-lived, however, and the second week of the month changed dramatically for the worse with some torrential and long-lasting rain.  This then set off a four week long cycle of completely polarised weather fluctuations.  With great precision, hot and sunny weeks were interspersed with cold and wet weeks for the rest of the month. Full Report

March 2008 Douro Insider

March in the Douro was certainly interesting enough because there was plenty of the variation that is so typical of the spring to keep everyone entertained.  The month got off to a bright, sunny and warm start although the clear skies ensured that the nights were still very cold.  This produced a bit of a scare when we woke up to a heavy frost on the morning of the 7th.  The concern stemmed from the fact that younger vines (before they enter into production) characteristically have earlier budburst than adult vines.  By this date there were already young vineyards with two or three leaves unrolled but fortunately the frost was not intense enough to damage the new shoots.  It is fair to say that at this time of the year frosts usually only occur on the cooler high ground, where budburst of course comes later on.  However, if budburst progresses uphill faster than the risk of freezing temperatures tails off for the respective altitude, the possibility remains of a potentially dangerous combination occurring whereby frosts and green plant tissue are present simultaneously.  Frost damage of the primary shoots has serious implications for yield because, although the vines would still be able to burst again from the secondary buds, these back-up shoots are noticeably less fertile. Full Report

February 2008 Douro Insider

February brought a very welcome relief from the somewhat depressing winter weather that had preceded, with the heavy fog finally evaporating after all these weeks.  There was actually a very bright start to the month with fantastic blue skies and really quite warm sunshine, especially in the afternoons.  But, as we well know, clear skies also mean cold nights and there were still some frosty mornings.  Admittedly, the frost was quicker to melt away when it was no longer shrouded in fog but in any case consumption of firewood remained high across the Douro. Full Report