Tag Archives: Harvest 2011

Picking at Malvedos Postponed Over the Weekend

In the wake of tropical storm Henri, which passed overhead last Tuesday and Wednesday, the weather at Quinta dos Malvedos has thankfully returned to what would be considered normal for this time of year. These last few days have been sunny and warm, although not exceedingly so, and the long-range weather forecast suggests that things are going to stay this way for some time.

Henry and Nuno in the adega on the first evening
Nuno and Henry discussing the next few days in the winery.

However, in the aftermath of the heavy rain, Charles Symington (Graham’s head winemaker) and Alexandre Mariz (viticulturist at Malvedos and Tua) found it necessary to carefully re-evaluate the condition of the quintas’ vines, and although the grapes were not adversely affected by the storm, on Friday afternoon they decided to call off all picking at both Quinta dos Malvedos and Quinta do Tua. The reason for this is to allow the berries to benefit from the dry and sunny conditions, which should recover the Baumé levels by at least half a degree. Picking is now scheduled to begin again first thing on Monday morning.

Charles Symington and Alexandre Mariz rethinking the picking order.

This should work to counteract any dilution effect that the week’s rain may have had on the some of the quintas’ grapes, ultimately ensuring that they are able to fulfil the potential that is still very much in evidence.

Charles’ dog, Zimba, agrees that the Touriga Nacional still needs some more days to fully ripen!

Wine Critics Praise the 2011 Vintage Ports

Grahams_2011_LabelThe recently announced 2011 Vintage Port declaration has met with considerable interest in Portugal and overseas. At Graham’s, we are very proud of our wines and it is very encouraging to register the excitement the 2011 Vintage is generating. This week, Jancis Robinson MW , one of the world’s leading wine critics wrote, “…anyone with an interest in superbly made top-quality red wine worth ageing for decades should arguably turn their backs on Bordeaux 2012 and look instead at Port 2011…There is little doubt that 2011 produced some stunning vintage ports, into which more effort and skill has gone than any other previous vintage in the Douro. And I find it impossible to think of any other wine region, anywhere in the world, that produced better wines.” In her assessment of 31 different Vintage Ports, Graham’s The Stone Terraces 2011 Vintage Port and Graham’s 2011 Vintage Port were among the highest ranked, deserving exceptionally high marks: 18.5/20 and 19/20, respectively.

In similar vein, Manuel Carvalho, writing in Portugal’s respected ‘Público’ newspaper on April 27th, described Graham’s The Stone Terraces 2011 as a “masterpiece”, going on to write: “For its exuberant aromas of fruit, mint and Douro shrubs, for its suggestions of black tea, for its intriguing spice notes, such is its complexity and richness. For its volume on the palate, the power of its tannins, which announce decades of longevity whilst at the same time combining with the acidity and fruit to render it immediately approachable.” His wine critic colleague — Pedro Garcias — was so impressed with the Graham’s 2011 Vintage Port that he summed up as follows, “One simple adjective suffices to describe this Port: superb”. Furthermore he predicted that the 2011 Vintage has what it takes to aspire to a legendary status in the history of Port.

The second 2011 Vintage Port tasting at the Graham's Lodge attracted 15 journalists, wine writers and critics.
The second 2011 Vintage Port tasting at the Graham’s Lodge attracted 15 journalists, wine writers and critics.

2011 Vintage Port tasting, Graham’s Lodge, April 30th: The first showing of the 2011 Vintage Ports produced by the Symington family was on April 18th (scroll down to see previous post) in which Portuguese journalists were hosted by Paul and Charles Symington. The family decided to organize a second tasting, earlier this week in response to the enormous interest shown in Portugal following the declaration, barely two weeks ago. We will spare our followers repetition, but it is worth reproducing here some interesting, complementary aspects — recounted by Paul and Charles in both tastings — that weren’t touched on in the previous post.

Paul and Charles guide the 2011 Vintage Ports tasting
Paul and Charles guide the 2011 Vintage Ports tasting
  • Paul Symington emphasized the importance that Vintage Port declarations play as personal and career-defining moments, just as they were for previous generations who are remembered very much for the Vintages that they made ‘on their watch’. Paul has been involved in 9 Vintage declarations and Charles in 5 declarations, thus far.
  • All the 2011 Vintage Ports made by the Symington family were 100% from their own vineyards, a natural development given their sustained investment in vineyards since the late 1970s (vineyard acquisitions and vineyard replanting). With a total of 965 hectares (2,385 acres) of vineyards, dotted across the finest sub-regions of the Douro Valley and representing an incredible diversity of terroirs, the family has remarkable scope in selecting wines for their Vintage Ports.
  • For the first time in half a century (specifically since the 1963 vintage in the Douro) the Vintage Ports in 2011 were 100% vinified in lagares (shallow treading tanks) and this shows through in the superb quality displayed by all the 2011 wines.
  • A point not often explained but one that has a great bearing on the family’s capacity to consistently produce outstanding Vintage Ports is the tremendous benefit of owning and operating several small micro-wineries (referred to by some as ‘boutique’ wineries) with independent winemaking teams (coordinated by Charles Symington) whose sole objective is the production of the best possible Port. There is no loss of focus in the pursuit of this goal because they are not distracted by the requirement to make styles of Port other than those with the potential to be graded as Vintage Port.
  • Leading on from the above, Charles was also keen to stress the significance of the substantial investment made over the last 10 to 15 years in numerous small storage tanks at these specialist wineries. This allows each fermentation to be kept separate until such time as the winemakers and tasters decide how to best use them. Paul reinforced that the possibility of keeping such ‘diamonds in the rough’ separately is a key contributor in the making of exceptional Ports.
  • During this second tasting session, Charles and Paul made a bit of a joke about the distinction made between old vines and the others — when describing the provenance of grapes that contribute to Vintage Port blends. The fact is that when we refer to old vines, we really should say very old mixed vines (50 years+) because ‘the others’ are 25 to 30 years old and thus, by any standard, are themselves old, mature vines (planted in single varietal parcels during the early 1980s).
The line-up of 2011 Vintage Ports made by the Symington family
The lineup of 2011 Vintage Ports made by the Symington family

Following this second tasting which involved 13 different wines (the 5 components of the Graham’s 2011 Vintage + 8 Vintage Ports; two Graham wines; two Vesuvio wines and one each from Cockburn’s, Dow’s, Warre’s and Quinta de Roriz), the 15 guest tasters were invited to lunch at the new Vinum restaurant at Graham’s where the highlight was a lovely Graham’s 1963 Vintage Port, celebrating its 50th birthday this year.

Participants in the tasting enjoy an appetizer in the wine bar before lunch at the adjoining Vinum restaurant
Participants in the tasting enjoy an appetizer in the wine bar before lunch at the adjoining Vinum restaurant

Graham’s Declares the 2011 Vintage Port

Portugal was the first country in which the 2011 Vintages were shown. The UK, USA and others will follow in the coming weeks.
Portugal was the first country in which the recently declared 2011 Vintage Ports were shown. The UK, USA and others will follow in the coming weeks.

This has been an eventful week for Graham’s. On Monday, April 15th, Graham’s declared the 2011 Vintage Port. A few days later on Thursday the 18th, Charles and Paul Symington hosted a tasting of the family’s 2011 Vintage Ports at the recently renovated Graham’s 1890 Lodge. Their guests were Portuguese wine journalists and this event marked the first time that a declared Vintage Port was first shown in Portugal, before any other country. Some of the country’s leading wine critics came to this tasting, keen to gain their first impressions of the wines that have been generating considerable interest. Judging by the very positive comments it is clear that our guests agree with us that the 2011 is an outstanding Vintage.

Many of Portugal's most influential wine writers gathered at the Graham's Lodge to gain their first impressions of the 2011 Vintage Ports.
Many of Portugal’s most influential wine writers gathered at the Graham’s Lodge to gain their first impressions of the 2011 Vintage Ports.

The event started with an opportunity to taste the component wines that comprise the Graham’s 2011 Vintage Port. This wine is a careful selection of the finest wines produced at Graham’s five Douro Quintas. This proved an interesting experience in helping the tasters to understand what makes a classic Graham’s Vintage Port. Charles started with the Quintas whose aromatic contributions are more evident: Lages, Vila Velha and Malvedos. Lages wines have long been favoured for their elegant complexity, showing fine violet aromas, characteristics no doubt influenced by the property’s (cooler) north and east-facing aspects in the Rio Torto. Similarly, Vila Velha, with a predominantly west-facing aspect, has a relatively cool maturation cycle, which allowed its late-ripening Touriga Franca grapes to excel and deliver superb aromas of rockrose and violets in 2011. Malvedos, the cornerstone of Graham’s Vintage Port since 1890, provides floral characteristics of eucalyptus and mint with soft violet overtones as well as rich flavours of cassis, mulberry and blackberries. Quinta do Tua and Quinta do Vale de Malhadas were the last two component wines tasted and they each showed the muscularity for which they are known, in the form of tremendous concentration and weighty tannins which add great structure and staying power to the final wine.

Paul and Charles Symington talk the guests through the wines
Paul shares some anecdotes with his guests
The line up of component wines which comprise the Graham's 2011 Vintage Port blend.
The line up of five component wines which comprise Graham’s 2011 Vintage Port

Leading on from the fascinating terroir tasting of the component wines, it was time to sample the Graham’s 2011 Vintage Port, whose final blend is made up as follows: 35% Malvedos; 19% Vale Malhadas ; 18% Vila Velha; 16% Tua; 12% Lages. Both Charles and Paul explained the sequence of events that laid the foundations for this Vintage year: Abundant 2010/2011 winter rains, which replenished the water reserves deep in the Douro subsoil and compensated for an otherwise very dry year; a very dry June and July, followed by an ideal weather pattern immediately leading up to and during the vintage (opportune rain showers in late August/early September, followed by weeks of dry, sunny conditions); perfectly ripened grapes with copybook balance of baumés (sugar content), phenolics (pigments, tannins) and acidity (freshness and longevity).

The tasters put the wines through their paces
The tasters put the component wines from Graham’s five Quintas (vineyards) through their paces

A very interesting characteristic is apparent in the Graham’s 2011 Vintage Port, as well as in the other Symington family’s 2011 Vintage Port houses, namely a marked schistous minerality which lends the 2011 wines a very distinctive profile. They have an exceptional depth of colour and concentration, superb aromatic elegance and well-structured schist-edged tannins. Paul described this schist character as akin to the smell of the parched, powdery Douro schist soil just after rain when it exudes a wonderful, fragrant wet-earth scent. Charles explained that this very attractive aromatic character also owes much to the exceptional performance of the Touriga Franca varietal in this vintage. He explained that as a late-ripening variety, the Touriga Franca thrived in the idyllic conditions leading up to and during the vintage (it was the last variety to be picked in October). In other words, the weeks of uninterrupted dry sunny conditions, which followed the well-timed rain of August 21st and 1st/2nd of September allowed the Touriga Franca to ripen evenly and completely, delivering its full quality potential. Charles is a great believer in the Touriga Franca and explained that this variety is often unjustly overshadowed by the Touriga Nacional. It can be a tricky varietal to grow in less favourable weather, but when conditions are right, it has a great deal to offer, particularly in aromatic finesse. Accordingly there was a higher inclusion of Touriga Franca — 31%, compared to 25% in the previous declared Vintage, the 2007.

IMG_1969Of the total production from Graham’s five Quintas (88,855 cases), and following months of exhaustive tastings, Charles and his cousins selected just 9% — or 8,000 cases — to release as Graham’s 2011 Vintage Port.

Graham's TST labelPaul and Charles then revealed that together with their cousins, they had decided to offer for the first time, alongside Graham’s classic Vintage Port, a very small bottling (250 cases, or 3,000 bottles) of Vintage Port drawn from two very special parcels of traditional stone-terraced vineyards at Quinta dos Malvedos. Accordingly, they named the wine, Graham’s ‘The Stone Terraces’ Vintage Port. These two 18th century terraced vineyards have consistently produced extraordinary Ports. One of the two vineyard parcels was originally called Port Arthur and has eleven schist stone terraces, ten of which have only a single row of vines on each. The other vineyard is known as Vinha dos Cardenhos and between them, the two parcels amount to a tiny fraction (1.8 hectares) of the Malvedos vineyard (89 hectares). The latter has a predominantly South-facing aspect, whereas the Port Arthur and Vinha dos Cardenhos vineyards are East-facing and North-facing. These cooler aspects mean the grapes mature very gradually and evenly and being shielded from the powerful July and August Douro afternoon sun, their unique aromatic properties come more readily to the fore. This is a very individual and distinct Vintage Port of extraordinary intensity and quality.

The north-facing Vinha dos Cardenhos, behind the Quinta house at Malvedos
The north-facing Vinha dos Cardenhos vineyard parcel, behind the house of Graham’s historic Quinta dos Malvedos

Paul Symington’s tasting note for the 2011 Graham’s The Stone terraces Vintage Port: This wine is very individual; it has highly specific characteristics with a very intense tannic structure and a colour of purple-black intensity. The easterly and northerly aspect of these two small vineyards results in fresh scented aromas of violets and mint. There is a complex palate of weighty and spicy tannins combined with blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. This is an extraordinary wine of great power and elegance; it is a new departure for Graham’s and the Symington family.

The Cardenhos and Port Arthur vineyards, shown here in a 1925 survey of Quinta dos Malvedos.
The Cardenhos and Port Arthur vineyards, shown here in a 1925 survey of Quinta dos Malvedos. The original survey chart is exhibited at Graham’s Museum in the 1890 Lodge

Following this tasting session, which included a further six 2011 Vintage Ports from Graham’s sister companies (Cockburn’s, Dow’s, Warre’s, Quinta do Vesuvio and Quinta de Roriz), the tasters were invited to lunch at the recently opened Vinum restaurant, contained within the Graham’s Port lodge. The food was served with various Symington Douro wines, including the Chryseia 2004 Douro DOC (made jointly by the Symington family and Bruno Prats) and — to end the meal on a particularly high note — Graham’s 1963 Vintage Port (served from two magnum bottles). The Vintage Port was simply sublime, 50 years old and still so vital and complete. Curiously some commented that this Port too showed the ‘schistous’ aromatic notes that Paul had earlier associated with the 2011 wines. There were also wonderful aromas of tea-leaf and mint, bergamot and cinnamon and a seductive palate, complex and very, very refined. An absolute delight. We believe that in 2061, when the 2011s reach fifty, they too will offer up a similarly extraordinary experience.

What better way to end a fabulous meal than with two magnums of Graham's superb 1963...
What better way to end a fabulous meal than with two magnums of Graham’s superb 1963…
The tasting was followed by a delicious meal served at Graham's VINUM restaurant
The tasting was followed by a delicious meal served at Graham’s VINUM restaurant

September and October 2011 Douro Insider

After a bit of a non-summer came an extraordinary autumn, bringing weather that the gods of grapes wouldn’t have dared to dream about.  With just enough rain falling on the first of the month to refresh the vines and put the final gloss on maturation, we then enjoyed a seemingly endless summer, with absolutely perfect picking weather.  The growing season thus far had brought innumerable viticultural difficulties and some not inconsiderable losses of potential production, so it was extremely pleasing to see that the surviving grapes that did eventually come into the wineries appeared to be in excellent condition.  Read Full Report

August 2011 Douro Insider

Grapes in evening sunlight

Unlike some months so far this year, August was by no means atypical; on the contrary, both the temperatures and the total precipitation were very close to average.  This makes it much harder to explain the extraordinary maturation of the grapes, but surely the very early veraison discussed in last month’s report must have been in part responsible.  Basically it was clear and hot and dry.  Perhaps the only real anomaly was that the habitual (and hot) evening winds were even stronger than usual but, contrastingly, there were also some surprisingly cool nights on occasions.  The upshot of this was the appearance of some refreshing morning mists, particularly on the high ground and at the coast.  Porto and Gaia were therefore untroubled by any really uncomfortable heat, and indeed many complained of a disappointing summer.  The usual round of forest fires struck around the middle of the month and brought a sinister yellow tinge to the air as the sun struggled to shine through the smoke haze. Read Full Report

Douro Harvest Report 2011

Paul Symington with visitors at Malvedos

Paul Symington gives us his overview and summary of the 2011 Harvest across the Douro:

There are smiles on the faces of wine makers across the Douro as this year’s harvest winds down on yet another day of warm autumn sunshine and our valley has never looked more beautiful.  It has been an extraordinary vintage; since the night of the 1st September there has not been a drop of rain in the Douro, we have harvested our grapes under lovely blue skies day after day for five weeks.

The viticultural year was challenging to start with.  Every month this year saw rainfall that was significantly lower than average and by the end of August we had just 250mm in 8 months at Quinta do Bomfim compared to the mean of 403mm (-38%). But yet again what the older generation have always told us held true:  the rains of the last three months of the previous year are crucial in establishing the water tables deep down in the schistous rock; from October to December 2010 we had a very good 358mm, 50mm more than the average.  So the challenging shortfall of rain this year was compensated by the reserves we had in the bedrock of our vineyard soils. It is for this reason that the very warm April and May encouraged early flowering and fruit set from healthy looking vines.

But the warm weather in the spring encouraged oidium and mildew.  Substantial damage was caused to localised vineyards across the Douro by these fungal infections to those who were not careful, or to those who could not afford the considerable cost of the treatments. To add to these difficulties, June bought some violent hail storms.  One of the worst storms hit our Quinta de Ataide in the Vilariça valley on the 5th June and shredded part of the vineyard. As if that was not enough, we then had a sudden burst of intense heat.   The temperatures had been in the mid-20⁰’s C for much of June, but on the 25th and 26th June the temperatures suddenly rocketed over 40⁰C. In the words of our viticultural researcher Miles Edlmann

The vines were completely unprepared for this thermal onslaught, and it inflicted widespread and very intense sunburn on the fruit, leading to the complete abortion, followed by immediate desiccation, of many of the bunches in the space of a weekend…not even the oldest caseiros can remember having seen sunburn quite like it.

To give an idea of the intensity of this heat, there was a public row in Lisbon and Oporto, because citizen’s groups complained that no public warnings had been given for the very low ozone levels over these two days. All these various challenges reduced yields across the Douro, but of course have no impact on the quality of the fruit.

Evening sunlight across Quinta do Tua 24 August 2011

Thankfully July was only moderately warm, with temperatures at an average of 23.9⁰C compared to the mean of 24.7⁰. But we had no rain.  This has become something of a pattern over recent years and brings additional problems; all the very young vines that we had planted back in March had to be individually watered at considerable cost (€0.23 per vine, on a new 4 hectare vineyard will cost €3,732.00).  August started nicely warm, but again with no rain whatsoever and thankfully no excessive heat.

By now there was a lot of chat in the Douro (as elsewhere across Europe) predicting a very early start for picking.  But some people look only at the Baumés and get carried away and fail to look at the phenolic ripeness.  Green stalks and green pips do not make good wines, even if the sugars are high.  2011 looked to be a re-run of some recent years, where the severe lack of humidity distorted the maturation.  A vine cannot ripen its sugars as well as its tannins if there is a drastic water shortage.

On Sunday afternoon 21st August we were dealt the ace of spades; a large Atlantic storm blew in from the West over the mighty 1,400 meter high Serra do Marão.  For much of the day the skies looked dark and threatening and it was quite possible that the storm would move on over the Douro into Spain without depositing any water.  But at about 7pm, the heavens opened and in the next few hours 34 mm fell at Cavadinha, 18.2mm at Bomfim, 10mm at Malvedos and 21.8mm at Vesuvio.  This was simply superb timing, the vines greedily absorbed the longed-for moisture and the Baumés dropped quickly over the following days while the skins softened after more than 8 weeks of trying to protect the little moisture that was in their berries.

The wiser heads in the Douro began to revise their initial early picking dates.  Then we got another bonus, 18mm of rain on the 1st and 2nd of September.  This was decisive as far as we were concerned.  My cousin Charles Symington, responsible for our vineyards and winemaking, pushed back all picking dates by approximately a week to allow this rain to really benefit the vines.  We had to accept the considerable risk that the autumn weather would become unsettled, resulting in the fruit quality quickly deteriorating.  The arrival of the picking teams was put off, again a logistical risk as some may decide to go elsewhere.  We looked anxiously at the various ten-day forecasts on the internet every day.

PIcking Touriga Franca in the last days of harvest at Malvedos

It was a risk worth taking because we have seldom seen such perfect harvest weather as we have had over the last 5 weeks.  The grapes were in superb condition, with good Baumés and ripe phenolics right through the harvest.  It was immediately clear that very good wines were being made; the colour at the very early stage of fermentation was excellent and improved right the way through September.  The aromas in the wineries were simply wonderful.  Our winemakers often say that the Douro is having a great year when the Touriga Franca (a late ripener) is giving great musts, this year it did.

The summery weather did bring some problems and September was half a degree hotter than average, the grapes harvested in the morning were coming into the wineries at a pleasant 21⁰C, but by the afternoon they were often at 25⁰C or more.  Cooling the must was essential in order to get the right fermentation temperature curve.  While a little raisining is beneficial for great Port, it is not welcome for Douro red wines.  So we were busy on the sorting tables for the best wines this year.  The French ‘Mistral’ machines at two of our Douro DOC red and white wine wineries (Roriz and Sol) was an investment that paid off handsomely.  The Mistral rejects any raisined grapes and only perfect berries make it past the sorting tables where our own selection teams continue to work before and after the Mistral, to give even better selection.

If it was not for the serious underlying problems, we would all be extremely content.  But sadly the harsh environment of the international wine market and the powerful downward price pressures imposed by major international customers has impacted severely on the Douro farmer’s livelihoods.  The situation has not been helped by poor planning from the authorities; while Port sales have stabilized over recent years, the Ministry of Agriculture continued to allow additional planting in the Douro over the last decade, creating an excess of grapes that has been nothing short of catastrophic for the farmers.  It remains to be seen whether enough courage and ability exists to implement the necessary reforms so that the Douro can have a viable future.

Lagares at Dow's Senhora da Ribeira show the intense colours of the musts this year

Returning to the question of the Ports and Douro DOC wines made this year, it can be said that this has been a good and very possibly a great year in the Douro.  The last lagar at Quinta de Cavadinha in the Pinhão valley is still fermenting as this report is being written, so the wines will need to be assessed over the coming months, but here is no doubt some very exciting wines have been made in 2011.

Paul Symington
Portugal 10th October 2011

View of Quinta dos Malvedos taken at the start of harvest

5 October Malvedos Winery Update

António washing down the floor in the old original part of the adega

Although today there are no grapes, there is still plenty to do in the winery.  While some of us deal with the last fortifications and packing up the Vinhaço from the press the rest of us are fully occupied with cleaning the winery which will now stand empty for almost eleven months until the next harvest.

The last lagar of Touriga Franca / Tinto Cão will be fortified tomorrow morning and then basically it’s over for the winery team.  A skeleton team of Fonseca, Juca and I will stay until Friday finalising details of the winery’s closure.

For the record 2011 is one of the best harvests I have ever had the privilege to work in…

That said, the long hours and hard work does take its toll on the team, as witness these photos of Fonseca and myself before and after harvest…

Fonseca and Henry: official pre-harvest portrait
Fonseca and Henry, after a very good, but hard working, harvest 2011

4 October Malvedos Winery Update

Sunset from the Malvedos winery, end of a perfect harvest

Today was the last day of the Vintage and it ended exactly as it started, warm and with a bright blue sky. Since we started on the 15th September there was only one day that was not like this, with some sporadic rain and drizzle.

It is extremely rare that we are blessed with such perfect weather throughout the whole of a Vintage and this of course has certainty contributed to the overall quality of the year.

All I can say is that I am really pleased (and relieved) that all the Malvedos grapes were picked under perfect conditions and are now all in the winery and beyond the reach of any rain or bad weather that is yet to come, though Charles did say the forecast remains clear for another 10 days or more, for those still harvesting.

Picking the last parcel of Touriga Franca early Tuesday

Vineyard update

20 days and 117 tractor loads later all the grapes were picked and the 2011 Malvedos Vintage ended at 18:00 this afternoon!

The last lagar to be filled was a mix of Touriga Franca and Tinto Cão and is being trodden as I write at 23:10.

Winery Update

It was a crazy day at the winery with everything seeming to be going on at the same time – unloading boxes, corrections, transfers between lodges, fortifications and a series of visitors to be looked after.  We are all working late tonight and still expect one more fortification in the early hours.

Tomorrow we will begin cleaning up and by the time we leave here the winery and all the equipment will be spotless and shining like brand new.

Visitors and a Celebration

The 14 wines finished so far lined up for a tasting at the winery

Today we received a series of visitors throughout the day.  In the morning Henri Sizaret and Eliane the new Graham’s Brand Manager arrived, also a German Port wine specialist, Axel Probst together with Dominic.  We all enjoyed a tasting of every wine finished so far at the winery, followed by a pleasant lunch together up at the house.

In the afternoon a group came round from our SAP implementation project – a major new customised information system for tracking all our wines – who are currently working on the ‘Vintage’ module.  Let’s see how they program this!

Before dinner we were all invited by Paul and Charles for an end of Vintage drink up at the house.  We all relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful snacks prepared by Branca and Prazeres.

End of Harvest Celebration

Today we finished picking all the grapes at Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos.  The last trailer load came in at 18:00 and luckily it was a small load, so we could process the grapes in time to have celebration drinks with Paul and Charles.

The winery team and all our support people gathered up at the house to relax for a little while and enjoy some of Branca’s wonderful cooking before heading back to the winery for a very busy night – we have three lagares on the go right now.

More about the last day of harvest when Henry can find time between jobs!

Below, Charles Symington, Sr. Arlindo our caseiro (bailiff) who manages both Quinta dos Malvedos and Quinta do Tua, and Paul Symington

Charles Symington, Arlindo the Malvedos caseiro, and Paul Symington
The Graham's Harvest 2011 team - house, winery and Paul and Charles Symington

From left to right:  Pedro, António, Dona Rosa, Branca, Paul Symington, Prazeres, Fonseca, Tiago (kneeling), Carlos, Alexandre Mariz, Charles Symington (kneeling, with Masai beside him), Juca, Joaquim (Quinta do Tua), Paulo (Quinta do Tua), Carlos, Marta (Charles’s wife), Henry and Alexandre

Quinta do Tua

View of Quinta do Tua, from across the Tua River where it enters the Douro

Just upriver from Graham’s famous Quinta dos Malvedos is the Quinta do Tua, another wonderful vineyard with a beautiful house, a winery and quite a bit of history.

Vineyards and Winery

The vineyards at Tua begin above the house in spectacular old walled vineyards on a west facing bluff, then wrap around the hill and modern patamares (narrow soil-banked terraces) extend along the south facing bank of the Douro.  The grapes grown at Quinta do Tua are vinified for Graham’s Ports in the Malvedos winery every harvest.  But we also have a winery at Quinta do Tua which we use for receiving and processing the grapes which we buy in from local farmers.  The nearby valley of  Ribalonga has an excellent microclimate, and the grapes are of a very high quality.

Paulo Macedo is winemaker at Tua during harvest.  If Henry thinks he has paperwork at Malvedos, with all the grapes coming from within our own properties, he should count his blessings he is not at Tua.  Like Henry, Paulo has to track the source (quinta and exact vineyard parcel), weight, variety, general quality and baumé of every delivery.  But additionally, Paulo and an accountant work together to track all the details of the individuals who have sold us their grapes – around 200 this year at Tua – so they can be paid correctly.  There is also all the paperwork for the transfer of the beneficio associated with the farmer’s grapes, which is effectively the authorisation from the IVDP to make a certain quantity of Port from the vineyards where the grapes were picked.

Paulo Macedo, left, winemaker at Tua, watching the grapes being delivered from nearby farmers

The winery opened on 12 September, and received white grapes on specific days as well as red.  Tua works two full shifts, day and night, as the volume of grapes coming in means there is nearly always work to be done overnight with fortifications and moving wines around.  Final deliveries were taken on the 1st October, and now there are just the final fortifications and corrections to be done, and the team hope to go home in a day or two.  After vinifying 1,000,000 kilos of grapes they have earned their rest!

After harvest, Paulo will return to his year round role as viticulturist for Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim and many of the Symington properties in the Rio Torto valley, including Graham’s Quinta das Lages.

The house at Quinta do Tua

The House at Quinta do Tua

This quinta is one that was built by Dona Antónia Ferreira, and the date over the door is 1831.  The wonderful house was built to serve as her base of operations while developing properties further upriver like the legendary Quinta do Vesuvio, now also a Symington brand and quinta.  She generously made the house available to other travellers in the Douro and at one point the quinta was known as Quinta dos Inglezes (The Englishmen’s Quinta) for that reason.

The house continues to render hospitality for wayfarers:  throughout the harvest the Graham’s blogger lives there, as do Paulo Macedo and the accountant.  Lisa from the Malvedos winery team was here for ten days, and Marta and Monica, the health and safety team from our Gaia offices, stayed for a few nights between inspections at all of our Douro properties.

Lots of photos, comfortable furnishings, old hats atop the vitrine... very home like
One of the old balseiros in the storage area underneath the living quarters

For much of the 20th century Tua was a Cockburn’s property, and the early to mid 20th century photos on the walls of all the partners and visitors, as well as all the comfortable old furniture, give the house a very homelike feel.  Henry Shotton’s own great grandfather was a partner at Cockburn’s, and his photo is on the wall here.  There is a great deal of continuity in these Douro properties and the families that live and work here, despite the vicissitudes of ownership.

Like many houses in the Douro, this one is built of granite and the upper floor is living quarters whilst the lower level, built into the hill on three sides, was used as storage for the wines over the winter.  The house is marvellously cool even on the hottest days, so conditions are excellent for both inhabitants and wines.  We still use the big wooden balseiros to store some of the Tua wines, and the blogger sometimes finds it hard to fall asleep at night, for the scent of newly made Port wafting up through the floor boards.