Harvest Report

2018

Weather conditions in the Douro Valley and in Portugal in general remain very unstable and unpredictable.

This took its toll on the 2017/18 farming year, which suffered from periods of drought, prolonged rain, heat peaks, and localised hail storms during the summer.

We thus had a very different year from normal and a very challenging on the technical front!

Precipitation

In terms of rainfall, the values recorded from November 2017 to September 2018 were, in the Lower Corgo, 804.2mm, which compares with an annual average of 848.9mm, and in the Upper Douro, 511.4mm, which compares with an annual average of 534.9mm.

Although the shift from the average was not very significant, rainfall distribution throughout the year was very atypical: the last months of 2017 prolonged the drought trend already felt in the two previous years until February 2018; March was a very rainy month, and although April and May were reasonably normal in terms of average rainfall, there were strong localized storms; in June it rained again, and in a most unusual way for the time of the year!

This scenario, aggravated by occasional hail storms, caused widespread concerns amongst the Douro wine growers, as it created the conditions for the development of late Downy mildew infections, in turn leading in some cases to heavy production losses.

Sun

August saw new instances of freak weather, this time with spells of scorching heat - temperatures rose above 45° C, with averages of around 33 ° C - causing "escaldão" (sunburn) in many vineyards (from 2 to 6 August).
This month was also affected by new localized storms, with hail falls, one of which (on 22 August) hit some of Quinta do Vallado's vineyards, in the Upper Douro.

Excluding these localized storms, July, August and September were very hot and dry months, and there was no rainfall worthy of note during the harvest season, which was carried out under maximum temperatures nearly always above 30ºC. Despite the heat during the day, September nights were quite cool, strongly benefiting the quality of the grapes and the wines.

August 2018 was the 2nd warmest month of August since 1931 (the warmest was 2003), and the 4th of August was the hottest day of the 21st Century.

September 2018 was the warmest month of September since 1931.

Evolution of the vineyard

As to the evolution of the vineyard, the vine's cycle of vegetative growth was very slow throughout the year, with the harvest starting on 28 August - which is 20 days later than in 2017 and 10 days later than usual - and extending up to 7 October. As for the grapes' yield and quality, after such an eventful year weatherwise, we note that the diversity and complexity of the Douro region once again acted as positive and protective factors: although some vineyards and grape varieties suffered from the year's weather incidents, there were also many that produced well and with great quality! In short, we can say that after a very early start of the harvest, amidst strong concerns due to general expectations of low production levels, the whites with which we began the harvest met and even surpassed our expectations, in both qualitative and quantitative terms, thus boosting our outlook for the remainder of the 2018 harvest.

However, as the reds started to be harvested, fears of a sharp reduction in yield were confirmed, which is expected to reach around 30% on average. At Quinta do Vallado (Régua), we had an 8% drop relative to the average of the last 10 years (essentially due to the sunburn suffered by the most sensitive varieties, such as Sousão); if we include the vineyards in the Upper Douro, and here the main culprits were hailstorms and sunburn, we are speaking of a global reduction of 15%.

Some of the grape varieties behaved extraordinarily well in 2018, such as Touriga Franca, which will produce some of the best wines of the year; also, the old vines produced grapes of outstanding quality.

Overall, the white wines will be excellent, with an alcohol content below normal, good acidity and very fruity.

The reds will be very concentrated, with an intense colour and good acidity, elegant and very balanced.

Expectations for Port are also very high.

João Ferreira Alvares Ribeiro

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