Vintage Report 2009

Harvesting Aragonez

Synopsis: A cold wet winter, and a warm summer, free of heat spikes. Budbreak, flowering and harvest – all record 2 weeks early!   Despite the early start for the whites, we slowed down for the reds and the best fruit was harvested at the end of the harvest, gaining more phenolic ripeness.

Our 14th harvest. Quantity at 950 tons, was 5% above last year despite smaller yields due to larger vineyard areas coming into bearing.  A good year for Aragonez, Trincadeira, Petit Verdot, and Viognier.  A very good vintage, though not as excellent as 2008.

An exceptionally cold winter, one of the coldest in 19 years, and a rare snowfall in January! Rainfall was normal at 500mm, mostly concentrated in the winter months, followed by a dry and warm spring and summer.  In contrast to chilly January, an unseasonal ‘heat spell’ in February with temperatures in the low 20s triggered a record early budbreak 26th February. Weather during the all important period of flowering in May, alternated between warm and dry, and cold and rainy, resulting in uneven pollination and low fruit set in some varieties.  Summer arrived in early May only interrupted by a brief cooling down in mid June, to pick up again and continue non-stop through mid- October.  A very hot period in early August when temperatures averaged 25º kick-started the exceptionally early harvest date.

On August 11th, 2 weeks earlier than last year’s Vindima, harvest started with the picking of Viognier and Verdelho. The early harvest was essential to capture the  acidity and good fruit in the whites, and we are particularly excited about Viognier, which is only our 2nd harvest of this promising variety. Due to the new areas coming into bearing (a total of 11 ha), our white grape harvest was twice the size of last years, including Antao Vaz, Viognier, Verdelho and  Semillon.

Vintage 2009

20th August with some hesitation, we started harvesting our reds, Syrah and Trincadeira. As the first grapes harvested came in with a high sugar level but unsatisfactory phenolic ripeness, we slowed down the harvest tempo, betting that the good weather would continue – a calculated risk, which fortunately paid off as the weather was with us!    Trincadeira seems to be quite an exceptional quality this year, as does Aragonez and Petit Verdot.  Aragonez in past years, has shown a tendency to ‘shut down’ during excessive heat spells. But this year, the growing season was free of any extreme heat waves, and the Aragonez has done very well, with very even ripeness, although with smaller bunches and lower production.

Harvest came to an end after 45 days (6 weeks) on September 25th .    Although yields were generally lower and bunches smaller, total tons picked was 949,  up 5% from a year earlier, due to some new vineyards coming into bearing (total 127 ha).   The harvest workforce ranged from 7 to 50. The lovely harvest weather allowed us to set the tempo, staying generally warm and fine with cool, dry nights, interrupted for only a brief interlude by some thunderstorms and rain.

Grapes harvested were 93% red and 7% white. Breakdown by variety in 2009 is for reds – Syrah 40%, Aragonez (Tempranillo) 34(%, Touriga Nacional 8,5%, Petit Verdot 4%, Alicante Bouschet 5,6%, Trincadeira 4%.  Breakdown for whites – Antão Vaz 30%, Semillon 30%, Viognier18 %, and Verdelho 12%.

Hooded lady harvesting

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