Douro hails early 2017 harvest as possible vintage year

Drinks: Drinks, Port, Wines
Location: Europe, Portugal

The Douro has experienced one of the earliest harvests in its history, with nearly all the valley’s grapes picked by the middle of September, and talk already of a potential vintage year.

‘It’s an amazing year, but it’s very early,’ said Carlos Alves, winemaker for the Sogevinus group, which owns Kopke, Cálem and Burmester. ‘Normally by the middle of September the harvest would hardly have started, but we’re finished already.’

According to Alves, the picking of the white grapes began in the region on 17 August. ‘The last time we started harvesting so early was 1945,’ noted David Guimaraens, head winemaker of The Fladgate Partnership, which owns Taylor’s, Fonseca and Croft.

The earlier-than-usual start to harvest caused labour shortages for some smaller growers, with seasonal pickers not yet working in the area. ‘Usually the harvest would start in the Upper Douro and move down; but this year everything has ripened at the same time,’ explained Adrian Bridge, CEO of The Fladgate Partnership.

With high temperatures and barely any rain, yields are expected to be slightly below average, though since the Douro is used to heat, and there was no frost damage, production has not been so affected as in other parts of Europe in 2017 – and quality looks impressive.

‘This is an amazing year, quality-wise,’ said Alves. ‘It’s really concentrated, with small berries, so lots of colour and tannin. It’s too early to say for sure, since we’ve only just picked, but it looks like it could be a vintage year.’

About Author

Chris Losh

After five years working on My Weekly magazine (during which time he learned how to write horoscopes and make things out of mince) in 1995 Chris Losh entered the world of drinks writing and, despite all advice from his doctor – and the wishes of most South African winemakers – has stayed there ever since. He began on Wine and Spirit International, editing it for several years before moving on to edit Wine Magazine. Both publications have since gone the way of the Dodo, but he claims to have nothing to do with their demise, and his alibi appears solid, since he was freelance writing for anyone who would pay him at the time. In 2007, he helped to set up both Imbibe magazine and the Sommelier Wine Awards, and has spent much of the last three years eating, drinking, and listening to French sommeliers talk about minerality. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Louis Roederer Feature Writer of the Year, but didn’t win. Perhaps he should have stuck to horoscopes. And mince.

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