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.’