2019 harvest - the end of a long maturation period in a year marked by a declining workforce in the Douro Valley
The diversity in soil types, grape varieties, sunlight exposure and altitudes enabled a gradual maturation of the grapes, an important factor for achieving high quality grapes.
Márcio Nóbrega, Head of Viticulture at Sogevinus Fine Wines
The 2018-2019 vine growing year began with a dry and cold winter, with less rainfall than normal (compared to the normal climate, NC), except for November, when there was higher than average rainfall.
Spring was dry and warm, apart from April, when rainfall levels were slightly above the NC. However, the virtual absence of rain from May to late summer (in Quinta de S. Luiz, in the subregion of Cima-Corgo, precipitation was 30% below average) was not disastrous as the temperatures this summer were marginally below normal, with the maximum temperatures always under those registered in the past few years.
The temperature ranges between August and September were highly beneficial to the grapes' ripening. The lack of rain and the high temperatures, which are normal in the Douro, together with cool nights were a stark contrast to the extreme climate conditions that have occurred in past summers.
The vine growing cycle started in the second half of March and developed normally for the Douro region. Diseases and pests were not a problem in 2019 as the climate conditions did not favour their development.
The harvest began with dry weather and moderate temperatures, which benefited gradual ripening. After a month of harvesting, the slight rainfall of 21st / 22nd September caused a pause in the picking, enabling a proper final ripening of some vine plots. The grapes showed perfect health.
Given the long period of ripening this year, attention to detail in each plot and close monitoring of the grapes' maturation were key factors for achieving wines with great potential and beautiful fruitiness.
Ricardo Macedo, winemaker of DOC wines at Sogevinus Fine Wines
In Quinta de S. Luiz, the picking started on 22nd August and finished on 24th of September.
The variety Viosinho, which grows at the lowest height in the Quinta (200m), was the first to be picked, having shown good alcohol levels and excellent acidity in the maturation monitoring data.
About two weeks later, on 5th September, the harvesting of the red grapes began. The old vines, planted at the lowest heights in the Quinta, were the first plots to be harvested. The Touriga Franca, which grows at a height of 250m, was the last one to be picked at Quinta de S. Luiz, on 24th September.
In Quinta do Arnozelo, in the Douro Superior, we started picking the white grapes on 28th August, beginning with the Viosinho. The picking of the red grapes started on 6th September with the Touriga Nacional from the lowest height plots.
With the ripening occurring over a longer period of time and at a different pace for all the varieties and in all subregions, it was necessary to maintain a close and constant monitoring of all the plots in the three Quintas, so that the grapes' optimum health was kept throughout the harvesting, transport and delivery to the winery, aiming to extract the terroir's full potential. The permanent monitoring of the grapes' ripening enabled us to carry out a meticulous and controlled vinification. We were therefore able to preserve the full flavour of the fruit.
This resulted in structured red wines, with great colour and excellent acidity. The levels of alcohol were a fraction lower than last year's, leading to very balanced wines with good tannins, remarkably smooth and creamy, which is a good indication of high-quality wines when it comes to production.
The Touriga Nacional is fresh and aromatic, with notes of orange blossom and violet, extremely delicate and elegant on the palate. The Tinta Roriz, on the other hand, is remarkably mineral, with good acidity and fresh fruit. The Sousão, having been picked earlier in the harvest, is extremely velvety and shows good body in the mouth. It is worth highlighting the excellent performance of the Touriga Nacional in 2019. High temperatures and low water levels in the soil provided the perfect conditions for the variety to produce the best fruit.
The old vines at Quinta de S. Luiz produced remarkably balanced wines as far as alcohol and acidity are concerned, with beautiful structure and vibrant colour, a weighty body, and floral and fruity notes (blackberry and orange blossom).
As for the white wines, we are getting fresh and fruity wines with a good palate. The Malvasia Fina shows notes of tropical fruit, passion fruit and pineapple, as does the Cercial. The Folgasão displays remarkable structure, minerality and fruit, with incredibly fresh notes. In the Viosinho we find a perfect balance between sugar and acidity, which makes for structured, full-bodied wines, with good alcohol levels, quite floral and with subtle notes of aniseed, peach and lime tree blossom. The Gouveio is showing a rich structure and good aromatic elements, with citrus (orange) and hints of bread. The last varieties to be picked were the Rabigato and the Arinto, which grow in the highest plots (550m). They have produced wines with good acidity, citrus colour, strong minerality, and hints of green apple, lemon and notes of passion fruit.
"As winter approaches, white wines begin to reveal their qualities whereas the reds are at the end of their malolactic fermentation. We are seeing wines with excellent structure, perfumed and very fresh in the winery, which suggest a great ageing potential. A promising future for the 2019 harvest wines", concludes Ricardo Macedo.
"Challenged because of the shortage of seasonal workers, the 2019 harvest was worthy of all the extra effort and hard work in the winery, producing very fresh, aromatic wines with great depth of colour."
Carlos Alves, winemaker of Port wines at Sogevinus Fine Wine
This harvest offered us healthy grapes, with a good, balanced maturation between sugars and acids – 2019 is not showing high levels of sugars in the fruit.
Port wines are showing fresh, aromatic characteristics, with assertive tannins and a great depth of colour. As far as grape varieties are concerned, the Touriga Franca is worth mentioning for its colour concentration and aromas of black fruit, the Touriga Nacional for its elegance, and the Sousão for its colour depth and impeccable freshness.
"We now await Douro's harsh winter so that the wines reveal their full potential, but I dare say this is one of the best years of this decade, after the classic vintages of 2011, 2016 and 2017", says Carlos Alves, predicting a new spark in the wine business.