The harvest of 2018 can be summarised in a short sentence: lower yield but of very fine quality.
Started on 22nd August / finished on 19th October
Estates: in a total of 210 hectares of owned vinyeards and other grape producers:
The vintage cycle began with a cold and dry winter. Spring went on cold albeit wet, which delayed the beginning of the vegetative cycle. The level of rain in March was twice the average, whilst April and May showed levels of rain similar to the 30-year average (Climatological Normal).
June registered rain and hail, which caused a significant loss of yield in some areas of the Douro. Rainfall was also high, twice as much as the average levels for the month.
The weather conditions at the end of spring and beginning of summer brought about some issuues in the vineyard, especially mildew. But the care and quick response from the growers saved the vines and enabled the good growth of the berries.
The rest of the summer was rather hot and dry; August and September were some of the hottest months of the last decade. At Quinta de S. Luiz, in the Douro subregion of Cima Corgo, the top temperatures in August were an average of 35.9°C.
So much so that there were some periods of sunburn, which led to losses in the vineyard. On those vines where the leaves better sheltered the clusters, the grapes matured nicely. In spite of summer’s high temperatures, the plants were able to extract the necessary water and nutrients from the soil, which contributed to a fine and healthy crop.
The immutable patched pattern of soils, altitudes and grape varieties was undoubtedly responsible for a yield of high quality grapes. 2018 was an unpredictable year, but Sogevinus’ viticulture team believes that it has delivered a harvest of potentially great wines.
Faced with lower quantities of grapes coming into the winery, Sogevinus’ winemaking team devoted a good chunk of the harvest time to observing the berries carefully and closely following up the first fermentation stages.
In this challenging year for the Douro (and Portugal as a whole), the majority of the berries that were of lesser quality simply succumbed, and so the grapes that actually came into our wineries were of excellent health, and exceptionally so in some cases.
In Port wines, the musts show very intense colouring, firm and dense tannins, and are still aromatically quite restrained at this stage.
Similar to recent years, the grape variety Touriga Franca stands out for its wines of great concentration. Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz are also raising interest, but we will have to wait for the next winter to better judge which of the varieties have the unique characteristics to be the basis for the special category wines.
The prospect of evolution is therefore quite positive.
Having to respect the growth cycle of each variety in each location demanded a constant supervision of the grapes’ maturation in the field and picking timings. This year, the waiting was worth it.
The white wines are fresh and wonderfully aromatic, and have excellent acidity, which is a good sign of ageing potential. The variety Viosinho, for instance, shows perfect balance. Other white varieties – like Malvasia Fina, Gouveio, Ribagato, Arinto and Folgasão – are showing qualities that promise very interesting blends, with higher altitude grapes (above 550 metres) expressing extraordinary elegance and character.
As for the red wines, Touriga Franca has done amazingly well, no doubt because it’s a variety that deals efficiently with high temperatures. Touriga Nacional is showing its usual fineness and floral distinctiveness; Tinta Roriz has incredible freshness and tightness; and Sousão, having had an early harvest, presents full body and intense colour.
One last note about the wines from old vines; these are showing a strong balance between fruit and floral notes, which with firm structure and final freshness, signal longevity.
In the wine making business, waiting for the right moment is always a virtue. And we all know great wines need time.