by Max Driscoll
Generally, the wine year for Portugal was almost a little backwards! Rains decreased through a cold winter and into spring, and then a warm spring didn’t continue into summer. Cooler than usual and a little dryer, 2019 will most likely be characterised by fresher wines with purity of fruit.
The Douro valley has seen another good year, though perhaps not a vintage port year… time will tell! Typified by the general weather pattern: A cooler year means freshness and structure, and perhaps a good year for the whites!?
Quinta do Vale Meão normally cope with more extreme heat, being furthest east in the Douro superior. 2019 though left them with very little to worry about. A slow maturation, with little hydric stress, meant quite a long harvest (Aug 22nd to October 10th), requiring close attention as to when to pick each variety. Xito Olazabal likes the look of the wines; ”…they have elegance and freshness, with excellent potential for evolution in barrel”.
The harvest at both Niepoort’s quinta do Napoles and Vale do Mendiz wineries went smoothly. Dirk has said it’s too soon to really tell how the wines will be, but he is happy, and a cooler vintage suits his prefered style.
Luis Lourenço is happy with 2019 in the Dão. Still struggling a little with drought, this year has been a surprise. A warm summer has allowed healthy development of the grapes, and good ripening. Harvest was smooth, with no troubles or rain. At Roques the whites are good, Encruzado particularly. At Maias the acidity of the Jaen is really good. Rains came only 3 days after the last grapes were harvested, perfect timing for this thirsty region. A few days of rain now bodes well for next year!
Luis Pato has, thus far, remained fairly quiet. He said Bairrada has seen Baga production down significantly, though careful management of vineyards and picking has seen good quality. The best result for his 2019 is that the quality of his white wines is very high.
In the cooler, northern Minho region, Quinta do Soalheiro have had a ‘classic’ year. Cooler temperatures have meant good acidities. Perfect harvest conditions have resulted in elegant wines with great fruit concentration. Quinta da Raza reported similar, with importance of picking timings highlighted. An even maturation, without hydric stress due to a fairly rainy summer, meant they had time to play with and could pick each variety when ready. They are happy that moderate alcohol levels and good acidities will balance great varietal fruit character to produce intense wines.
In the Alentejo, Casa Relvas have reported their best vintage for almost a decade, with whites showing great aromatics, but reds being standout! They had a cold and wet winter to set things off and then Spring and Summer were both good, if cooler than average; “almost never exceeding 32 °C”. This meant there was very little pressure from Mildew nor Oidium, and maturation was slow and even. A lovely harvest through August and September has proven Trincadeira and Alicante Bouchet as the standout varieties. A great result for a region still technically in drought!
Susana Esteban, a little further North, said she had a year of lower yields from her vineyards. However, “…acidities are the main thing, and they’re good”.