The viticultural year 2016/2017 was one of extreme heat and very dry. Although rainfall in November was above average, rainfall in December and January was over 50% down on an average year and the winter was cold, especially during the month of January when temperatures were 2ºC lower than average (source ADVID). While from February onwards temperatures were significantly higher than average (source ADVID). The spring of 2017 saw rainfall well below average, for example during the month of April precipitation measured across various vineyard sites throughout the Douro region was between 72 and 96% lower than average. The Spring and early Summer was also punctuated with various mini heat waves during the months of April, May and June. Unstable weather in May with fluctuations in temperature and some thunderstorms coincided with flowering during the same period, but with the low humidity, disease incidence was low and by the start of the Summer the vegetative cycle was well ahead and veraison occured in the last few weeks of June which along with July was extremely hot, with consecutive days in July registering temperatures over 35ºC (Source ADVID). Some thunderstorms in the Baixo and Cima Corgo in early July gave the impression that rainfall was above average in July, however the rainfall was very concentrated and ran into local tributaries and the Douro River with little infiltration into the soil. The month of August was marginally cooler, but the weather very much influenced maturity with some of the earliest harvest starting dates on record in mid August as fruit was suffering from the effects of extreme dehydration.
At Vale de Mendiz harvest started on 24th of August with grapes from various vineyards for Charme , weather conditions for harvesting were good and fruit quality was very sound but berry shrivel was a problem especially towards the end of the harvest; the last grapes were harvested on 26th of September, fruit was generally high in sugar and anthocyanin levels and yields were approximately 30% down on a normal year essentially due to dehydration.
Grape intake for the 2017 harvest is illustrated in the graph below with a peak of 32,677 Kg on the 3rd of September. Some 635 Pipes of Red port were made at Vale de Mendiz with musts taking high levels of tartaric acid, given the very ripe conditions and high level of dehydrated fruit. Although a final tasting of barrels destined towards Charme 2017 has not taken place, given the excesses of maturity volumes will be down on 2016 when 15.000 L of Charme were produced in Vale de Mendiz.
Once again White Port was made in Lagar with 100% stems at Vale de Mendiz with a total of 40 pipes, including some Geropiga from fruit sourced in Provesende at the end of the Vintage from 22nd to the 26th of September.
With increased capacity in fermentation and storage since 2016 and a new reception area in 2017 intake of grapes ran well even though pressing capacity at times was limited, however of more concern was the difficulty in finding sufficient numbers of people to pick grapes, not only for Niepoort but in the whole Douro region. The intake of grapes at Vale de Mendiz in 2017 lasted just over a month as illustrated in the graph below:
2017 will be remembered for the intense heat and record low levels of rainfall which accelerated the vegetative cycle leading to a record early start to harvest in the Douro and provided highly concentrated musts with high pH´s and sugar levels.
A total of 470,354 Kgs of red grapes were received along with 33,303 Kg of White grapes in relatively sound conditions with very low rejection rates although some grape suppliers such as Rui Borges need to be further accompanied in the vineyard during the harvesting period to avoid picking of diseased grapes and mouriscas etc.
At this stage over 50.000 L of top Vintage quality ports have been selected by the tasting panel and transported to Gaia in April and a Vintage will surely be on the cards.
As regards Charme, 2017 was a very difficult year, given the elegant balanced and unripe acid driven style of the wine – although the final tasting has not taken place prior to transport of the wine to Quinta de Nápoles, quantities are likely to be lower than in most years.
The new grape reception worked very well, but it was very fustrating that the builder failed to lay the cobbled entrance in time for the harvest and and temporary surface in cement had to be laid for the harvest and only after the harvest the final cobbled entrance was in place.
Winter 2016/2017 was very dry in Bairrada, with a few spring rain showers at the end of April/beginning May, followed by a very dry summer. The low humidity lowered the risk of disease to practically zero, and therefore there was hardly any need for vineyard treatments. Due to the extremely dry conditions and excessive heat, the grapes ripened much earlier, and harvesting began approximately 3 weeks earlier than in the previous year, starting on 17 August and ending on 19 September.
It was a good vintage, with wines displaying a deeper colour and higher alcohol levels, but with well-balanced acidity. We could thus retain the freshness and elegance which are so characteristic of the wines of the Quinta de Baixo.
2017 was a dry year. Thanks to the low humidity, the vineyards were completely disease-free and hardly needed any treatment. However, the extremely dry conditions and excessive heat caused the grapes to ripen early. Harvesting began approximately 2 weeks earlier than in the previous year, starting on 30 August and ending on 22 September.
It was a good year, with wines displaying a deeper colour and higher alcohol levels, but with well-balanced acidity, which allowed the maintenance of the usual freshness and elegance. Fermentation took place without any problems, and currently, the wines are maturing in old wooden vats.