Today it is impossible not to think daily about climate change. Erratic weather patterns, higher temperatures, longer periods of drought, melting polar caps---this is the world’s new norm. Having owned Quinta do Tedo since 1992 (27 years) – even if not living there full time – we have witnessed climatic changes. We harvest earlier almost every year, endure longer heat waves (frying an egg on a stone outdoors is now feasible!), unpredictable summer storms, mildew in our vineyards (when we have always prided ourselves on how “the other regions” have issues with mildew, and not us!). The list goes on.
We are moving into late Spring; the usual rainy season from January through March is behind us, but this year a large part of the rain came in … April! While visiting our Quinta from California in late March through the first week of April, there were days of shorts and sweat. “Is the Douro heat already starting?” would strain my already anxious mind. “Will there be any more rain?” as I walked in the uncannily dry vineyards. “How will this year without enough rain and already abnormally high temperatures be?” “How will the Quinta’s vegetable plots, the region’s flora and fauna and most importantly the grape vines cope?” When rain came to the rescue in April following 3 months of minimal rainfall, also came mental relief.
Douro Valley’s traditional Porto grape varieties are drought and heat tolerant, but that does not mean the quality will not be affected by hotter growing temperatures and lower rainfall. Our dry rock walls (5 kilometers long at our Quinta, if they were all lined up in a row!) help to maintain humidity in the soil for the vines and prevent soil erosion (compared to the more recent vertical vineyard planting; however we do have occasional walls that fall and need rebuilding). Since 2009 we practice organic viticulture to replenish the soil with organic matter. We try our best to be stewards of the land, but there is always more we can do.
According to NASA, 17 of the 18 warmest years in the 136 years since records began have all occurred since 2001. In March 2019 the 2nd Porto Protocol Climate Change Leadership Conference was held in Porto (the first conference was endorsed by Obama in 2017) – 850 people attended and 50 speakers from all over the world met to brain storm. Adrian Bridge, CEO of Taylor’s Port, asked for 2 commitments from those in the wine industry: 1) do more tomorrow than we do today and 2) share what works and learn from others to find solutions. We can all do more, be it in the wine world and in any form of industry, but it is key to work together.