I have been told that the Douro Valley is experiencing the driest winter in 80 years; we have not had rain of any impact since early December 2011, approaching 4 months. Luckily November rain was considered "abundant" at 7 cm (2.8 in), but the void of average monthly precipitation since then, in the normally “wet” winter months puts one, especially involved in agriculture, on edge. As you probably know, all southern European countries are experiencing acute drought this winter, a near phenomenon, and Portugal is not excluded. Looking at past precipitation charts 2007, 2005 and 2002 weredry" years with +/- 40 cm (16 in) ; average rainfall for our quinta is 50 cm (20 in).
Jorge tells me that the hopeful rain that will fall in April will be most beneficial; rain at this time soaks into the ground and there is less run-off. Our choice to practice organic viticulture gives us an advantage, as our natural cover crop helps to retain moisture. The schist and sub soil allow for water retention deep down, another plus for the already existing dry weather of the Douro's challenging viticultural environment. Our fingers are crossed and we do hope to not perform an American Indian rain dance! Planting will take place, all the same, in early April.
A correction needs to be made in my Feb 2012 blog: the time that is legally permitted to irrigate a new vineyard for establishment is 3 years instead of 1 year. At least that is on our side, in our replanting project.