The harvest starts when the grapes are ripe. Jorge tells me that after the hot summer months of June, July and the first half of August, a general cooling period kicks in during the second half of August. Lower maximum temperatures and lower average day and night temperatures trigger the final stretch for grape ripeness. A waiting period: grape sampling occurs with increased frequency; the clusters turn darker in color, the skin softens, the grapes become plump and detach from the cluster more easily and taste sweeter and sweeter. The seeds turn from green to brown. Grape "berry" samples from various parts of each parcel are hand picked, then tasted and then analyzed in the lab. Depending on the parcel's age, exposure and maturity the grapes are selected to become Porto or Douro DOC. When the optimal ratio between sugar, acid and ph results the harvest starts. According to Jorge, the last 2 weeks of August are as important as the flowering time and the actual harvest.
This year stands out. Looking at monthly climatic bulletins put out by ADVID, Douro Region’s Viticultural Association, from January to July 2013 (August’s comes out end of month, so is not part of this blog), January to July monthly temperatures are between a full 1 to 2 C* (1.5 – 3 * F) on average cooler than in the last 30 years! A significant change that slows down the ripening period. Coupled with an unusually wet March that affected flowering and veraison, the harvest will start later than usual. (Oh, not to mention the 2012 replanted parcel with sections of walls that collapsed during the days of non-stop rain in March, that have been rebuilt over the summer!)
Ultimately the decision of when to start the harvest is based on taste and individual judgement, guided by scientific criteria measures. I am very confident that Jorge and Hugo will make the right decision for when the harvest begins!
For your information, according to Jorge:
grape quantity - more or less the 2012 harvest
grape quality - shows very good
ripeness of grapes : 11,5 - 12,5 potential alcohol
foot treading for port- 8-12 September – we await you to join us!
Here are some photos documenting harvest prep: