Harvest 2014

Annual harvest foot treading at Quinta do Tedo
Annual harvest foot treading at Quinta do Tedo.

Patches of rainfall interrupting gorgeous days of Douro sun add challenges to a harvest that started ahead of usual 5 September harvest date and ended later on 26 September.  Even though the Douro region remains within the 30-yr average of both precipitation and temperature, slightly cooler July and August resulted in grapes ripening later than in the past several years.  The quality looks very good. This year the landscape has remained greener and no one has heard about the terrible Portuguese wildfires that normally plague the hills during the very hot and dry summer months!

Inexhaustable and dedicated Alvaro.
Inexhaustible and dedicated Alvaro.
Son Joe and Peter McElearney (childhood friend from Napa Valley) both worked harvest, super hard-working cellar rats.
Cracking smiles even in the rain!

20 yr-old daughter Odile and I opened doors during the harvest period to a 15-seat “Bistro O.K.” (Bistro Odile and Kay !) under a pergola overlooking our scenic Tedo river.  What better way to spend the day after a tour of our property and a tasting of our ports, Douro DOC red wines and olive oil.  The Portuguese/Californian/French fusion cuisine (what would you expect ?!) was a novidade for the quinta and our guests were thrilled to dine sur place while the harvest was underway.  Perhaps to offer as well next year ?

Opening day at Bistro O.K.

University friend Ariana even got into
University friend Arianna working at Bistro O.K., here together with tour guide Monia.
Fantastic view of Tedo while pairing food to our Porto and wine.
Fantastic view of Tedo while pairing food to our Porto and wine.

Harvest’s last day is always touching, when according to Douro tradition,  the harvest crew, cook, and other workers gather for a little party- with homemade cinnamon-sugar dusted fritas, orange cake bolo and savory meat bolas enjoyed  together with, of course, a glass of Quinta do Tedo Porto.  The workers prepare a song recounting the harvest and offer a bouquet of flowers to the owners and Vincent and I sing back to them, and in turn, offer a tip !  What a wonderful tradition for all.

Last truckload of grapes ready to go!

Cook Adelaide offering bouquet, a Douro tradition.
Vincent and I returning their song with our song to thank them for their hard work.
Long live harvest 2014 (with Italian friends Silvia Lastri and Ricardo Soldani).



Why foot treading?

A dear friend Francoise asked me the above, so here we go with an answer…. Since sweet port is made from partial fermentation, to save the residual sugar that comes from our grapes, the maceration that puts the juice in contact with the grape’s skin (that obtain flavor, tannins and color) is reduced to 3 or 4 days.  In this short lapse of time we need to extract as much as we can from the skin.  This is why we foot tread.   The foot treading is very soft, like a massage for the grapes; 4 hours a day with an equivalent of 1 worker per 650 kgs/1430 lbs of grapes in an open tank called a lagare.  The feet of the workers are obviously clean and disinfected, no need to worry!  Foot treading disintegrates gently all the skin and liberates all the above mentioned components of the skin.  During foot treading the foot activity does not extract only from the grape’s skin, but also from the matured brown grape pits, by rolling under the feet, that liberates a very thin skin around the pits, called by my husband “pellicule”, that is very rich in aromas and soft tannins.

Get the beat
Get the beat
Disco line dancing
Disco line dancing

Mechanical foot treading, on the other hand, if not properly adjusted, which is often the case, will aggressively break the pits, releasing the pit’s oil and green vegetable-like drying astringency, that will be bad for the port’s flavor.  Today none of the mechanical foot treaders can do a better job than what has been used for centuries; workers treading back and forth, sometimes to the accompaniment of an accordionist, sometimes playing games and taking a swig of port from a big carafe to pass the time away, and during this time gently extracting the components that make a world class port, as is the case at Quinta do Tedo.  Not only is our prestigious Vintage made this way, but all of our ports, due to the small dimension of our quinta and thanks to the number of workers and visitors that volunteer to foot tread.  If you have never tried, it is an unforgettable good time, let us know if you would like to come for a harvest and help out!

Somewhat serious
Somewhat serious