2017 Harvest Report

Dec 21, 2017

A year of early harvests 

“An extremely dry and hot year with early harvests”

José Maria Machado, Borges Oenologist


“A demanding year in the vineyard and one of adapting to the weather conditions”

 António Teixeira, Head of  Viticulture at Borges (Verde and Dão Wines)


“A challenging and unusually dry year in the vineyard, with harvesting taking place in August, something practically unheard of on the Douro”

António Miranda, Head of Viticulture at Borges (Douro Wines)


The Winemaking Year

The weather made all the difference to our winemaking in 2016-2017. Conditions ranged from severe drought and extremely low winter temperatures through to high spring and summer temperatures and a scarcity of rainfall. The result was an early grape harvest in the three regions in which Borges makes wine – Douro, Dão and Vinho Verde.

Generally speaking, the winter was colder than in previous years. It was also very dry and there was little in the way of rain. Although rainfall was slightly higher than average in November, from December onwards rain gauge readings were well below average. A sunny winter gave way to a harsh spring with average temperatures above the norms set by previous years. April was particularly warm and practically rain-free.

The summer was just as dry, with soaring temperatures, high levels of radiation and hot spells that lasted for several days at a time. June was the hottest this month had been since 1980. By early August, there were signs that the harvest was going to be an early one in all three regions. The grapes were already ripening on the vine and no rain was forecast.

This early maturation had to be carefully controlled and, by mid-August, many of our staff had to interrupt their holidays to begin harvesting.

On the plus side, the dry weather over the year held back any diseases and allowed work to proceed as planned, which meant that the grapes were exceptionally healthy at the end of the vegetative cycle.


Quinta de Simaens, Vinho Verde

The weather at Quinta de Simaens, in Macieira da Lixa, followed the same pattern as in the rest of the country over the year. It began with a winter similar to the preceding one, but this was followed by low rainfall and above-average temperatures that made the region much dryer than normal. Temperatures swung higher and lower than they had in previous years. The vines came to life healthily, with trouble-free bud break, flowering and pollination of the fruit all taking place earlier than usual. Fruit setting was good and there was no coulure.

June was extremely hot and dry and there was widespread water stress, with the vines struggling against the heat whilst simultaneously trying to adapt to the weather conditions.

Veraison began in July and at least two weeks earlier than it had the year before.

It was a year in which the vineyard demanded constant attention, although fewer (around 50% less) treatments were required. Green pruning helped balance vine growth, with well-formed clusters and fruits, and allowed them successfully withstand the hot dry summer.

Following a normal maturation, conditions were perfect for the Quinta de Simaens harvest, which began on 8 September. The grapes were smaller and more concentrated, due to the lack of water. The harvesting was done at night, when it was cooler, which also helped to ensure that the grapes were perfectly healthy.

Production per hectare was similar to the previous harvest and the year is expected to be above average for white wines. These are likely to be highly aromatic and have a well-balanced acidity and excellent volume in the mouth.


Quinta da Soalheira, Douro

The year was a dry one at Quinta da Soalheira, in São João da Pesqueira, with drought conditions unlike any in living memory. No rain fell at Quinta da Soalheira between May and the end of the harvest, which meant that the vines were short of water throughout their vegetative cycle and suffered a high degree of water stress. This was particularly true for the vines planted at higher altitudes, as these were more exposed to the wind and, so, less able to retain moisture. The younger vines and those more exposed to the sun also found it a struggle, as their root systems were less developed.

The atypical weather conditions meant that in the Douro, like elsewhere, the various phases of the vegetative cycle were all pushed forward. There were no difficulties with the bud break or flowering and veraison began in early July.  The high temperatures, which hit 45°C in July and August, continued throughout maturation. This triggered a rapid ripening of the grapes, an increase in sugar content and some dehydration of the grape clusters. As a result, the harvest was brought forward to 23 August, the earliest it has ever been.

Harvesting ended on 23 September, the date on which it would have started, in more normal years. The harvest took place during hot dry weather. This meant a lot more field work, because of the different degrees of maturation on the various plots and vineyards.

It was a challenging year, one that involved numerous adaptations. The alcohol content of the musts was a little higher. They were also more concentrated and showed a good quality and a fine colour and structure. This year has resulted in high expectations for our Douro and Port wines.


Quinta de São Simão da Aguieira, Dão

As with the other two regions, the winter in the Dão, more specifically at Quinta de São Simão da Aguieira, in Nelas, was drier and colder than in the previous year. It was followed by a harsh spring and summer of severe drought and high temperatures.

Veraison was well under way in all vineyards by the end of July. Grape development through to maturation had run smoothly and normally and the harvesting of white grape varieties began on 21 August. The grapes, which showed excellent levels of concentration, arrived at the winery in a perfect condition.

Although it was a difficult and challenging year on the Dão, we expect the wines to have excellent acidity, to be more concentrated, elegant and with more colour, thanks to the meticulous work done in both the vineyard and the winery. 

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by Thing Pink