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2012 Vintage

Symington Family Estates have released during April 2014 two Quinta Vintage Ports en primeur: Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira and Quinta do Vesuvio — two Symington family owned vineyards that face each other directly on opposite banks of the Douro River (Senhora da Ribeira on the north bank, Vesuvio on the south bank). Additionally, and for the first time, a small limited edition of just 60 double magnums (3 litre bottles) from the 2012 Vintage are also being offered en primeur from Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos. The usual standard sized offering (75cl bottles) will only be released, as is the tradition with Malvedos Quinta Vintages, following approximately 8 to 10 years ageing in the Graham’s lodge.

Viticultural and Weather Conditions

During 2012, up until the end of September, rainfall was 54% below the mean. When a vineyard receives just 217 mm in 9 months, which was the case of the Quintas around Pinhão, the consequences are to be feared. The first three months of 2012 were really concerning with just 16.4 mm falling over 90 days; there was no effective winter rain from 1st January until April (over 200 mm would have been normal). It seemed that the gods were against us, because we then had 128 mm in April and May, just when the crucial flowering and fruit set takes place. But the low bud-burst was what we needed; resulting in relatively low quantities of fruit so that the vines would have fewer bunches and berries to ripen.

July and August were relatively mild with average temperatures of exactly 23.7ºC in both months. The 21 year average for July is 25.0ºC and for August 25.3ºC. So these moderate temperatures had a profound and positive impact on the quality of the fruit and the wines. Charles Symington, responsible for winemaking at our Quintas, commented that this year showed beyond doubt that excess heat before the harvest is more concerning for our vineyards than drought.

Picking started some 10 days later than normal on the 13th September. The lead-up to picking had been complex, as Charles and his viticulture team analysed the relative ripeness of the different vineyards and grape varieties. The drought caused the ripening to follow a somewhat erratic pattern. Heavy rain came from the Atlantic and over the Marão on the 23rd September with 20mm and again on the 25th with a further 23mm. This rain brought far cooler nights and daytime temperatures. Charles decided to suspend picking at the top vineyards on the 29th and 30th in order to allow the vines to recover their equilibrium and to concentrate the sugars. This was a risky thing to do as the September equinox normally brings unsettled weather. The gamble paid off wonderfully and the Touriga Franca picked after the rains well into October, was harvested in perfect condition under clear skies and moderate temperatures. Yields were remarkably low with many vineyards in the Douro Superior recording drops of up to 40%.

Winemaker's Overview

Overall, it was a fairly unusual year and one where tensions ran high at times, but in the end, thanks to the low yields and relatively low temperatures during the summer the results were very good. As the wines were being trodden in the lagares there were signs of intensity, excellent colour and freshness in the musts.

The Douro grapes this year were in lovely condition, with small berries giving excellent colour and flavours and the musts looked really first-rate. Early tastings confirmed considerable acidity and freshness in the samples. Not all vineyards produced great wines as the drought caused some stress to the more exposed vines and to the drier parcels, but overall this year was a remarkable example of how our Douro vines can cope with drought, as long as it is not excessively hot.

From the harvest report,
16th October 2012.



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