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2015 Vintage

Patience, playing the waiting game, was key during the 2015 harvest in the Douro. Confidence and flexibility in interrupting picking, or changing the order of picking, ensured that each grape variety realized its full qualitative potential. While many ‘jumped the gun’ and picked too early, Symington Family Estates’ viticulture and winemaking teams held fast and were rewarded with fully ripened fruit with balanced maturations. Due to the specific climatic conditions of the year, some of the finest wines were made in the Douro Superior.

Viticultural and Weather Conditions

Abundant rainfall marked the start of the viticultural year, replenishing depleted soil water reserves. This was to prove crucial due to the very dry winter, spring and summer that followed. The effects of the very dry winter were attenuated by below average temperatures. Conversely, the period between the start of the vegetative cycle and the initial stages of the ripening season (March to early July) was simultaneously the hottest and driest of the last 36 years. It was the hottest June of the last half-century.

Fortunately in the Douro Superior —usually the hottest and driest sub-region — rain came in May precisely when temperatures began to rise. Furthermore, it fell evenly, allowing the soil to gradually absorb the precious water at properties such as Quinta dos Canais, Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira and Quinta do Vesúvio, among others. This rain was of enormous benefit and helped sustain the vines during the very dry months of June and July. July and August were cooler than usual and the effects of the continuing drought were thus partially offset. The colder than usual August nights proved decisive in preserving the natural acidity in the berries. Encouragingly, in the run up to the vintage the crop was looking very healthy and the Touriga Franca looked especially promising.

In early September the grapes were in fine condition, although phenolic development was incomplete and there were signs of hydric stress due to the continuing absence of rain. The vintage started tentatively on September 8th, picking the vulnerable younger vines still in the hope that much needed rain would arrive to conclude the final ripening of the grapes. Although risky, Symington Family Estates head winemaker, Charles Symington decided to hold off picking the most valuable grapes. He noted: “we held back and on the morning of the 15th [September] a storm hit the Douro which lasted until early next morning, the skies then cleared and temperatures dropped to ideal ripening conditions…perfect!

The vines responded to this miraculous rain and within 4 days the Touriga Nacional was transformed, skins having softened and flavours developed. At Canais, Vesúvio, Senhora da Ribeira, Malvedos and other quintas, picking resumed on the 21st and the Nacional was in fantastic condition and a week later the pickers moved on to the Touriga Franca, which was considerably advanced and showing great promise, possibly the most promising Franca I have seen.”

Winemaker's Overview

“It is amazing how much difference 4 or 5 days can make. It is clear that this rain [Sept. 15th] was actually heaven sent and helped the unpicked grapes realize their full potential. Without it the final phase of maturation of the Touriga Nacional and especially the Touriga Franca would not have been ideal, as dehydration would certainly have occurred after such a prolonged period with no rain. That these 13 days, from 21st September to 4th October were key to the great Ports made this year, there is no doubt."

Charles Symington



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