Wednesday, October 31, 2018

How Was The 2018 Douro Harvest?

How was the 2018 harvest in the Douro River region? During my trip to Portugal, we visited several wineries, including Caves da Murganheira, Quinta do Covela, Quinta do Vallado, Croft Port, and Cockburn's Port. At each place, I asked them about the harvest, which had largely finished by that time. They were mostly in agreement about the nature of the harvest, with one intriguing outlier.

During the Spring, there were some terrible storms, rain, hail and floods, that plagued France and Portugal. For example, in Bordeaux, over 8,000 acres lost about 80% of their vines, with other areas losing smaller portions of their vineyards. In Champagne, about 4500 acres were damaged, including about 2500 acres of vineyards that were completely destroyed. Numerous vineyards in Portugal sustained significant damage as well, from 80%-100%. The weather was devastating during the spring but then the summer also brought some extremely high temperatures, further damaging the vineyards.

All of the wineries indicated it had been a challenging or difficult year, due to the terrible storms, rain and hail, as well as the intense temperatures during the summer. Despite any of their losses in the vineyard, they indicated that the wines would still be good. Thus, production might be lower than usual, but the quality of the wines should remain good. However, it doesn't seem that 2018 will be declared a general Port Vintage though it is too early to make such a decision, which commonly occurs about 2 years after a harvest.

For example, this past Spring, 2016 was generally declared as a vintage, and producers have been talking about the high quality of their ports. And the 2011 vintage has been said by some to be possibly the best vintage of the 21st century. 2015 was not generally declared as a vintage, though some producers did declare and released vintage Ports.

Individual producers could declare 2018 to be a vintage for them, though that decision won't generally be made until 2020. It is possible that Cockburn's Port will do so, based on comments their representative made to me. The representative claimed that despite the challenges, 2018 is going to be an outstanding vintage, better than 2011 and potentially the best of the century. That is very different from what I heard at the other wineries. We'll have to wait and see.

Please note that this was only a small sampling of Douro area wineries but it at least gives a potential indication of what might have occurred this harvest for the majority of wineries. More information will likely be forthcoming during the next couple months, though the major decisions about the vintage won't take place for two years.

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