Let's Go to the Harvest: Wine with a Sommelier and Winemakers from Portugal - Part One
Let's Go To The Harvest - was the name of a series of Instagram lives that took place between August 16th and September 28th.
Every Tuesday evening winemakers shared fascinating accounts of the 2021 harvest live.
In this way, the articles over the next fortnights will also be a series with a summary of these conversations.
With the invited winemakers, we learned about the intense daily life of these winemakers during the harvest and the unbelievable decisions they face at the vineyard and winery. In addition to the wine they aspire to make, or which winery they recommend visiting.
And we went to the harvests in Alentejo, Tejo, Trás-os-Montes, Lisbon, Setúbal Peninsula, Bairrada, Vinho Verde, Dão, Beira Interior and Douro. There was also time for a quick trip to Spain and to reminiscent about South Africa.
So let's go to the harvest, shall we?
Guest winemaker Joana Pinhão
The first conversation took place on August 16th and I invited the winemaker Joana Pinhão to the conversation.
Born in Alpiarça, she grew up in a family deeply linked to vineyards and wine.
In 2002 she went to study at the Instituto Superior de Agronomia (ISA) in Lisbon. During her Specialization in Oenology, she first worked as an intern at Casa Cadaval (Tejo) and later as an intern at Quinta Vale Dona Maria (Douro) where she stayed on as a winemaker.
Still in the Douro, her name is associated with the wines of Quinta da Ferradosa, Quinta das Brolhas and a personal project - Somium (organic wines).
In 2009 and 2010 she collaborated with Cristiano Van Zeller in the production of wines in Spain in the Toro region and in 2012 she has a brief stint in South Africa during this year's harvest.
In 2015 she started to recover the vines at Casal das Aires, a family project in the Tagus region. In 2019, the first Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines appeared.
In the last two years she has embraced new projects: Quinta Vale Madruga (Trás-os-Montes); Quinta da Barca (Douro); Casa Clara (Alentejo).
Douro » the hardest region to harvest in Portugal
2021 » year of the debut of Natural Sparkling Wine (Quinta da Barca Douro)
2021 vintage report
Start: 8th of August in Alentejo
End: estimated for October in the Douro, Port Wine
It was a difficult year with a rainy spring. There were diseases throughout the cycle and a lot of downy mildew which caused a drop in production. However, the bunches that remained in the vineyard show good quality.
Until August 16th “the harvest has been calm, exceptional grapes, balanced production (Alentejo). In the Tagus region, the heat of these days accelerated maturation.”
Talk #1 Let’s harvest grapes!
When did you start “designing” the wines? How are you inspired by this process?
I taste wines from previous vintages and see what you need to do in the vineyard and cellar to achieve the same style.
In new projects, there is always year zero. It’s necessary to experiment and if it works, improve in the following years.
The vintage, the quality of the grape is the most important. This makes the task in the cellar easier, there will be no surprises. Then it's just the preparation of the blends.
How is blending done in the cellar?
When the grapes are from old vines, the blend is naturally done. It happens in many of the wines at Quinta do Vale Dona Maria. I like working with old vines.
Another example, in Vinha Francisca wine, there is co-fermentation to obtain greater homogeneity of the blend It’s necessary to know the style that the vineyard gives to the wine. And I like that when people taste, they identify the wine and the vine.
However, the blended wines are very much the style I want to present, I can take a more surgical approach. Many winemakers blend after malolactic fermentation. In my case, I always do it after the oak ageing and a few months before bottling. However, it stays in stainless steel to be completely integrated.
In your opinion, what is the most important characteristic that a wine should have?
Freshness, I know it's en vogue… Fresher wines are more pleasing to drink. Also balanced wines. Acidity is essential in whites.
When tasting the wines at room temperature (20ºC) the wines reveal themselves, the wine is X-rayed. Low temperature hides a lot... Important to do this when making blends.
How do you determine if the wine is for consumption or storage? And how can the wine lover know how to identify (one over the other)?
I make the decision based on the wine in the cellar. Not all wines have depth of mouth, complexity, and acidity for aging. Without acidity, longevity is compromised. It has to be there and pronounce, to give the bottle longevity.
Alcohol, on the other hand, is relative. After all, wines from the 60s/70s had only 12% and they are still here. Wines for ageing are wines to run the marathon, and will be here in 30–40 years.”
I've seen you appreciate wines with acidity. Which Portuguese grape varieties are naturally richest in acidity?
Arinto and Rabigato. And red grape varietyes such as Sousão, Alicante Bouschet and I really like Tinto Cão.
Curiously, Sousão in the Douro suffers from the heat, especially when facing south. And that's why some producers choose Alicante Bouschet, which is actually found in old vines.
Tell us a little about the project in the Tejo wine region - Casal das Aires
I have planted 500 feet of Pinot Noir and 1100 feet of Chardonnay. I like these varieties in their origin, the region of Burgundy in France. There they have their maximum expression.
The Tagus region has nothing to do with Burgundy and I have no intention of making Burgundy style wines. I want to show that in the Tagus, these varieties can give wines with freshness, and transport us to the characteristics of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
For that, it’s necessary to harvest earlier. Usually in the region, Chardonnay comes in a blend with Arinto due to the lack of acidity. So I have to pay close attention to the timing of the harvest.
This year will be the fourth harvest at Casal das Aires.
The Pinot Noir grape is stubborn. The first, 2018 harvest, I did without stem. It is a wine with a lot of fruit and simpler. In 2019 I already used a little stem and in 2020 because it was quite mature I used almost 100%. A wine with more nerve, more tannin, more earthy came out. Only 500 bottles.
What is your opinion about Organic wines?
Organic Wines with minimal intervention is the trend. Herbicides will eventually be banned from the market and replaced by biological treatments, based on copper and sulfur.
There are regions where getting out of conventional treatments will be difficult. Producing organically has to be an awareness of production loss. For someone who is a producer of grapes, it will be difficult.
The certification is important for the guarantee, just saying that it is organic is not enough.
Do you want to give some examples?
The vine is the most important part, the vine must be planted in a defined space, it cannot be next to a conventional vine. There has to be a physical separation.
Then, in the winery, use products, for example, yeasts, nutrition, etc., certified for organic. In catalogs, there is already a lot of choice of certified products. It's important for sustainability, resources don't last forever.
Is it possible (to identify) the Organic wine when tasting it?
By making organic wine with spontaneous fermentations, it will be in the end a wine that is more faithful to the profile of the varieties and their origin. It will also be more contained in the aromatic profile, therefore less exuberant.
It happens that sometimes selected yeasts are used. It's a guarantee, I'm not a fundamentalist.
When it is necessary to ensure that the yeast takes the fermentation to the end, especially when there were phytosanitary problems in the vineyard. Or when the grape arrives at the cellar with a probable alcohol of 15 or 16 degrees.
It’s important that the yeast does not change the profile of the wine. Do not make a Touriga Nacional wine that smells like Touriga Franca.
Natural wines are all terrible, it's not true. Wines (that are) worked, are bad. There is space for everyone. The aim is to make good wine.
It’s necessary to work on balance, in the vineyard, and in the winery. Doing a lot with less, at the lowest possible cost, is ideal. Those who live only on this must make the wine well, the best possible.
The pandemic changed the ways in which wines were sold. Producers began to do more accounting for the cost of production. The export market made up for some failures in the national market. Those who depended on the restoration and wine cellar were bad. Except for those in major distribution.
If you could choose to make a wine in any region of the world what would it be and why?
Burgundy to try to make the perfect Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
What is your favorite wine produced by another winemaker?
The Guru and Manuela Vinhas Velhas wines. In Douro I worked for many years with Sanda Tavares and she together with Jorge Serôdio Borges (Wine & Soul) make great wines.
Which is the Vineyard (Quinta) wine producer you would recommend for a weekend?
Without a doubt the Herdade da Malhadinha Nova. It has everything! Outstanding wine, food, and wine tourism. Where I make wines Quinta da Ferradosa in the Douro has visits, tastings, and a small rural tourism (program) and in the future in Ermo (Casa Clara) in Alentejo, there will also be a wine tourism unit.
Wine talk held on the 16th of August 2021. Recording available here.