Let's Go to the Harvest: Wine Talk with a Sommelier and Winemakers from Portugal - Part Two
Vamos à Vindimas (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.
We got to learn about their intense day-to-day life during the harvest. The unbelievable decisions they faced at the winery and vineyard. And about the wine(s) they aspired to make and which wineries they recommend visiting.
With the invited winemakers 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 Winemakers Catarina Moreira and David Picard
This conversation took place on the 23rd of August with a couple of winemakers talking about Adega Belém, an Urban Winery or Adega Urbana. That's right, a winery located literally in the city of Lisbon.
The day was spent harvesting Trincadeira and the grapes had just been arranged when the conversation started.
Catarina Moreira is from Lisbon and David Picard from Frankfurt. Both academics, Catarina has a Ph.D. in biology, David in anthropology.
After getting to know each other in 2010, Catarina and David joined the master's in enology and viticulture at ISA in 2013 and spent the second year in Germany. During this time the project that is now Adega Belém was born.
Catarina dropped her research on amphibian mating and started devoting herself full time to wine. David dedicates his research to wine tourism and how to bring it into the 21st century.
With two baby daughters, they left for Switzerland. David taught at the University of Lausanne and Catarina as an oenologist in a local winery. It turns out that the Swiss mountain air did not suit them and sometime later they returned to Portugal, with David keeping his job as a teacher for a while, with constant travels between Lisbon and Geneva.
After many visits to possible sites for the construction of a winery, nothing captivated them as much as an old car workshop in Belém. The inspiration came from a visit, a few years earlier, to a winery in the middle of a parking lot on a beach in San Francisco, California.
Four years after the acquisition of the workshop, Adega Belém opened its doors and started making wine in 2020.
They don't have vines so they buy grapes from different grape growers. They accompany the maturation, choose the grapes and decide when they will be harvested manually, depending on the wines they intend to make.
Instituto Superior Agronomia - Alvarinho, Encruzado, Arinto, Moscatel Galego white grapes
Caparide Seminary - Trincadeira and Castelão red grapes
Quinta do Carneiro - Castelão, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Alicante Bouschet red grapes
Quinta Piloto – Moscatel Graúdo white grape and Castelão red grape
In the winery, fermentations are spontaneous without using selected yeasts, which can make the fermentation start slowly. The wines are vinified in stainless steel vats, “dornas” replacing the stone tanks, oak barrels, and “talhas” (amphoras).
2021 vintage report
Start: August 5th (Moscatel Galego)
Precocious, very aromatic variety with a very small berry “petit grains.” In the Douro, it’s used to make Moscatel de Favaios. According to David, the whites this year are different from 2020, some red grapes with mildew. They will be good wines.
» Natural sparkling wine and fortified wine from Carcavelos
» GrapeAle - Beer co-fermented with white wine from Encruzado grape in partnership with Lince.
Talk #2 Let's Go To The Harvest
When do you start “designing” wines? How are you inspired by this process?
CM - We visit the vineyards throughout the year. After the vérasion stage, we start to watch the grapes more closely and we go to the vineyarsd every week. We not only monitor the maturation, but also the aromatic development and above all the maturation of the seed.
We always stalk the grapes, so we have to get the tannins from the skins and seeds. Even with a green appearance, when cracking the seeds they must be crunchy, sometimes they even taste like almonds. The skins cannot be “smooth”, that is, with a “flabby” texture, (as this will) attract rot and birds. In the vineyard, at Caparide (near Oeiras village), we use scarecrows (hawks) because the birds love Trincadeira grape.
“I harvested in Switzerland, Germany then in Portugal, it's 9 to 10 years of Oenology”
How is “blending” done in the cellar?
CM - The vinifications are separate and sometimes also the aging. For example, for the red wine from Castelão we decided to try Portuguese oak, which gave very strong notes of coffee, both in the mouth and in the nose. So we ended up blending with the other Castelão red wine that was in French oak.
The blending is decided based on the wine tasting and what we have in mind to do. It is not predetermined, we like to taste and adjust as the wines develop.
DP - We don't feel that we have to make the same wines every year. We have our logic, which is not everyone's logic.
For example, our “talha” (amphora) white wine with Moscatel Graúdo grape went very well, so this year we are going to do it again. We even bought two new “talhas”.
We are not fetishists about having to store wine. Good wine is made for drinking. Our reds can take two or three years to go to the bottle, but then they are ready to be drunk.
What’s the most important characteristic a wine should have?
CM – Please those who drink it.
DP – That they have some personality. Like children, we are not sure how they develop. For example, here in the cellar, we have a 2020 Viosinho white wine that still has 10g of sugar per liter, it's a capricious wine!
When we have visitors here in the winery, they tell us that they don't like sweet wines, but then they taste this Viosinho and they like it. I don't like it, I don't like this wine. The aroma is interesting, but in the mouth, it is like a coffee with a lot of sugar.
“In 1995 I harvested in France to earn money to travel. I worked every day from three in the morning to three in the afternoon. I hated it!”
If you could choose to make wine in any region of the world what would it be and why?
CM – I really enjoy making wine here with all the challenges that an urban winery brings. Blood, sweat, and tears - here I am fulfilled.
We have two sparkling wines made from scratch, it was a very big challenge. We study, we talk to colleagues who make sparkling wines. We're trying it out and we're very excited. Both are made from white grapes, Encruzado and the other from Viosinho.
Want to make a recommendation for a destination for wine tourism?
DP –In Beijing, China producer Changyu recreated a French village, with shops, restaurants, and a Chateau with surrounding vineyards. Wine is very important to urban Chinese. It's another perspective.
In terms of architecture, Napa Valley, California, USA is similar. In Portugal, we visit Quinta do Freixo in the Douro.
In addition to wine, is it important that the farms offer another attraction, such as architecture?
DP - Yes, it is important to attract interest and more visitors.”
CM – Here at Adega Belém we have poetry sessions and wine tastings with Quiz, usually on Fridays. We advertise on Facebook and Instagram.
This second conversation of Vamos às Vindimas, took place on August 23, 2021. Recording is available here.