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Symington Family Estate - 'an extraordinary vintage'

Published:  11 October, 2011

The Symington Family Estate vintage year in the Douro was a challenging to start, but has developed in to a good and very possibly a great year, according to Paul Symington.

The joint managing director, says: "There are smiles on the face of wine makers across the Douro as this year's harvest winds down on yet another day of warm autumn sunshine and our valley has never looked more beautiful.

"It has been an extraordinary vintage; since the night of the September 1, there has not been a drop of rain in the Douro, we have harvested our grapes under lovely blue skies day after day for five weeks," he says.

The viticultural year was challenging to start with, with monthly rainfall significantly lower than average, by the end of August Quinta do Bomfim had just 250mm in 8 months at compared to the mean of 403mm (-38%).

But the challenging shortfall of rain this year was compensated by the reserves it had in the bedrock of vineyard soils.

In the spring the vineyards suffered oidium and mildew, with substantial damage caused to localised vineyards.

To add to these difficulties, June bought some violent hail storms, with one at Quinta de Ataide in the Vilariça valley shredding part of the vineyard.

Intense heat in June followed reaching over 40?C, causing sunburn and bunch loss.

Viticultural researcher Miles Edlmann, said: "The vines were completely unprepared for this thermal onslaught, and it inflicted widespread and very intense sunburn on the fruit, leading to the complete abortion, followed by immediate desiccation, of many of the bunches in the space of a weekend.

"Not even the oldest caseiros can remember having seen sunburn quite like it."

In August Symington says it was dealt "the ace of spades" after a large Atlantic storm blew in from the West over the 1,400 meter high Serra do Marão and the heavens opened.

The vineyards saw 34 mm at Cavadinha, 18.2mm at Bomfim, 10mm at Malvedos and 21.8mm at Vesuvio and picking was postponed in order that the rain could benefit the vines.

"It was a risk worth taking because we have seldom seen such perfect harvest weather as we have had over the last five weeks," says Symington.

"The grapes were in superb condition, with good Baumés and ripe phenolics right through the harvest."

"It can be said that this has been a good and very possibly a great year in the Douro.

"The last lagar at Quinta de Cavadinha in the Pinhão valley is still fermenting as this report is being written, so the wines will need to be assessed over the coming months, but here is no doubt some very exciting wines have been made in 2011."