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Rain finally arrives in Douro

Published:  23 July, 2008

The six-hour rain shower that hit the Douro in early September was the first the region had received since May - and Port producers and table winemakers alike breathed a huge sigh of relief.

In August, Paul Symington, joint MD of Symington Family Estates, which owns Dow's, Warre's and Graham's Port houses, warned that between November and July rainfall at Dow's Quinta do Bomfim had dropped by 64% to just 197mm. However, on 6-7 September the rain fell for six hours, and group viticulturalist Miles Edlmann said that the brief shower may have saved the harvest: 'It's looking much better,' he said. 'It's never fun making wine with rubbish grapes, and this year they've surpassed our most optimistic expectations.'

Symington said: 'We have almond trees looking like they're about to die, yet we have these wonderfully full bunches of grapes. The younger vines have suffered, as have the ones in the more exposed areas. But the rain has astonished everybody - there was a rather depressed atmosphere at the beginning of September.'

At The Fladgate Partnership (covering Taylor's, Delaforce, Croft and Fonseca), head winemaker David Guimaraens said that, while the 2005 grapes are the healthiest he has seen in 15 vintages, the wines will be 'a mixed bag': 'The grapes are all dependent on the vineyard itself - the age, the soil, and so on. This year is a combination of three very dry years. You look

at the younger vineyards and start crying, but you can't worry about that. For example, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz have lost most of the leaves, but the bunches have stood up pretty well. The Roriz has extraordinary colour and tannin.'

Fladgate's head viticulturalist Antnio Magalhes added that the vines are 'not so beautiful', but the grapes are clean and

free from disease.

On the table-wine front, Stephane Point, who makes Chryseia table wine for the Symington-Prats joint venture

at Quinta de Perdiz, says he is happy with the vintage and predicts good freshness in the wines, although he thinks maturation levels will suffer compared with recent years.

Mateus Nicolau de Almeida of Muxagat Vinhos said that the wines will lack the ripeness of 2003, but will offer more acidity and tannin, and a better structure.

And Dirk Niepoort thought that despite the 'odd' weather, his white wines will have good acidity, and the reds will be 'lighter than usual'.