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Portugal boosted by recovery of volumes

Published:  11 December, 2019

Several Portuguese wine regions have recovered volumes this year, bringing the country in line with its five year average, but in the new ‘abnormal’ of climate change, things aren’t quite adding up.

Home to steep vineyards rising as high as 700m near the Spanish border, the dynamic Portuguese cooperative, Beira Serra Vinhos is this year increasing annual wine production by 75% to 3.5 million litres.

Portuguese producers in regions such as Beira Interior, the Douro and the Dão have this year reported a recovery in volumes following low yields in 2018 and an increase in quality levels.

“In 2018 we had heavy bouts of hail and frost in early winter, and very hot temperatures in the early summer, but 2019 is more of a ‘normal’ year with wine of good quality with an average 13.5% abv for still wines,” said Manuel Belo, manager at Beira Serra Vinhos.

Portugal’s governmental Instituto Da Vinha E Do Vinho (IVV) says wine production in Beira Interior has, according to the official harvest declaration, increased by 57% when compared to last year, reaching more than 255,000Hl (Hectolitres) – these are notably higher volumes than the average volumes of 210,00Hl produced during the last five vintages.

Cister and Tras-Os-Montes have also recovered volumes this year.

After two consecutive years of low yields, Portugal’s biggest wine production area, Douro e Porto has recovered this year with a 33 % increase in volumes, to beyond 1.6 million hl. Quality levels have also increased.

“Freshness and liveliness, in contrast to the concentration of recent years are hallmarks of the 2019 wines,” Rob Symington, associate director at Symington Estates, told Harpers, echoing a view held by producer António Maçanita, who makes wine in the Douro, in Alentejo and the Azores.

“Douro 2019 is a balanced vintage - just about right in terms of concentration, acidity and freshness – it is more in tune with what we are trying to achieve,” Maçanita said.

Maçanita Vinhos reported yields of around 3,000 kilos per hectare this year compared to low yields last year which fell to as low a 500 kilos per hectare in 2018, a year when the Douro was hit by disease and hail.

The IVV says Portugal’s total wine production from the 2019 vintage will increase by 7% to 6.48 million Hl. This production figure - based on the harvest declaration - puts the country back in line with its five-year average of 6.4 million Hl.

This is despite a fall in production in the Algarve and Alentejo further south by 18% and 9% respectively due to a lack of rainfall over the past two years. Rui Virginia, owner of Barranco do Longo, the leading wine producer in the Algarve has, like Quinta do Vales, however, reported “excellent” quality of grapes. In the Alentejo, Maçanita said white wines are “beautiful’ this year, but not all producers are happy about the quantity and quality of production.

Volumes and quality levels may have returned to “normality” in several regions, but climate change continues to be the “new abnormal”. Producers have reported “super stretched’ harvests in the Douro and Alentejo this year.

“In the Douro, the 2017 vintage was the earliest vintage ever made but the 2018 vintage was the latest ever made,” said Maçanita.

“2018 was for the Azores the driest year of the past 120 years, but 2019 was the wettest year in 30 years! It doesn’t all add up. We don’t know yet the full impact of climate change."