Amidst several challenging years of harvests in the Douro region marked by prolonged heatwaves and reduced yields, 2023 seems poised to usher in a stellar vintage. The Symington Family Estate, one of the renowned names in wine production, revealed in their recent vintage report that this year may produce one of the highest quality vintages seen in the past few years.
In stark contrast to much of southern Europe, which grappled with severe heatwaves this summer, Portugal remained relatively untouched by these extreme weather conditions. Throughout July, temperatures across the nation stayed near their usual levels. Interestingly, the Douro region even reported temperatures slightly below their typical average for this month.
A significant player in this temperate surprise was an anticyclone, responsible for producing strong northerly winds known locally as the ‘nortada’. These winds ushered in cooler, more humid maritime air, providing much-needed relief during the usually intense summer months.
The 2023 growth cycle has notably been advantageous for wine producers. Ample winter and late spring rainfall acted as a balm, replenishing soil water reserves, especially after 2022, which was noted as one of the region’s driest years. And while July and August remained dry, the balanced blend of adequate soil moisture with moderate temperatures ensured that the grapes developed with good acidity, balanced maturations, and excellent phenolic qualities.
The Symington Family Estate started its harvest in Douro on August 21, with Viosinho white grapes grown in their elevated estates located in the Cima Corgo sub-region. In the last week of August, harvest bean for red grape varieties like Sousão, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Nacional, which are cultivated across their eastern Douro Superior sub-region estates.
The entirety of their main estates is now bustling with harvest activities, an effort that was given a significant boost by timely rainfall on September 2 and 3. This rain is expected to further enhance the ripening process, refining the grapes’ color, tannins, and aromatic qualities.
“With maximum temperatures of 30ºC and cool nights forecast for the first few weeks of September, we are expecting to produce some great quality wines, particularly in the sub-region of the Cima Corgo,” says Charles Symington, Head Winemaker & Production Director at Symington Family Estates.