The 2020 harvest is starting in Monção and Melgaço, about a week before what is usual in this sub-region of Vinhos Verdes, but the quality of the grapes started to be dictated a long time ago. For the first Alvarinho brand of Melgaço, Soalheiro, expectations about the quality of this harvest are the best.
Miguel Alves, Agricultural Engineer, says “budburst, when buds begin to break after winter dormancy, occurred in the first half of March, at least two weeks ahead of an average year in this region”. The advance in the initial period of the vine´s growth cycle occurred because the winter turned out to be less rigorous, less cold, than normal, having different consequences in such a heterogeneous territory, namely in the valley and in the mountains. The person responsible for monitoring the vineyards of Soalheiro Producers Club exemplifies: “in the highest part of our terroir, namely in our vineyard at 1100 meters of altitude, there was less snow than usual, in the valley the temperatures were milder”.
During the vegetative growth period, rainfall was plentiful and temperatures were low, which, as Miguel Alves explains, “ended up delaying the advance of the cycle, causing véraison, the onset of ripening, to start mid-July, about a week earlier than in a conventional year ” The month of July and the beginning of August were characterized by very high temperatures during the day and by the absence of precipitation - in mid-August there were some slight rainfalls that “promoted the quality of the grapes and helped the vineyard to recover the reserves levels”.
The end of August was milder, with temperatures of around 30 oC during the day and nights with temperatures around 16 oC, a wide temperature range that is one of the differentiating characteristics of the Monção and Melgaço terroir, originated by the low impact of the Atlantic winds, due to the protection of the mountain range surrounding the Alvarinho valley. For António Luís Cerdeira, the oenologist of Soalheiro, this end of the cycle “allowed the grapes to mature at a slow cycle keeping the freshness of the aroma and flavour of the grapes, a distinctive feature of our wines, which leads us to expect an average production year in terms of quantity , with very optimistic expectations regarding quality ”.
THE VINEYARDS AT THIS TIME OF THE YEAR HAVE A SPECIAL CHARM The atmosphere that is experienced in the terroir at this time of the year is even more special, therefore, all wine tourism programs are adapted to this reality. The visiting circuit was redesigned, and the wine tourism experience is mostly done on the outside, enhancing a privileged contact with nature, especially at this time of year when the delights of the vineyard gain a new dimension.