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Portugal and Spain in water row

Portugal and Spain are gearing up for a battle – over management of the countries’ shared rivers.

Whilst the Alentejo region of south-eastern Portugal is suffering its most prolonged drought for 60 years, the focus is now turning on the Port-producing Douro valley.

Water is at a premium and Portugal has accused Spain of unfairly depleting levels in the Duero river, which becomes the Douro as it flows into Portugal.

Portugal is calling for compensation of €6m after levels in the Douro fell below limits set out in a bilateral agreement.

All over the continent the dry summer last year followed by an exceptionally dry winter has left the water table very low. At Quinta do Cruzeiro in Mendiz valley above Pinhao, 142ml of rain fell last winter. This compares to 235ml in 2003/04, and 688ml between November and March in 2002/03.

To compound this, temperatures have soared, with more days above 40 degrees between January and June than in the whole of 2004.

‘Vines are under extraordinary stress which will reduce yields,’ says Adrian Bridge, managing director of the Fladgate Partnership, which makes Fonseca, Croft and Taylor.

The Instituto do Vinho do Porto has cut authorised production: only 120,000 pipes of juice will be authorised (which equates to 151,724 pipes of Port, each of 550 litres).

This is a 5% reduction on last year and 9.4% below 2004. This has led to furious accusations that the IVDP is ‘de-stocking’ – controlling production and forcing up prices of the current vintage in order to make the cheaper older vintage more attractive to shippers, thereby reducing stocks.

Bridge expects a price increase of 10% in the Late-Bottled Vintage category in the coming 12 months.

Written by Conal Gregory MW

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