Portugal (table wine)

Verdict

Despite what some have called a challenging year, winemakers across Portugal are very pleased with the results of the 2009 harvest. Descriptions range from good to excellent to exceptional depending on the region. Generic body Viniportugal predicts full-bodied reds and fresh, fruity whites, with higher acidity levels than in 2008, despite the hotter weather.

Luis Pato, of the eponymous winery in Barraida, was especially excited about his wine from the varietal Baga: ‘This will be a harvest in which the Baga will reach perfection and produce wonderful reds.’

While higher alcohol levels (14° +) are anticipated in many wines, Dirk Niepoort’s north-facing and higher altitude vineyards served him particularly well this year, as did his decision to pick earlier than usual (a common refrain among producers in 2009).

‘Our wines will be between 13° -13.5°,’ said Niepoort. ‘The great thing about 2009 is that there is great balance – it’s nothing like 2003. The colour is great, the wines are well-structured, with good freshness and ripe tannins.’

Weather

The year was in general characterised by warm temperatures and normal precipitation levels – though the drier, even hotter August and September were particularly onerous for drought-prone regions like the Douro, which hasn’t seen much rain in three years.

‘Summer started with normal temperatures for this season, which led us to believe the final cycle and maturation would be slow and balanced,’ said Nuno Cancela de Abreu of Quinta da Alorna.

‘But the high temperatures in mid-August meant a rush to harvest, causing a sudden increase in alcohol levels – even if the acidity levels pretty much remained the same.’

Production

Estimates point to an increase in national production (of still wines) of around 9% – to nearly 6.1m hl – when compared to 2008, though lower than the average for the last five years.

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