September is synonymous with harvest in the Douro Valley. At Kranemann Wine Estates, we began the 2021 harvest on 10 September. Tinta Roriz grapes were the first to be picked.
Harvest in the Douro is an extraordinary time steeped with symbolism and tradition. The specific characteristics of the terroir (sloped and levelled terraces in steep and challenging to access areas) mean that the old tradition of handpicking grapes continues and with it many of the other associated customs.
Whether harvesting their grapes (there are many small producers) or harvesting for large-scale producers, grape picking in the Douro wouldn’t be the same without the locals. Often, whole families come together for the harvest and turn it into a true celebration, keeping traditions alive, accompanied by chants and songs. After a morning of hard work, the reinvigorating shared lunch is an unbreakable tradition!
At Quinta do Convento de São Pedro das Águias, Kranemann Wine Estates’ flagship property, the harvest team is almost always the same year upon year. Couples, parents with children, the majority from the Tabuaço area, know the vines like no one else. Their experience is essential.
Each bunch of grapes is picked with the utmost care, and if necessary, a pre-selection takes place at this point. The grapes are placed in 20 kg boxes, then picked up by a small tractor that weaves through the sloped terraces, heading towards the winery – it is a modern-day replacement for the mules and bulls used in the past to collect the wicker baskets that the men carried on their backs, each taking around 70 kg of grapes.
Each day, the harvest starts early in the morning as cool temperatures mean the grape quality is maintained (we do everything to prevent oxidation). The whole process is streamlined to avoid harvest from being affected by the first seasonal rain. So unlike in other regions where machine harvesting is much faster, we still rely on handpicking. Heroic winemaking is alive and well in the Douro valley.
This year, heavy rain came early in the first half of September, bringing with it additional challenges for the harvest team, who are tasked with ensuring the grapes reach the winery healthy and mature.