Will we harvest in July this year?
I lost track of the number of times I drove the A8 road between Lisbon and Torres Vedras, Where AdegaMãe is, so I know that the most beautiful trips are between March and April, particularly in a bit of piece of it just before the Socorro hill. If you can, go and have a look. As we drive a right curve and enter a straight road, we suddenly start to see the lines of grapevines bright green that make that road so unique.
However, this year there is a little added detail. This year budburst was in February. Trust me, and this is the truth! And not only at that spot. In February, while visiting AdegaMãe vineyards, worried about the soil’s lack of water, I noticed the tiny green buds coming out of the pruned wood. I never saw it so early. As if the lack of rain wasn’t enough, the higher temperatures created the conditions to start the vegetative cycle way before usual. After, in Alentejo, it was the same.
Climate is boss around here. Agriculture, tough and demanding, is a constant adaptation process. We are here precisely for that, but the challenges are renewed year after year, and the work never loses its demand. Plants react to the lack of water; the higher temperatures change their cycle, and the production, in some way, will show its consequences. I am not saying this will be a good or a bad year, not at all. Each variety will react differently, and in the end, we will be there to harvest at the right time while trying to guarantee the best fruit will enter the cellar – we might be hugely surprised.
Anyway, we are always apprehensive. We will see how the rest of Spring and Summer will go. Will the heatwaves of the last few years come back? And then will we have hail destroying the bunches close to harvest? In Burgundy a few years back, we could always see the show of the fires among vineyard lines while trying to beat spring frost that burns the first small stems. A significant part of production can be compromised already at this moment.
Besides the unpredictability, viticulture becomes even more challenging with the constant increase of costs, in the materials used, fuel, literally everything. Working with wine is always heroic, particularly in difficult regions due to landscape aspects, climate, and all involved operations. Because of that, it is hard to hear the argument that wines are becoming too expensive. Anyway, we know there are very expensive wines, and there are very bad wines and very good wines, but in general, there are wines whose price barely covers the effort involved in the production chain.
But going back to the beginning and considering the way the season is evolving, I am already prepared that my July vacation might not exist – I’ll probably be harvesting already. 2022 might even be the earliest harvest ever. We will keep track of things, react with excellent work, and enjoy the process until then.
And by the way, keep this in mind and enjoy the gorgeous vineyard landscapes this time of year all around the country.