An exceptional dry winter (the driest ever recorded in the Alentejo) followed by weak spring showers enabled fast vegetative growth and perfect flowering conditions. Shortly before the beginning of the véraison we proceeded with the ‘green harvest’, reducing the number of grapes to a low yield level of 2000 kg/ha (plant density 3200/ha). The summer was hot and dry with temperatures up to 40ºC, typical for the Alentejo-Region. Amazingly the vines did not suffer from these dry conditions – the 29 year old plants managed to get sufficient water and nutrition from the deep schist soils – and developed a dense leaf canopy to protect the grapes from getting sunburnt.
The harvest for the first small “Zambujeiro”-cuvée took place from 16th to 20th September, shortly after some light rainfalls which cooled down the temperatures but did not affect the grapes in concentration. With the chance of picking cool grapes with sugar concentrations up to 16% potential alcohol we started the first winemaking at Quinta do Zambujeiro. Hand picked and strongly selected, we crushed the grapes into the new wooden fermentation tanks. After a few days of cold maceration the fermentation started and finished in about two weeks. Another four weeks maceration with slight pushing down the skins completed the extraction of the perfect matured tannins. Shortly after pressing the wine was filled in new French oak barrels where the malo-lactic fermentation took place, during up to 12 months.
Huge sweetness and a great load of fine tannins, complex black fruit port-like flavours in the nose, these powerful wines are showing the tremendous potential of the region. They will mature for two years in barrels before bottling at the end of 2001. Neither fining nor filtration will be done. One time racking has been done after the malo-lactic fermentation.