After the wet winter, vegetation started early, a fast growth lead to flowering of the vines around 25th of May, which passed almost under perfect conditions, only a small block of Trincadeira on the Zambujeiro vineyards was affected by partial abortion. The vineyard work was focused to control the high vigour –
a result of the high level of ground water supplies. Again any irrigation was superfluous; we were wondering why many vineyards in the region have drip irrigation installed. Soon in June we noted that the setting of the fruit was plenty, and by end of June, the green harvest (yield reduction) was started. For the first time we proceeded with this important work in all our productive vineyards. The goal was to reach 3.5 tons/ha in “Terra” and 2.5 tons/ha in “Zambujeiro”. This tremendous work kept us busy until mid August.
The harvest started 5th of September and ended 25th of September, with total 15 days of grape picking. Two days of rain, 21st and 22nd of September interrupted the picking of the remaining five tons. Thanks to an exact and attentive work in the vineyards during the summer we could pick grapes with excellent health conditions. After a cold maceration up to 6 days, fermentation started and finished in most wines after two weeks. Fermentation temperature was kept from 29 to 30°C, open remontage helped to prevent fermentation problems. The “Terra” qualities were pressed after 20 to 28 days on skins, whereas the “Zambujeiro” ferments remained in their wooden tanks for another two weeks to improve extraction. The young wines were racked into barrels shortly after pressing, the fine lees (yeast) will have a positive impact on tannin and wood quality.
Overall we have fantastic wines in the barrels. Our goal was to reach more density in the middle palate or more “compact” wines, as well as keeping the fruit young and fresh until bottling. We invested big efforts in the vineyard work and adapted many little details in vinification to reach our goal. But still every vintage has its individual character. This year the Periquita wines from the Zambujeiro hill vineyards are clearly leading the field. Muscular and tight in structure, perfect in sweetness and an intense red berries flavour, this variety will make up a major part of the “Zambujeiro” blend. The Alicante Bouschet – wine seems to be the best one we have vinified so far and will add fine tannins and deep colour to the wines. Trincadeira and Aragonez are more elegant this year and shall provide the intense and dark fruit we love in our wines. Bottling will be around end of 2003.