The fruit of a hard year’s work, the harvest is a particularly important time for the Quinta – the moment when the grapes are slowly transformed into precious nectar.
Between mid-September and mid-October the “rogas”, the teams of grape pickers, work in teams, starting at dawn to avoid the almost unbearable heat of the sun. It is hard work, carrying the grapes to the wine store where they will be sorted and de stemmed. Depending on the type of wine, two different systems are used.
In accordance with tradition, Ports are vinified in “lagares”, rectangular granite vats which have changed little since Roman times. They vary in size from 25 to 50 hectolitres so that grapes from different plots can be vinified separately, allowing the vinification process to be more finely tailored to the varieties being processed. For 2 to 3 hours, working to a steady rhythm, the harvesters tread the grape musts with their feet. Although in some Quintas this process has been mechanised, at the Quinta da Côrte it is always done this way because there is no better way of feeling just how much pressure is required to press the grapes.
Once fermentation has started and the desired sugar level is reached, 77 percent alcohol is added to the wine to stop the action of the yeasts. The wine then goes into concrete vats, which were completely renovated in 2014, in which it will stay for several weeks. It will then be aged for varying lengths of time: Tawnies will be stored in “pipas”, traditional Portuguese casks holding 25 000 litres, while the reds (Ruby, LBV or Vintages) go into rows of huge casks in a shady area of the wine store.
Currently these represent 25% of the Quinta’s output. After harvesting, sorting and de-stemming, they go into stainless steel vats as whole berries. Vinification is a long, gentle process. Light punching-down two or three times a day allows the best of the tannins to be extracted. They are then aged for a year in Bordeaux barrels and in demi-muid casks. They are characterised by their concentration, their lean structure which is testimony to the schists which gave them birth, and their dazzling aromas of fresh fruits.