A vineyard treated with loving attention
In extreme conditions like those encountered in the Douro,
vines need constant care, and all the more so because they are very difficult to work,
and because the wide range of varieties means that
a “one size fits all” solution will not work. Each variety has to be treated individually,
on a daily basis.
The typicality of the Douro vineyards
One’s first reaction on visiting the Douro is admiration for the efforts which have been made to tame these slopes, which sometimes climb at more than 40 degrees. Highly representative of traditional growing methods in mountainous regions, the vines in the Quinta are planted in three ways: they are mainly on terraces which cling intimately to the contours of the land. Supported by dry stone walls which have been refurbished where they were crumbling, they accommodate the oldest vines in one or a maximum of two rows. The purpose of these artfully constructed steps was to provide shade for at least one of the rows and to combat soil erosion. This very costly system fell out of favour in the 70s and was replaced by patamares, which are wider terraces separated by grassy slopes. And finally (and of little significance in the Quinta da Côrte) there is the vinha ao alto system where the vines are planted directly on the slopes, but this has not been widely adopted because, although it allows greater planting density and in a few locations allows the use of mechanisation, it is useless for combatting the greatest threat to the Douro vines – soil erosion.
The work of the vineyard
Since the domaine was taken over by Vignobles Philippe Austruy the vines, with an average age of 40 years, were first of all carefully surveyed, plot by plot, row by row, plant by plant. This work was necessary because of the traditional practice of planting a wide mix of varieties together. Missing or diseased plants were replaced. At the same time, the soil was completely re-tilled to allow it to breathe, to encourage vertical root growth and to enhance microbial activity. For the past 2 years half the Quinta (12 hectares) has been tilled once a year using horses.
Finally, to improve the vines’ adaptation to the soil and particularly to the climate, pruning has been moving progressively back to the traditional “Vara e torno” method, which is similar to Guyot and has the advantage of bringing the new shoots closer to the ground, making them better able to resist the summer heat.