Despite the lack of rain and very hot weather this year, the director of what is considered the largest cooperative winery in the Vinho Verde region, Armando Fontainhas, foresees "one of the best years in the history of the cellar” in the district from Viana do Castelo.
"We have everything to make 2022 a year of excellence", he underlined, "with grapes of exceptional quality, with good alcohol levels".
“Without any trace of rot. Curls are fantastic. We receive grapes like very few years in the history of the winery,” he pointed out.
In Monção, which together with Melgaço forms the demarcated sub-region of Vinhos Verdes, the harvest began on September 3, with the harvest of white grapes from the vineyards planted in the low areas of the municipality, and ends today, in the mountain areas, such as the village of Merufe, where clusters of red grapes grow.
This year, the production of white grapes, “has dropped by around 4% compared to 2021, a record year in the production of white grapes. The red grape follows the trend.
"Despite a slight drop compared to last year, the most important thing is the phytosanitary quality of the grapes, which is fantastic", underlined the cellar manager.
According to the official's estimates, the harvest yielded "eight and a half million white and red grapes". We are talking about almost a million red grapes and more than seven million white grapes, which will come from almost seven million bottles,” he said.
Since the beginning of the month, tractors are entered and left, loaded with the most expensive grapes in the country, marks the daily life of the winery, which in addition to the facilities in Monção, has a hub in Melgaço, to receive the fruit and the turn into wine.
The 31 permanent workers of the winery are joined by 25 other temporary workers during this period, distributed between Monção and Melgaço. During the harvest, they have lunch and dinner in the cellar “so as not to stop work”.
After the harvest, the cellar “also knows periods of hard work, with the bottling of the wine, carried out in two teams, which requires, at certain times, the use of temporary workers”.
In recent days, employees have focused on receiving the grapes.
“As soon as the grapes arrive, there is a visual analysis and a technical analysis, which detects the probable alcohol content, that is to say the sugar that the grapes have at this moment. Based on this, a label with a bar code is assigned to it to assign the unloading peg according to the theoretical alcohol that the grapes contain. This is how the best grapes were separated from the worst to have the best wines at the end of the harvest,” explained Armando Fontainhas.
According to the manager of the Monção winery, the Alvarinho grape “is the most expensive in the country [Continental Portugal], with the exception of raisin biscuits, on the island of Pico, in the Azores”.
In November, the general meeting of the winery will set the price of the grapes from the 2022 harvest.
“Let's first look at the amount of grapes that came in and the liters of wine we produced. On this basis, we will determine the price of the grapes for our cooperators and, in the end, the distribution of the results between all the partners of the winery”, he specified.
According to Armando Fontainhas, in 2021 "the Alvarinho grape was paid one euro" per kilo, and later the winery "distributed 0,20 cents as a bonus, that is, in practice, [a uva da casta Alvarinho ] was paid at 1,20 euros [o quilo], making it the most expensive in the country”.
Red wine from the 2022 harvest will hit the market 'before Christmas', 'brett' in white, like Muralhas and other winery brands, in January, and in March all Alvarinhos will be launched, as they are wines that “need more stage” before being consumed.
In 2021, the Monção winery earned 16,2 million euros, estimating that this year's harvest will reach or even exceed this amount, "given the growth in sales".
The Monção winery was founded on October 11, 1958 on the initiative of 25 winegrowers and produces, among other wines, the brands “Alvarinho Deu La Deu”, “Muralhas” or “Adega de Monção”.
Armando Fontainhas has been part of the management of the institution since 2001. He was vice-president for 13 years and, in the last nine years, assumed the presidency.
According to data from the Wine Commission of the Vinhos Verdes Region (CVRVV), the Monção and Melgaço sub-region has a total area of 45 hectares, of which 000 are cultivated with vines, with the Alvarinho variety occupying approximately 1 hectares. . .
The sub-region has 253 green brands on the market, produced by 2 winegrowers and 085 bottlers.
Since 2015, the production of Alvarinho has been extended to other regions of the country, apart from the two municipalities of Alto Minho, following an agreement reached by the Alvarinho Working Group (GTA), formed by the he former PSD/CDS government and led by CVRVV, in favor of extending the production of this wine to the 47 municipalities that make it up.
ABC // LIL