In the Douro winegrowing region, the much sought-after Letter A is awarded to the highest quality vines. Lying in the heart of Cima Corgo (the upper Corgo river area), all the Quinta do Noval plots have received this prestigious distinction. It is Noval’s duty to preserve these emblematic terroirs.
This is why Quinta implements wine-making processes that comply with the principles of Protecção integrada – a European concept corresponding to the French notion of agriculture raisonnée – whose aim is to obtain high quality grapes using control methods that are as natural as possible. The balance of the soil is preserved by limiting the damage caused by erosion, as is the biodiversity of the vineyard’s ecosystem. Quinta do Noval applies these principles throughout the growing process, from planting methods to irrigation, the choice of grape variety and viticulture techniques.
Three types of planting are used at Noval. The first is called Patamares, where vines are planted in horizontal terraces of one or two rows, supported by earth embankments, enabling many operations to be mechanised. The second, Vinha ao Alto, consists of planting rows of vines following the steepest incline of the slope. The third is a modern version of the traditional terraces, built with stone retaining walls. This last method, with a planting density close to that of pre-phylloxera terraces, is used for high quality vines, and only allows the use of small machines for carrying out the various mechanical operations using traditional methods.
As for the vines, Quinta do Noval has selected the most prestigious Douro grape varieties: the main one being Touriga Nacional, followed by Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz – and, to a lesser degree, Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cão, Tinta Francisca and a few good quality white varieties, planted in the highest areas (at an altitude of between 300 and 400 metres). For each variety, Noval has established a specific production programme, laying out strict procedures for pruning, fertilising and the various operations carried out when the vines are in the green.
Noval is also introducing progressive viticulture practices. Increasingly, Quinta is grassing over the ground between the rows of vines. This natural method not only saves water during the summer but also benefits the landscape. Noval studies the quality potential of its plots using state of the art technologies to analyse a whole series of criteria, including altitude, exposure, planting system and grape varieties. The idea is to use the grapes and methods that are best adapted for each plot in order to optimize the balance between quality and production costs.
But Noval’s efforts in terms of innovation do not stop there. Anticipating the possible effects of climate change on the vines, Quinta is also testing irrigation methods. An automatic weather station, probes and pressure chambers monitor the effect of irrigation on water stress in the vines, and more globally on the quality of grapes obtained. Thus Quinta do Noval commits to protect its vineyards, fully aware that these are its most precious heritage.