Last week, I blind tasted 60 Ports from the 2011 vintage and was struck by the consistent high quality in the glass. There is no question that this vintage—which has been declared by all major Port producers as well as by many of the single quinta (estate) producers—is a stellar one.
“It is a wonderful, powerful vintage,” says Bento Amaral, who heads up the tasting panel at the IVDP at the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP), Port’s governing body. “It is beautifully balanced, with impressive acidity and great aging potential.”
Paul Symington, co-chairman of Symington Family Estates, agrees. “They are simply beautiful wines,” he says. His family produces many of the most famous Ports, including W. & J. Graham’s, Warre’s, Dow’s, Cockburn’s and Quinta do Vesúvio.
Indeed the general consensus is that the 2011 vintage is the best one in the last twenty years. Comparisons are already being made to other great vintages: 1963, which was a standout vintage, and the legendary 1945 vintage.
Much of the success has to do the weather conditions: 2011 reaffirmed the belief that in the Douro, a vintage is created in the last three months of the grape-growing season. July and August were marked by dry weather, and late August rain showers offered just the right relief. By harvest time, perfect blue skies excited producers who knew that something special was on the horizon.
Equally important to the vintage’s success is that producers were willing to think outside the box when it came to blending the finished product.
“We were much more empirical in our blending, using grape varieties we don’t normally use,” said João Nicolau de Almeida of Ramos-Pinto. “It gave us a more rounded, complete and complex wine.”
Other producers focused on creating blends from their different vineyards to give the wines depth and density, as well as the great fruit and acidity that are the hallmarks of 2011.
As far as ageability is concerned, some are convinced the 2011 has was it takes to cellar.
“Just look at the tannins, the structure and the acidity,” says Amaral. “It’s all there.”
Quantities of these great wines are smaller than ever. The Symington group made less than 20,000 cases across seven brands. In short, this means that if you’re a Port lover, you should buy the 2011s as soon as they’re distributed.
Here are my top 10 picks of the 2011 vintage Ports:
100 Quinta do Noval 2011 Nacional Vintage Port. A powerful and ripe wine, this is strongly influenced by its tannins, superripe black fruit and solid structure. It has all the hallmarks of a long-lived vintage Port: rich, densely textured and firm. This is an amazing, impressive, concentrated wine with huge potential. From a parcel of ungrafted vines at Noval. (Imported by Vintus.)
abv: 20% Price: $110
99 Taylor Fladgate 2011 Vargellas Vinhas Velhas Vintage Port. The sweetness of the wine vies with acidity to highlight dense structure, black-currant flavors, and firm tannins that are strongly integrated into the ripe texture. It’s a gorgeous, concentrated wine that shows great structure and potential. (Imported by Kobrand).
abv: 20% Price: $268
98 Quinta do Vesúvio 2011 Capela Vintage Port. The fruit profile of this wine is beautifully ripe, perfumed and packed with richness and sweet berry flavor that’s touched by spice. It’s already a gorgeous wine, with its ripeness lifted by acidity and given shape by the tannic structure. There is power here, and a wine with great potential. (Imported by Premium Port Wines).
abv: 20% Price: $127
97 Taylor Fladgate 2011 Vintage Port. There is an initial smoky character, followed by a burst of ripe, rich black fruit, giving this wine weight and a dark, brooding core that is still developing. The palate is accented with black plum and berry fruit, considerable acidity and a delicate perfume on the finish. For serious aging. (Imported by Kobrand).
abv: 20% Price: $116
97 W. & J. Graham’s 2011 Stone Terraces Vintage Port. This is an aromatic, violet-perfumed wine that’s attractive now, yet clearly ageworthy. The acidity shows strongly on the finish. Produced from old vineyards at Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos, it has the long-term potential to be a magnificent vintage Port. (Imported by Premium Port Wines).
abv: 20% Price: $200
97 Cockburn’s 2011 Vintage Port. A very satisfying wine, this is ripely fruity, firmly tannic and dense. It has weight as well as the right balance of fruit and structure. It’s impressively powerful and concentrated while showing great fruitiness. The finish highlights its freshness. (Imported by Premium Port Wines).
abv: 20% Price: $95
97 Ferreira 2011 Vintage Port. This is a hugely rich, yet approachable wine. It’s powerful, bold and ripe, and concentrated both in tannins and texture. All the elements are there, linked by firm tannins and freshness from berry acidity. (Imported by Broadbent Selections Inc).
abv: 20% Price: $90
97 Fonseca 2011 Vintage Port. A powerful, spicy wine, this is luscious on the palate, with peppered berry fruits and ripe tannins. The structure shows richly, offering a smooth texture and a dry core. This Port has weight, density and a dark character on the finish. For serious aging. (Imported by Kobrand).
abv: 20% Price: $116
96 Wine & Soul 2011 Pintas Vintage Port. Ripe and sumptuous, this is a richly tannic wine that’s impressive in its weight and power. It has a very dry core that’s still hard at present. The fruit has a fine intensity of ripe berries and plums that hints at an ability to age for decades. (Imported by Winebow).
abv: 20% Price: $80
96 Quinta do Vale Meão 2011 Vintage Port. This very dry, firm wine is solidly tannic, but never harsh. The wine has weight and richness from ripe black fruit. It’s a powerful expression from the magnificent Vale Meão estate in the upper Douro. Acidity shines through the density on the finish. Age for many decades. (Imported by Deutsch Family Wine and Spirits).
abv: 20% Price: $66