A great vintage, universally declared: my report on 30 of the best
vintage Ports from the 2011 vintage
Tasted April 2013
When I was in the Douro at vintage time
in 2011, the grapes were just coming in, and the wines weren't even
made. But even at this early stage, there was no real doubt in
anyone’s minds that this would be a Vintage Port declaration year.
It was just such a good vintage, albeit slightly short in quantity.
So it was no surprise when in spring 2013
there was a rash of declarations. Unlike the last declared year,
2009, which was a mixed declaration (not all Port producers
declared: notably, the Symingtons abstained), 2011 has been
Luis Sottomayor of Sogrape describes his
Sandemans 2011 as a typical, classic vintage. ‘It’s not an
elegant, harmonious wine, but more a robust, strong wine with great
colour and strong tannins,’ he says. But because of modern
winemaking, it’s possible to drink it early. ‘Technology now in
wineries is much better than it was 15 years ago,’ says Sottomayor.
But it wasn’t a totally straightforward
year, at least not earlier in the season. ‘2011 was set up to be a
disaster ,’ says Dirk Niepoort. ‘Everything was three weeks
ahead of time, and we were expecting August to be really hot. But
August was cold: this has never happened before. It was cloudy, not
rainy, not warm. So we recovered. This was very important for
early part of the season was warm and dry, and the vines got going
strongly. But then there were problems with oidium and mildew,
reducing yields. Following this, June brought hail storms, and then
at the end of the month a sudden burst of heat caused sunburn of the
bunches, further reducing yields.
the cool August, everyone was set up for an early harvest, and
likely a mediocre one. But some much needed rain at the end of
August really helped, dropping the sugar levels and slowing
maturation down so that phenolic maturity could be achieved in the
grapes. September brought beautiful sunny weather that allowed the
grapes to finish their ripening in ideal conditions.
So, how are the wines? These are notes on cask
samples, so a range of scores is given.
Overall, the quality is very high indeed. I found the wines quite
vinous and pretty, with very direct fruit and lovely purity.
do Noval Nacional 2011
Concentrated, sweet and dense with blackberry, black cherries,
blackcurrant and some dense structure. Grippy and powerful with
superb concentration and fine yet firm tannins. Vinous and complex
with some violet perfume. Quite profound with real balance.
Stone Terraces 2011
2600 vines included in this, the first vintage of this new
super-cuvee, and it’s amazing – structured, powerful, yet still
immensely pretty. Refined spicy, dark fruits nose leads to an
amazingly rich, sweet, pure palate with lovely bite. From a north
facing and an east facing block at Malvedos, which is atypical for
the property. 96–98/100
Powerful, fresh and lively with lovely intensity and
acidity. Very fresh with good structure and lively peppery, floral
precision. Laser sharp and quite amazing. 96–98/100
Niepoort Bioma Vinha Velha
This is a single-vineyard wine from the Pisca
vineyard. Fresh, intense and vivid with bright cherry, plum and
blackberry fruit. Firm, grainy and grippy with lovely structure and
massive intensity. Super precision here. 96–98/100
Capela do Vesuvio 2011
Capela is a special cuvee, first made in 2007 and now made for the second
time in 2011. This is from a low-yielding plot on the property
called Vale da Escola. Dona Antonia built a school on this remote
property, and next to this is a low-lying vineyard by the
river. To make this wine it was necessary to divide a regular
lagar into four, so small was the quantity of grapes. One of these
small lagars was filled with Touriga Nacional and Alicante Bouschet;
the other contained Touriga Franca and Sousao. Just 200 cases
of wine were made. Incredibly aromatic with tar, licqourice, mint
and herb notes, as well as just a trace of pine, backing up the powerful
blackcurrant fruit. Concentrated, fresh and minty on the fine palate
with rich blackberry and blackcurrant fruit as well as some dense
spiciness. An amazing wine of real depth and concentration.
Taylor’s Vinha Velha 2011
Inviting perfume: floral and pure with intensity.
Super-elegant palate with lively focused cherry and plum fruit.
Sweet and fine with fresh acidity. Precise and detailed. 95–97/100
Peppery, fresh and intense with lovely structure. Dense berry fruits
with a lovely savoury twist. Structured black fruits with nice
Very sleek, elegant, dense and ripe with full
blackberry and black cherry fruit. Great intensity with sweetness
and structure. Pure and inviting. 94–96/100
do Noval 2011
Very deep coloured. Intense, vibrant, fruity nose of sweet
blackberry with some spice and savoury notes. The palate has immense
concentration with well defined berry and black fruits. Grippy but
fine tannins add structure. Very fine fruit expression. 94-96/100
de Romaneira 2011
Highly aromatic with violet, floral, olice and meaty notes as
well as spice and black fruits. Lovely density and concentration.
It's quite vinous with sweetness balanced by good structure. Vivid,
dense, floral and fruit driven. 94-96/100
lagares of this wine were made at the Cavadinha winery. Half comes
from the high-up Cavadinha quinta, then some from Retiro in the Rio
Torto valley, and the balance from Telheada, up in the Douro
Superior. Sweet, warm and mellow,
with fresh pure blackberry and black cherry fruit, yet fresh with
amazing purity, concentration and depth. Seductive and compelling. 94–96/100
floral and fresh with nice vivid, dense fruit. Pure, linear and very
fine with black fruits and summer pudding character. 94–96/100
violet nose with real intensity. Structured with beautiful weight
and floral fruit with a tannic backbone. Amazing fruit quality with
a spicy finish. 94–96/100
single vineyard port from 80 year old vines in the Pinhão Valley.
Beautiful open floral, black cherry and violet nose. Super-elegant
ripe, open, sweet black fruits palate with a seductive personality
and smooth texture. 94–96/100
de la Rosa 2011
bright pure nose of sweet liqueur-like cherry fruit. The palate is
pure, vivid and focused with sweet black fruits and some grippy
structure. Just beautiful. 94–96/100
floral with slightly appley blackcurrant fruit nose. Very pretty and
floral with amazing presence, some liqueur-like richness and a spicy
bite on the finish. 93–96/100
do Passadouro 2011
perfumed floral blackberry and black cherry nose with some violet.
Smooth, sweet, pure and seductive on the palate with firm tannins
backing up the fruit. 93–96/100
sample isn’t perfectly prepared, but the wine underneath is
superb: concentrated, dense vivid black fruits with nice purity.
Dense blackberry and raspberry jam notes with good structure.
and ripe: super-concentrated, dense and warm with spicy richness and
firm tannins. Very ripe, sweet, lush black fruits dominate.
Quinta do Vesuvio 2011
Very sweet, open and pretty with with, berry and cherry fruit.
Seductive, smooth and sweet with lushness and a supple personality.
Lovely fruit purity, with some hidden spicy tannins adding proper
structure. Very fine and velvety with real elegance.
do Vale Meão 2011
and very ripe with concentrated, dense, structured fruit. Viscous
yet silky with ripe berry fruits. Great density. 93–95/100
Rich, ripe and dense with the key theme being sweet, ripe, vibrant
blackberry and black cherry fruit, showing a silky texture and some
lushness of fruit. Approachable young, because of its beautifully
pure, silky fruit, but also with some grippy structure. Superb
floral nose of blackcurrant bud and spice. The palate is powerful,
concentrated and fruity with liqueur-like fruit and some openness.
Pretty, pure and concentrated with lovely purity and sweetness.
and very pure sweet black fruits: an elegant, fresh style with good
de Sousa 2011
sweet, floral and very pure. Lovely licqourice, herb and black
cherry fruit. Ripe and sweet with lovely direct fruit. 93–95/100
ripe and pure with bright curranty fruit, as well as sweet cherries
and plums. Jammy and rich with good structure. 92–94/100
pure and vivid with bright berryish, midweight fruit. Direct jammy
cherry and blackberry fruit. 92–94/100
de Roriz 2011
spicy and vivid with red cherry and blackberry fruit. Nicely
structured and dense with a spicy finish. 92–94/100
sweet and vivid. Very lush and full with blackberry, black cherry
and spice. A very sweet, inviting wine. 92–94/100
do Vale D. Maria 2011
blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Lovely weight. Sweet, open and
spicy in a lighter style. 92–94/100
and curranty with lovely black cherry and spice. Sweet pure fruit
and some grippy tannins. Lighter style. 92–94/100
sweet and open with lovely bright cherry and blackberry fruit. Nice
purity and structure: vivid and intense. 92–94/100
was never a blockbuster Port even in its heyday, and this is
noticeably lighter than the others in the Symingtons portfolio with
sweet blackcurrant and cherry fruit, in a rounded, fruity style.
Very pure and supple. 91–93/100
Quinta do Noval
Taylors, Croft and Fonseca
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