A First Look at 2011 Vintage Ports: Part 2

A First Look at 2011 Vintage Ports: Part 2

by Chuck Hayward


Each declared port vintage has its own personality, a sense of style that, remarkably, is shared among the wines that are released. Your preference may be lithe and elegant or rich and textured, you'll be able to find the wine you like once you know the qualities of a particular year.

And after seeing similar shapes and weights on the palate of the latest barrel samples, it's fairly easy to discern the style of the 2011 vintage ports. At this point in their development, the bouquets are subtle and backward without much opulence or expression. The 2011s show a weight equal to the intensity of the bouquet, medium to medium-full bodied with broad textures that almost envelop the entire palate. Not entirely mouth filling or overly dense, there's a sense of elegance to this vintage. The tannins, where they can be found, are subtle and possess a finely ground texture. If there is one unique attribute to the 2011s, it lies in the integrated acids which lends freshness and vivacity to this years' ports.

Interestingly, there seems to be some divergence of opinion about how the new vintage compares to previous years. Charles Symington said, "2011 is a very classic vintage, much like 1994. The wines are ripe but not overripe with a unique thread of minerality. The 2007 vintage, which was our last declaration, was an outlier. It's a wine wearing a short skirt." David Guimaraens of The Fladgate Partnership likens the 2011 to a blend of 2003 and 2007. "It's tough to make a comparison," said Guimaraens. "The hallmark of this vintage is the vibrant, high-toned nature of the fruit."

From the look of the wines so far, it looks as if the 2011s will provide earlier appeal. While there is certainly plenty of fruit packed into the palates of these wines, their sleek profile and fresh flavors portend a drinking plateau that will arrive before the 2007s and 2009s arrive at their peak. And that's a good thing with both vintages currently showing off intense and ripe fruit that stands in contrast to 2011.

Demand for this vintage has been particularly strong and given the slightly smaller production levels (about 15% below the historical average), it's likely that the best wines will be in relative short supply once the finished wines arrive this fall. We'll look at the finished wines and reconfirm these initial impressions once they've settled down.


TASTING NOTES ON 2011 VINTAGE PORT BARREL SAMPLES

Cockburn

55% touriga nacional, 30% touriga franca, 5% souzao and 10% mixed grapes. 80% of this wine came from the Quinta dos Canais. Exhibiting a rather reticient nose, there's some pure blackberry fruit at the core of the tightly focused bouquet. Medium bodied with a relatively elegant shape on the palate, there's a touch of ripeness at the core. That fruit is surrounded by diffused hints of leafy herbs. The wine is essentially straightforward and representative of the vintage, could use just a bit more complexity and length of fruit on the finish. 3000 cases produced. 90-92 points.


Croft

Intense aromas of floral cassis forms the core of this concentrated bouquet and, at the same time, resonating on the palate as well. Medium-full bodied with a broad reach across the palate, there's plenty of intensity to be found here. The attack may be a touch simple but there's some latent complexity peeping out towards the backpalate. Those intriguing flavors continue on the lengthy finish which see some fine tannins in support. 5000 cases produced. 93-95 points.


Dow's

40% touriga franca, 36% touriga nacional, 10% souzao and 14% mixed grapes. 35% of this wine came from the Quinta do Bomfim with 42% from the Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira. Initially closed, the bouquet slowly reveals hints of chalk and stone with some herbal scents wafting in and out. Demonstrating an elegant core of vibrant black fruits, this medium-weighted effort possesses a lenghty finish that highlights an interesting thread of chalky minerals. 5000 cases produced. 91-93 points.


Fonseca

Some initial scents of fresh bread quickly dissipate letting aromas of fresh blueberries fill the glass. Bright, pure and lifted, this bouquet typifies the style of the vintage. The vibrant black fruits carry through on the palate with the medium-full bodied flavors almost filling the mouth. The fruit expression is very pure with some lift thanks to the well appointed acids. Not particularly long in the finish at this point but that will come about with some time. A classic Fonseca with richness and texture, just a shade more elegant than the 2009. 6000 cases produced. 95-97 points.


Graham's

40% touriga nacional, 31% touriga franca, 6% souzao and 23% mixed grapes. 35% of this wine came from the Quinta dos Malvedos. The standout bouquet is intense and already shedding the youthful and primary black fruit aromas to reveal some attractive complexity and spicy nuances. Medium-full bodied, the palate showcases broad and dense textures following on from a more elegant attack. The finish shows a different facet with a tight shape revealing fine tannins mixed with some intense minerals. This is almost a complete wine at this point showing the typical generosity of fruit that is the trademark of this lodge but with a touch of finesse that is the hallmark of the vintage. 8000 cases produced. 95-97 points.


Graham's "Stone Rows"

Touriga nacional along with assorted mixed varietals. This bottling is sourced from two plots that receive less exposure to the warm summer due to their eastern and northern expositions. Both parcels are cofermented. The mildly intense bouquet has a focused core of vibrant black fruits that are fringed with eucalypt. This vintage's trademark of medium to medium-full bodied flavors on an elegantly shaped palate are in evidence with highly polished fruit creating caressing textures. Tannins are finely grained and support a thread of citrus tinged minerals amongst the fruit. 250 cases produced. 95-97 points.


Quinta do Vesuvio "Capela"

Touriga nacional, touriga franca, sousao and alicante bouschet. The nacional and alicante were picked at the same time and cofermented. Very aromatic, the bouquet hews towards a more savory end of the spectrum with plenty of spices (think oregono and bayleaf) mixed up with notes of earth and hightoned citrus. Broad on the palate and richly textured, there's plenty of ripe and complex black fruit flavors here that envelop any structural components. A small layer of tannins combines with some granitic minerals to add a touch of grip to the finish. 200 cases produced. 93-95 points.



Warre's

37% touriga nacional, 23% touriga franca and 40% mixed reds. 53% of the blend is based on fruit from the Quinta da Cavadinha. The bouquet is closed at this stage with some hints of the complexity that will come in time. Medium bodied, the palate shows more interest than the nose at this point with a sense of brightness to the vibrant dark red fruit. Chalky notes on the finish are joined with some granitic infused minerals that add structure to the backpalate. An elegant Warre's that will provide interest in the medium term. 3000 cases produced. 91-93 points.

You can read the first part of our look at the 2011 vintage ports by clicking here.


The 2011 vintage ports are due to arrive this fall. Below are some of our most popular ports available now on pre-arrival.

2011 Grahams Vintage Port

2011 Fonseca Vintage Port

2011 Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port

2011 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port