Vintage Port - First Impressions

This was a challenging year for growers and a dream for wine makers. The major shippers, all with substantial vineyard holdings of their own, experienced a few nightmares during the growing season followed by  euphoria at vintage.

The winter of 2010/11 was wet, followed by a warm dry spring with early budburst in mid-to-late March. April and May were warm which, combined with some rainfall,  encouraged oidium and reduced yields.  In June there was localized hail damage followed by an early and almost unprecedented burst of extreme heat over the weekend of the São João holiday  (24th – 25th June). With the thermometer rising to over 40oC, exposed berries (especially Tinta Barroca) were burnt by the power of the sun. July and August continued dry but not unduly hot. Nonetheless, by mid-August some vineyards were showing signs of stress. Heavy but welcome rains fell on 21st August and again on 1st and 2nd September. The rain was perfectly timed and helped to swell the grapes prior to a generally early harvest - 10th September at Croft’s Quinta da Roeda and Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas - a good week to ten days earlier than normal. After the early September rain, not a drop fell for the next five weeks and harvest conditions were perfect throughout the Douro. Temperatures were hotter than average at the start of vintage so must cooling proved essential for the lagares to take some work. The aromas inside the adegas were magnificent from the start, always a promising sign. It came as no surprise when talk of a full vintage declaration surfaced early this year, confirmed by a spate of declarations from late March onwards. At the time of writing, Noval is the only major house not to have declared. 

The following notes are the result of a first and rather hurried tasting of cask samples at the BFT tasting in London on 24th April.

More detailed notes with star ratings will be posted on this website over the next two weeks. 

Alves de Sousa 2011

A blend of Quinta de Oliveirinha at Chanceleiros and Quinta da Gaivosa in the Baixo Corgo: still raw and rather heady, soft and rich on the palate with a relatively soft finish.  

Barros 2011

Based on Quinta de São Luiz: fragrant, minty with good depth, firm and well-delineated. A good middle to long distance wine.

Burmester 2011

Elegant, though a bit green on the nose, firm and linear. 

Croft 2011

Not big but suave and very impressive, esteva (gum cistus) aromas, lithe tannins. Very well defined and delineated. A lovely wine. 

Churchill 2011

From a field blend of 50+ year old vines at Quinta da Gricha: dense but with strange rather cheesy – spirity aromas; big, firm and gripping. 

Cockburn 2011

Sourced mainly from two estates in the Douro Superior: Quinta dos Canais and Quinta do Vale Coelho with a substantial amount of Touriga Nacional in the blend: closed, dense with sumptuous fruit, very pure with the right structure to back it up. Not big overall but with great finesse. This has the makings of a very great vintage Port. 

Dalva 2011

Mostly Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca from the south bank of the Douro just above Pinhão and above the Valeira dam in the Douro Superior: weedy nose, rather thin and lean. 

Dow 2011

From Quinta do Bomfim, Quinta Senhora da Ribeira and the nearby Santinho and Cedeira vineyards in the Douro Superior: dense, closed with underlying fragrance, tight knit in classic austere Dow style with a powerful, explosive finish. Certain to be one of the wines of the vintage. 

Ferreira 2011

From grapes grown in the Pinhão area, mostly Quinta do Porto and Quinta do Caedo: odd nose, perhaps spirity, firm but a bit lean and one dimensional, especially following Dow. 

Fonseca 2011

Very dark and deep, dumb on the nose, sweet, firm linear fruit, exceptionally fine grained tannins. 

Graham 2011

From all five of Graham’s quintas: dense and opulent, smooth and rich on the palate, ripe, characteristically sweet and minty in style, long and full. Very promising. 

Graham’s Stone Terraces 2011

A newcomer in 2011 from 18th century stone terraces at Quinta dos Malvedos with easterly and northerly aspect: closed, with underlying intensity and purity, rich and opulent but very profound. 

Kopke 2011

From Quinta de São Luiz and Quinta do Arnozelo: loose knit and rather green on the nose, long and linear, nice but one dimensional.

Niepoort 2011 (see Reflections of Vintage Port for a more detailed entry on this wine). 

Suave, floral, gentle on the nose, peppery tannic structure, not especially big but very elegant. 

Niepoort Bioma Vinha Velha 2011 (see Reflections of Vintage Port for a more detailed entry on this wine). 

From a small, single estate called Quinta da Pisca above Ferrão, roughly midway between Pinhão and Régua: tight knit, very fine and minerally (not a word I usually associate with vintage Port), wonderful purity with long, fine grained  sinewy tannins. Quite possibly one of the wines of the vintage. 

Offley 2011

From Quinta da Boavista and other nearby vineyards: plummy, sweet, quite opulent yet firm and spicy. 

Pintas 2011

A single vineyard Port from 80 year old vines at Vale de Mendiz in the Pinhão Valley: green hedgerow aromas, rather lean and one dimensional

Quinta de La Rosa 2011

Dark chocolate concentration, rich with just a hint of hedgerow, firm, fine and well balanced. The best wine from this estate for many a year! 

Quinta do Passadouro 2011

From grapes grown at Passadouro in the Pinhão Valley and the neighboring Roncão Valley: fragrant, floral, nicely balanced if a little lean on the finish. 

Quinta do Vale Meão 2011

Legendary estate in the Douro Superior, 60% Touriga Franca, 20% Touriga Nacional, 5% Tinta Barroca, 5% Tinta Roriz, 5% Sousão and 5% of other varieties: playful, lighter than some, full of fruit. 

Quinta do Vesúvio 2011

Dense, liquorice, full and fleshy, velvety mid palate, lovely peppery tannins. Ripe and well defined. 

Quinta do Vesúvio Capella 2011

Mostly Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Sousão: floral, touch of hedgerow, fresh and vibrant with sweet berry fruit. 

Quinta Vale Dona Maria 2011

Single estate, well located in the Rio Torto: rather simple, and one dimensional, fresh delicate fruit. 

Quinta do Portal 2011

Picked in August apparently: thin and sickly.  

Ramos Pinto  2011 (see Reflections on Vintage Port for a more comprehensive note)

From three quintas, Ervamoira in the Douro Superior, Bom Retiro and Urtiga in the Rio Torto, 50% Touriga Nacional: dense, sweet an opulent in style, ripe tannins, still a little raw around the edges. 

Rozes 2011

Closed, sweet violety fruit, cassis, mid-weight with good definition. 

Sandeman 2011

From Quinta do Vau and Quinta do Seixo (ex-Ferreira): a really solid, powerful wine, dense, closed with lovely texture and weight. Possibly the most powerful wine of the vintage. 

Quinta de Roriz 2011

Just 350 cases made, mostly Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca: still raw but pure and vibrant, lovely fruit character. 

Smith Woodhouse 2011

Produced entirely from Quinta da Madalena in the Rio Torto with a high percentage of old mixed vines: open, floral and expressive, not as big as some of its peers but a well defined wine for the mid-term.

Taylor 2011

From Quinta de Vargellas and Quinta de Terra Feita: fragrant tea leaf nose, very refined, long and sinewy, not especially big but sculptural and well defined. 

Taylor Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha

Wonderful purity of fruit, already fragrant and expressive; firm, long and linear.  

Warre 2011

From Quinta da Cavadinha in the Pinhão Valley and Quinta do Retiro in the Rio Torto: mid-deep and dense, ripe mouth coating tannins, firm, rich and complete. 



Location: Glaziers Hall, London


19 - 20 An outstanding wine (*****)

17 – 18 An excellent wine in its class, highly recommended (****)

15 - 16 A good wine, with much to recommend it (***)

13 - 14 An enjoyable but simple, straightforward wine (**)

10 – 12 A very ordinary wine without faults but with no great merit (*)

8 - 10 Disagreeable (no stars)

Below 8 Faulty