2011 Vintage Port
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 universal.

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 keeping acidity.’

The 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. 

After 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. 


Quinta 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. 96-98/100

Graham’s Stone Terraces 2011
Just 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

Niepoort 2011
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 2011
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. 95-98/100

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

Ferreira 2011
Peppery, fresh and intense with lovely structure. Dense berry fruits with a lovely savoury twist. Structured black fruits with nice depth. 94–97/100

Taylor’s 2011
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  

Quinta 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

Quinta 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

Warre’s 2011
Six 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

Kopke 2011
Very floral and fresh with nice vivid, dense fruit. Pure, linear and very fine with black fruits and summer pudding character. 94–96/100

Offley 2011
Floral, 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

Pintas 2011
A 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

Quinta de la Rosa 2011
Very 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

Graham’s 2011
Pure, 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

Quinta do Passadouro 2011
Highly 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

Churchill’s 2011
The 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. 93–96/100

Fonseca 2011
Rich and ripe: super-concentrated, dense and warm with spicy richness and firm tannins. Very ripe, sweet, lush black fruits dominate. 93–96/100

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. 93–96/100

Quinta do Vale Meão 2011
Smooth and very ripe with concentrated, dense, structured fruit. Viscous yet silky with ripe berry fruits. Great density. 93–95/100

Sandemans 2011
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 balance. 93–95/100

Dow’s 2011
Enticing 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. 93–95/100

Ramos Pinto 2011
Seductive and very pure sweet black fruits: an elegant, fresh style with good structure. 93–95/100

Alves de Sousa 2011
Open, sweet, floral and very pure. Lovely licqourice, herb and black cherry fruit. Ripe and sweet with lovely direct fruit. 93–95/100

Barros 2011
Sweet, ripe and pure with bright curranty fruit, as well as sweet cherries and plums. Jammy and rich with good structure. 92–94/100

Burmester 2011
Sweet, pure and vivid with bright berryish, midweight fruit. Direct jammy cherry and blackberry fruit. 92–94/100

Quinta de Roriz 2011
Dense, spicy and vivid with red cherry and blackberry fruit. Nicely structured and dense with a spicy finish. 92–94/100

Croft 2011
Ripe, sweet and vivid. Very lush and full with blackberry, black cherry and spice. A very sweet, inviting wine.  92–94/100

Quinta do Vale D. Maria 2011
Sweet blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Lovely weight. Sweet, open and spicy in a lighter style. 92–94/100

Rozes 2011
Smooth and curranty with lovely black cherry and spice. Sweet pure fruit and some grippy tannins. Lighter style. 92–94/100

Smith Woodhouse 2011
Supple, sweet and open with lovely bright cherry and blackberry fruit. Nice purity and structure: vivid and intense. 92–94/100

Cockburn’s 2011
Cockburns 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

See also:

Visiting the Symingtons
Visiting Quinta do Noval
Visiting Taylors, Croft and Fonseca

Wines tasted 04/13  
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