Symington Family Estates, owner of port companies including Graham’s, Cockburn’s, Dow’s and Warre’s, has declared 2011 as a vintage year.
The declaration had been anticipated following an exceptional growing season, but many British-owned houses traditionally wait until St George’s Day, April 23, to make the announcement.
However, Portuguese wine giant Sogrape – which owns port brands Ferreira, Offley and Sandeman – had already declared the 2011 vintage. It highlighted the impressive color of the wines, great structure, and huge ageing potential when it made the announcement in March.
Symington’s provides an impression of the recently bottled wines in its declaration statement: “The 2011 Vintage Ports have an exceptional depth of color and concentration, rarely seen in the Douro and with marked minerality from the schistous Douro soil," the statement says.
"The palate has superb balance, with a powerful and rich bitter-chocolate taste, in hand with wild berry fruit, supported by well-structured and schist-edged tannins that will give these wines the traditional longevity for which the great Vintage Ports are so famous.”
The family owned company reveals that the weather was the key factor in its vintage decision. Heavy winter rainfall created deep reserves in the soil for the coming season, and a warm spring encouraged early bud break, flowering and veraison.
Producers expected that harvest would come several weeks early, but the fact that there was very little rainfall stressed the vines during the summer months. Sugar ripeness developed early on, but tannin ripeness lagged behind – meaning that growers left the grapes on the vines and picking commenced in mid-September, as usual.
The port industry declares a vintage only in exceptional years and this is just the third vintage declaration since 2000 for all Symington-owned port houses. On average, a vintage is declared three times in every decade. The last general declaration was the 2009 vintage.
it is likely that the Fladgate Partnership, which includes port brands Croft, Taylor's and Fonseca, will make an announcement on the 2011 vintage on April 23.