"Port is the oil of good conversation."
Last month, I spoke with Adrian Bridge, the CEO of the Fladgate Partnership, which comprises the three major Port houses of Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca and Croft. During that conversation, he indicated that the decision whether to declare 2011 a Vintage or not had not yet been made but there was optimism that it would be. If it was declared, he was also unsure how much Vintage Port might be produced, though he suspected it would be a smaller amount than previous vintages.
Other Port Houses have already declared a Vintage for 2011, including Sogrape Vinhos (Ferreira, Offley and Sandeman) and Symington Family (Cockburn's, Dow's, Graham's, Warre's, Quinta do Vesuvio and Smith Woodhouse). For specific information on what led to such an excellent vintage for Port in 2011, check out the Vintage Port Site.
Fladgate Partnership has also now declared 2011 a Vintage Port year for Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca and Croft. They knew that the 2011 harvest was exceptional, but a declaration only came after they evaluated the final blends. "The blends from the three houses were carefully assessed over several weeks for quality, potential longevity and consistency of house style."
Adrian Bridge stated, "2011 has produced textbook Vintage Ports, classics in every sense.” The wines have a wonderful purity and elegance, but also plenty of structure and depth of flavor.” The Head Winemaker David Guimaraens also noted, “2011 was an excellent ripening season and produced a well-balanced crop. The 2011s stand out for the purity of the fruit and the quality of the tannins, which are silky and well integrated, but provide plenty of structure.”
This is the fifth great vintage in the past 12 years, which include 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2009. Bridge commented that, “Our 2009 declaration showed that demand remains strong for new release Vintage Ports, and we expect it to grow further as new fine wine markets develop. Wine consumers all over the world are realizing that Vintage Port continues to deliver astonishing value compared to many other classic wines.”
It is true that Vintage Port can be comparatively much less expensive than other great wines, from Bordeaux to Burgundy. Only about 2% of all Port is Vintage Port, and it is commonly said that a Vintage Port needs at least ten years of aging before it is optimally ready to drink. Some Vintage Ports can be drank earlier, but they all benefit from some aging. So be patient with your Vintage Port.
Which 2011 Ports will be available from the Fladgate partnership? First, they will produce a limited number of large formats, from all three houses, which will include double magnums and imperials. Second, the 2011 Vintage Ports from all three houses will be available later this year. Third, there will be a limited release of the 2011 Taylor Fladgate Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha Vintage Port. The grapes for this special wine are selected from old vines on two terraced plots, Polverinho and Renova do Armazém, which are classified as World Heritage sites. For more information on the Fladgate Partnership 2011 Vintage Ports, check out their website.
Will you be purchasing any 2011 Vintage Ports? If so, which producers? Do you usually purchase Vintage Port?