Tried & tasted: Fladgate 2011 Vintage Ports (& some oldies)

Seamlessly following on from Wednesday’s report on Quinta do Noval’s 2011 Vintage Port releases (here), below you’ll find my report on Fladgate’s 2011s, which are to be bottled next month, plus my pick of the earlier releases which they showed alongside them.

As you’ll see, the 2007s are in tremendous (hedonistically broachable) form right now and, I must say, the 2011s and 2007s are among the most vivacious vintages I’ve had the pleasure to taste.

Here’s a reminder of Fladgate’s detailed report on the viticultural year and harvest.

Fladgate’s 2011 vintage report

“The winter preceding the 2011 harvest was wetter and colder than the 30-year average.  Budburst occurred as usual around 19 March and warm weather and rainfall in April produced vigorous growth.

At the beginning of May dry conditions set in and there was little rainfall in eastern areas of the Douro Valley until late August.  However the vines were able to draw from the plentiful ground water reserves built up early in the year and bunches developed and ripened in ideal conditions. Véraison (colouring of the grapes) occurred a little earlier than usual on 15 June.

Mild weather in June and July was broken only by a heat wave in the second half of June.  August was hot and dry, with perfectly timed rainfall on 21 August and 1 September rounding off an excellent ripening season and producing a well-balanced crop.

Croft’s Quinta da Roêda and Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas were the first Fladgate Partnership properties to begin picking on 10 September.  The estates in the Pinhão and Távora Valleys followed soon afterwards, with the exception of the organic vineyards at Fonseca’s Quinta de Santo António which started on the 25th. Fermentations were long, allowing balanced and complete extraction, and musts displayed intense colour and powerful fruit character from the outset.” 

Head Winemaker David Guimaraens summarises “abundant spring rainfall created reserves to keep the vines well supplied with water throughout the hot, dry summer.  This resulted in balanced ripening and wines that have elegance as well as depth and stamina.”  He concluded, “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.” Says Adrian Bridge, Managing Director of The Fladgate Partnership, “2011 has produced textbook Vintage Ports, classics in every sense.” 

2011 releases

Skeffington Vintage Port 2011

The Skeffington brand is, if you like, a blend of “off-cuts” that didn’t make it into the Croft, Fonseca or Taylor’s.  It shows intense rock rose on the nose and, in the mouth sweet cherry fruit; elbowy tannins and green coffee bean notes detract somewhat.

Croft Vintage Port 2011

Described by Fladgate as “more virile and structured than some recent Vintages,” while the 2011 has the toothsomely sweet, cinnamon-dusted svelte black cherry fruit I’d expect from Croft, there’s certainly more sinew and backbone.  In fact the tannins are firm, quite drying, on the finish.  There’s a hint of greenness too with eucalypt and bitter chocolate notes, which seem out of kilter with the sweet fruit.  Needs time to come together?  5,000 cases

Fonseca Vintage Port 2011

Very inky.  A gorgeous nose, brimming with flowers and fruit spills over into the mouth which reveals layer upon lingering layer of juicy crushed black and red berry and cherry fruit, orange blossom, rock rose, black pepper and liquorice.  Heady yes and yet it has a cool minerality and freshness about it too, a focus, which is intensified by its impressive charge of ripe, fine grained tannins.  Expansive and yet linear it both saturates and stains the palate.  Outstanding.  6,000 cases

Taylor’s Vintage Port 2011

Absolutely classic Taylor’s, with terrific precision & tons of gravitas.  Though buttoned down (battened is perhaps a better word) it radiates power, revealing glimpses of salt lick, minerals and concentrated black currant and berry fruit – the teasing marrow to its firm outer shell of bony, schistous tannins.  A resounding finish is long, tapered and gravelly.   Huge potential; top notch. 11, 000 cases.

Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha Vintage Port 2011

This single vineyard Port is sourced from select very old vines on the Polverinho and Renova do Armazém plots and produces an exceptionally perfumed, elegantly drawn Port, positively wreathed in violets.  Waves of well-focused, very pure and sweet, ripe fruit roll juicily over the palate.  I count pomegranate, red cherry, velvety raspberry (coulis) and blackcurrant among their number, while dark chocolate and gingerbread notes bring nuance.  Beneath lie hard pan salt lick and schistous minerals which, together with its firm if fine grained chassis of tannins, lend poise to its long, tapering finish.  There’s a touch of warmth (abv) to the finish, but there’s no denying the heady appeal and finesse of this wine. Just 310 cases produced.

Older vintages

The 2009s were quite inexpressive, hence no mention.

Taylor’s Vintage Port 2007

In elegant, expressive form, with its melt in the mouth tannins (where are they!?!) and tremendous florality, the 2007’s impressive concentration of dark berry and currant fruit fair dances over the palate.   Salt lick minerality to the finish lends piquancy.  Very good.

Fonseca Vintage Port 2007

A lush, plush, opulent Fonseca, with lashings of liquorice-edged sweet crushed black berry, lively red and black cherry fruit and heady orange blossom.  Achingly lovely, lingering and long.

Croft Vintage Port 2007

A fruit bomb, with sweet, slightly jammy black cherry and baked red cherry fruit; real sucrosity to the tannins too.  Quite simple now, but fun!

Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas Vinha Velha Vintage Port 2007

Contradictory I know, yet this has a delicate sumptuousness about it with its butterfly bewitching florals, finely honed fruit, firm backbone and charge of minerals.  Very long, very poised.  Beautifully composed.

Taylor’s Vintage Port 2003

My pick of the 2003s which, while showing the heat of the vintage in its baked cherry and roast plum fruit, has tremendous vitality – a vigorous structure-  which brings great line and length.  Excellent.

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