x
  • Country ranking ?

    188
  • Producer ranking ?

    10
  • Decanting time

    5h
  • When to drink

    from 2020
  • Food Pairing

    Enjoy without food

Each year, Wine Spectator editors survey the wines reviewed over the previous 12 months and select our Top 100, based on quality, value, availability and excitement. This annual list honors successful wineries, regions and vintages around the world.

The 2011 Dow’s Vintage Port is Wine Spectator’s 2014 Wine of the Year.

The village of Pinhão in Portugal’s Douro River Valley is a quiet backwater in a stunning setting. From the river’s shores rise some of Portugal’s most magnificent vineyards, climbing the steep slopes in a series of rocky terraces. They are filled with a wealth of native Portuguese grapes that thrive here, in the Cima Corgo.

 

This is the homeland of Port, the fortified dessert wine that for centuries has ranked as one of the world’s greatest reds—its sweet, rich flavors mellowing with time. But Port’s popularity has been muted in recent years, a dusty tradition at the end of a meal.

Then, with the 2011 vintage, Douro vintners hit the jackpot. An ideal growing season resulted in a host of powerfully fruity yet fresh and balanced wines. The past two decades have seen the rise of Douro table wines, and they are remarkable in 2011 as well. But Port, which had taken the unaccustomed role of second fiddle, has come roaring back.

In 2011, Port surged to remarkable heights of quality, with some vintners declaring it the best vintage in 50 years. Twenty-five 2011 Vintage Ports scored 95 points or higher on Wine Spectator‘s 100-point scale.

The vintage’s highest-scoring Port is the Dow’s. It stands as a monument to quality and the Douro’s modernization. Not overly sweet, the 2011 Dow’s delivers an abundance of grip, the interplay of alcohol and tannins prerequisite to long life.

The wine hails from the Symington family, which has made Port since 1882 and is the Douro’s biggest landowner, with about 2,400 acres spread over 26 quintas. Among their most-prized of those vineyard estates are Quinta do Bomfim, on the outskirts of Pinhão, and Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira, farther upriver toward the Spanish border.

Together, the two quintas provide more than three-quarters of the blend: Touriga Franca (40 percent) provides silky fruit flavors, Touriga Nacional (36 percent) offers power and structure, and Sousão (10 percent) gives deep color. The remainder comes from old-vine mixed plantings.

While Charles Symington oversees the vineyards and the cellars, five Symington men had a say in the 2011’s composition. The six best of 44 fermentation lots were chosen for the final blend. Maceration and fermentation began in shallow, open granite basins (lagares), with machines mimicking traditional foot-trodding. The juice was drained off to stainless-steel tanks to ferment for two to three days. Neutral grape spirit was added to halt fermentation and preserve fruitiness, resulting in an alcohol level of about 20 percent. The wine aged 18 months in large oak casks before final blending and bottling. The U.S. received 2,000 of the 5,000 cases made.

The Dow’s is fermented a touch drier than other Symington Ports, with less residual sugar. Muscular, compact tannins support concentrated black fruit, chocolate and spice flavors and an almost endless finish.

This profile, enjoyable younger than is the norm, truly represents the modern style of Port. Wait at least until 2020 to crack open the 2011, though it will live much, much longer. As the fruit, sweetness, tannins and alcohols evolve, they will reach their climax in the sublime hedonism of a mature Vintage Port.

For its combination of power, quality and fair price, and for being the best of the best of an amazing vintage, the 2011 Dow’s Vintage Port is Wine Spectator’s 2014 Wine of the Year. —Kim Marcus

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The Story

 

Dow’s Vintage Ports are only produced in years of exceptional quality and represent only a very small part of the total company’s production in that year. On average only two or three times every ten years are the weather conditions sufficiently good to allow for the making of Dow’s Vintage Port.

 

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Dow’s Vintage Ports have been landmark wines in virtually every great year, consistently setting the standards amongst all Port houses. Vintage Ports such as the remarkable Dow 1896, the 1927, 1945, 1955, 1963, 1966, 1970, 1980 and the Dow 1994 are all legends in the history of this great wine. These Ports are still magnificent today, even when 50 or over 100 years old. Few wines can claim this quality and this pedigree.

 

Dow's Vintage Ports are drawn from the companies' finest vineyards; Quinta do Bomfim and Quinta de Senhora da Ribeira. Each property contributes to the Dow’s unique and distinctive style. When young, Dow’s Vintage Ports are purple-black, austere, complex and intensely concentrated, full-bodied and balanced with very fine peppery tannins.

 

Over the centuries, the Dow winemakers have evolved a style that suits the house’s key vineyards; fermentations are a little longer, resulting in a drier Port Wine that has become the hallmark of Dow’s. Abundant fruit flavours with hints of ripe blackberries, give elegance and poise to Dow’s. The nose is deep and powerful with strong overtones of violets when young, these mature into fine cinnamon and rose-tea aromas with age. The very high percentage of Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional planted on the vineyards result in the powerful structure and aging potential of Dow’s Vintage Ports

 

Dow’s Ports avoid an over-rich style and requires a very high degree of skill in wine making and great experience in selecting the finest wines of each year and each vineyard. These wines are aged in seasoned oak casks for some 18 months and are bottled without any filtration or fining whatsoever. Dow Vintage Ports can be enjoyed when vibrant and young or they can be allowed to age for many years in bottle into a soft and delicate wine of velvet-like elegance.

 

In the 1920’s, the celebrated Oxford Professor George Saintsbury underlined Dow’s outstanding reputation when he wrote in his famous ‘Notes on a Cellarbook’ (first published in 1920), “There is no shipper’s wine that I have found better than the best of Dow’s 1878 and 1890 especially.” James Suckling, one of today’s leading authorities on Vintage Port was equally impressed by another legendary wine - the Dow’s 1896 - “The ancient {1896} Port still had an amazing ruby colour with a garnet edge, and it smelled of raisins, black pepper and berries. It was full-bodied, with masses of fruit intertwined with layers of velvety tannins. It was superb.” In 1998, when this wine was 102 years old, he awarded this Port an exceptional 98 points.

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Latest Pro-tasting notes

<10 tasting notes

Tasting note

color

Deep, Purple and Dark

ending

Long, Smooth and Pure

flavors

Blackcurrant, Cherry, Violet and Spice

nose

Youthful, Pure, Ripe and Generous

taste

High tannin, Well-Integrated, Multi-dimensional, Youthful, Medium-bodied, Harmonious, Fresh, Perfumed and Sweet tannins

Verdict

Sophisticated and Fine

Information

Origin

Portugal

Vintage Quality

Excellent

Value For Money

Very good

Investment potential

Below Average

Fake factory

None

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