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.