The winter preceding the 2011 harvest was wetter and colder than the 30-year average. Heavy rainfall during the period of dormancy between 1st November and 31st March, totalling 496mm at Pinhão, brought welcome replenishment of ground water reserves.
Budburst occurred at around the usual time on 19th March. The rainfall that continued into April, combined with warm temperatures, produced vigorous vine growth and meant that a close watch had to be kept in the vineyard to prevent fungal diseases from taking hold. Dry conditions set in from late spring and there was virtually no rainfall in eastern areas of the Douro between 1st May and 21st August. However the vines were able to draw water from the plentiful ground reserves build up in the first months of the year.
Conditions for the development of the bunches were ideal. The first colouring of the grapes (véraison) appeared at little earlier than usual on 15th June. Relatively mild weather in June and July was broken only by a heatwave between 19th and 25th June. Although the hot, dry spell caused some scorch in exposed areas, it was beneficial in drawing the vegetative cycle to a close and directing the vines’ energy towards ripening the grapes.
By the end of July the maturation was clearly more advanced than usual as a result of the combination of warm weather and abundant ground water. August continued hot and dry, with perfectly timed rainfall on 21st August and 1st September rounding off an excellent ripening season and producing a well balanced crop.
As usual Quinta de Vargellas, in the Douro Superior, was the first Taylor property to start harvesting. Picking began in both the historic part of the estate and the more recent São Xisto vineyard on 10th September. Here as elsewhere the crop showed high sugar levels balanced by excellent acidity. A few days later the vintage was also under way in the Pinhão Valley estates, harvesting starting at Quinta do Junco and in the upper part of Quinta de Terra Feita on 14th September and in the lower part of Terra Feita the following day. Fermentations were long, allowing balanced and complete extraction, and musts displayed intense colour and powerful fruit character from the outset.
A promising year and we are looking forward to evaluating the young wines when they have had a chance to settle down.