Tag Archives: Chocolate

Graham’s Busy Autumn in The Far East

Hong Kong Kee Club: Graham’s Ports featured in a very enjoyable Port and Food Pairing party held on October 26th at Hong Kong’s exclusive Kee Club.  The well attended party attracted over 100 VIP guests, keen to take part in this, the third edition of the popular event held jointly by Graham’s and Taylor’s. The evening was hosted by Graham’s Euan Mackay and Jorge Nunes, supported by Howard Palmes from Fine Vintage Ltd — Graham’s distributor in Hong Kong. Nicholas Heath from Taylor’s was also present.

Euan Mackay pours Graham's 20 Years Tawny from a Jeroboam (4.5 litre) bottle
Euan Mackay pours Graham’s 20 Years Tawny from a Jeroboam (4.5 litre) bottle

A variety of food pairings were offered to match a selection of Ports from the Graham’s range, and these included: Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage 2006 with Francesca Hazelnuts covered in dark chocolate; Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny served from a unique 4.5 litre ‘Jeroboam’ bottle with Foie Gras; Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny jelly on a chocolate biscuit and Graham’s 1980 Vintage Port with Venison Patties. For more in-depth information on Graham’s superb 1980 Vintage Port, please visit The Vintage Port Site.

Graham's Aged Tawny Ports  make wonderful food matches.
Graham’s Aged Tawny Ports make wonderful food matches.

The thrilled guests were left fully converted to the exquisite symbiosis that can be achieved between a great variety of foods and the wide-ranging styles of Port, which make it one of the most versatile of wines. Some Ports lend themselves more to the aperitif occasion, whilst others are better suited to enjoyment as after-dinner wines. The various serving opportunities also define the appropriate temperatures at which specific styles of Port should ideally be served. The enjoyment of aged tawny Ports, in particular, may be greatly enhanced by serving them lightly chilled.

A prize draw was held and the lucky winner took home a bottle of the superb Graham’s 1969 Single Harvest Tawny Port.

Euan Mackay presents a bottle of Graham's 1969 Single Harvest Port to the satisfied winner of the prize draw.
Euan Mackay presents a bottle of Graham’s 1969 Single Harvest Port to the satisfied winner of the prize draw.

Tainan, Taiwan, November 2nd: Jorge Nunes, Graham’s Asia Pacific Market Manager, stayed in party mode, flying off to Taiwan just a few days after the Hong Kong event in order to host a wine dinner in the historic city of Tainan (the ancient capital of the country). This Altano – Graham’s dinner was jointly organized by our importer, St Finesse and by our local distributor, Bacchus. The dinner showcased the Symington family’s Douro Altano still wines, as well as their best-known Ports from Graham’s.

Jorge Nunes, Asia Pacific Market Manager for Graham's (centre) at the restaurant in Tainan.
Jorge Nunes, centre, at the restaurant in Tainan. On his left is Sonia from Bacchus, the distributor in Tainan.

Tainan proved an inspired venue for this most entertaining wine dinner. It is the oldest city on the island and proudly regards itself as the birthplace of Taiwan. The city boasts a rich cultural heritage, including rich culinary traditions, which make it stand out in the country as a centre of fine cuisine. The Taiwanese themselves admire the city for its charm, and its friendly inhabitants who are very welcoming to outsiders, including an increasing number of foreign visitors.

Jorge Nunes, Graham's Asia Pacific Market Manager. To his right, Dave Huang, President of our Taiwan importer: St Finesse.
Jorge Nunes, Graham’s Asia Pacific Market Manager. To his right, Dave Huang, President of our Taiwan importer: St Finesse.

Graham’s in Japan

Hibiya Bar staff with their cocktail creations, L to R: Ms Chinatty Teduka, Mr. Takumi Ishikawa, Jorge Nunes of Graham's, and Mr. Yuki Yoshida

Graham’s own Man-About-the-Far-East, Jorge Nunes, has been in Japan to visit customers and provide training to staff at our distributor, Asahi, as well as a wide range of venues that serve Graham’s Port.

Jorge wrote in with this great story:

Something very interesting happened today.  I was giving a staff training to about 30 people, all from a chain of bars called Hibiya Bar in Tokyo (there are 26 of these in the city) and after a question about cocktails, I was presented with 2 barmen and 1 bargirl, who did 3 cocktails using Graham’s Fine Ruby or Fine White Ports.  The photo shows each one holding his or her cocktail.  The staff gave us permission to publish their recipes (see below) – all 3 were really good!

The President of Hibiya Bars, Mr. Oshiro, shared his photos from a recent visit to Graham's Lodge with three of his colleagues.
Asahi staff at the Osaka restaurant Portugalia for training. Recognise the silhouette of the Dom Luis Bridge in the wall painting?

On top of all this, by pure coincidence, the President of Hibiya Bars, Mr. Oshiro, was at Graham’s Port Lodge just 2 weeks ago!  They showed me the pictures he took.

I’m also attaching a photo of a staff training session with our distributor’s Osaka team – our distributor is Asahi Breweries. We tasted Fine White, Fine Ruby, Six Grapes (with the very good Pierre Marcolini 70% dark chocolate), 10 Year Old Tawny and Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage 1998.  Port and Chocolate was a success.  The training was conducted in the Portuguese restaurant Portugalia, whose owner is Eduardo Batista, and has been in Osaka for 34 years.

Jorge will be travelling further in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia, and we are looking forward to more news and photos.

Here are the cocktail recipes which Jorge enjoyed so much:

Ms. Chinatty Teduka and her creation, Sweet Tiger

  1. Graham’s Fine Ruby 40ml
  2. Caramel Syrup 2 tea spoons
  3. Camus Cognac “ile de lait” 10ml
  4. Mascarpone 2 tea spoons

Mr. Takumi Ishikawa and his creation, The Rose

  1. Graham’s Fine Ruby 40ml
  2. Cassis Liqueur 10ml
  3. Pineapple juice 10ml
  4. Litchi liqueur 1 tea spoon
  5. Rose liqueur 1 tea spoon

Mr. Yuki Yoshida and his creation, Frozen Port Sangria

  1. Cointreau 30ml
  2. Peach juice 30ml
  3. Lemon juice 10ml
  4. Cinnamon Syrup 10ml
  5. Lemon peel mince
  6. Graham’s Fine White Port float

The Vintage Port Academy

Graham's Euan Mackay decanting vintage port

Once again Euan Mackay, Graham’s Sales Director, has been in Hong Kong for The Vintage Port Academy.  Founded last year by the classic Port houses of Symington Family Estates (Graham’s, Dow’s, Warre’s) and Taylor Fladgate Partnership (Croft, Fonseca, Taylor’s), the aim of the Vintage Port Academy is to develop an understanding and enjoyment of Vintage Port among wine consumers and professionals around the world, through a programme of seminars and courses for wine trade and hospitality personnel as well as tastings and workshops for fine wine consumers, collectors and media.

The workshops are a key initiative, providing valuable specialist training to wine, food and hospitality professionals who wish to offer Port to their customers.  The classes are also a great adjunct to other wine trade studies and qualifications.  Participants complete an exam at the conclusion of their course, which included a question on how best to recommend a Late Bottled Vintage Port to a customer, with prizes for the top scorers.

L to R Graham's Euan Mackay, VPA prize winner Leo Au, and Nick Heath of Taylor Fladgate
L to R Graham's Euan Mackay, VPA prize winner Ian Wu, and Nick Heath of Taylor Fladgate

This year’s winners were Leo Au who works in Beverage Service at the Salon de Ning, Peninsula Hotel, whose LBV advice took the form of a tasting note:   “On the palate, nice balance between sweetness and flavour, gives you a strong wonderful mouth-feel every sip.”  Ian Wo, Assistant Restaurant Manager and Sommelier at the Centurion Restaurant & Kat O Bar, Shatin Clubhouse, Hong Kong Jockey Club put his recommendation in the form of food pairing suggestions, which sound very good to us:  “This wine would pair perfectly well with heavy red meat dishes, and for Chinese food, don’t forget to try this with a BBQ suckling pig.  You’ll fall in love with it!”  Leo and Ian each won a special Vintage Port Academy case of a bottle of each Graham’s 2007 and Taylor’s 2007.

Additionally, Euan and Nick Heath from Taylor Fladgate held a special tasting for the Press, describing the Douro region and the importance of terroir and provenance for Vintage Ports, re-enforcing their points with a tasting of Quinta Vintage Ports.   There was also a trade tasting where each importer presented a range of Vintage Ports to their customers.

Kee Club Tasting Event

Finally a Port and Food Pairing event at the Kee club attracted over 200 wine lovers, who enjoyed some wonderful and creative pairings with Graham’s wines, including

  • Late Bottled Vintage 2005 with Francesca Bari almonds
  • 20 Year Old Tawny with foie gras and Graham’s 20 Year Olld Tawny Jelly on chocolate biscuits – Euan’s personal favourite of the event
  • Graham’s Vintage 1980 with venison patties

The Vintage Port Academy has a new dedicated website, where you can learn more about upcoming activities, and register your interest in next year’s events.

Port from Port to Port

Henry Shotton is accustomed to serving Graham’s ports in all kinds of venues, but one recent opportunity was a bit different.  The brief was not unusual:  please present tutored tastings to guests and host a dinner featuring Graham’s Ports and Symington Family Estates DOC wines.

Henry in front of the ocean liner / residence The World, docked in the Azores

But for the first time ever, Henry was asked to make these presentations at sea, aboard The World, a cruise ship which has been designed as a luxury residential community which just happens to be afloat and pursues a continuous worldwide itinerary, completing a circumnavigation every two to three years.

Henry flew out to join the ship in Ponta Delgada, on the island of São Miguel in the Azores.  The dinner and two tastings, one of Graham’s Ports and the other of Symington Family Estates’ Douro DOC wines, were part of an ongoing program of cultural and educational events offered on board during the cruises between ports, to orient passengers to the delights that await them on shore at the next destination.

Lining up wines to show at the Graham's tasting

One afternoon Henry offered a tutored tasting of Graham’s Ports, including Six Grapes, 20 and 40 Year Old Tawnies, Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage 1999 and two Graham’s Vintages, 1994 and 1980.  The 30 guests were quite knowledgeable about wine generally, and were familiar with Port to some degree, but clearly enjoyed and took advantage of the opportunity to learn more – they kept Henry for an hour and a half!

Another tasting featured SFE’s Douro DOC wines, including two vintages of Prats & Symington’s Chryseia (2003 and 2008) as well as a range of the Altano wines and the Quinta do Vesuvio Douro DOC 2008.  Again, the audience, though knowledgeable, were not familiar with many Portuguese wines and found the quality of our Douro wines very impressive, and particularly enjoyed the elegance of the aged Chryseia, which Henry said was showing just magnificently.

The dinner featured two dessert courses to close the meal, both of which sound fabulous with the ports:  a Blue Cheese Brulée with Graham’s 40 Year Old Tawny, and a Bolivia Dark Chocolate Mousse with Jellied Raspberries, which was served with Warre’s Vintage 1963.

The Blue Cheese Brulée was, according to Henry, “a match made in heaven.”  The complex and elegant 40 Year Old Tawny is a wine which can slightly defy food pairing efforts, and is usually enjoyed in solitary splendour, but Henry said the combination of the creamy Brulée and its accompaniments of caramelised walnuts and figs, worked beautifull to call forth and enhance all the flavour notes of the wine.

One more surprise was in store for Henry:  “I‘ve played a lot of Cricket but never thought I would get a game in the middle of the Atlantic between the Azores and Lisbon!”   It seems the ship has a deck laid out for tennis and other sports in the open air, and Henry was very pleased with his own performance, both bowling and batting.  Since “out” at sea means the ball went overboard, which is frowned upon, when Henry did finally go out, his team were penalised 10 runs.  Oh well.

As good as it gets, indeed: Port on the verandah at Malvedos, overlooking the Douro in May

The boat docked in Lisbon and the residents had several days to explore Portugal.  Clearly, the Port tasting was a hit – many of them took up an offer to visit the Douro, and met Henry again at Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos, where he showed them over the winery and hosted another tasting and lunch.  The tasting was a mini-vertical of some recent Malvedos Vintages, not yet released, including 2001, 2004, and 2009, and the after-lunch port was the Quinta dos Malvedos 1999 (which is currently available).

Standing on the verandah, overlooking the Douro, one of the guests commented, “I’ve been everywhere in the world, and this is about as good as it gets.”

The group’s next stop, in Bordeaux, is sure to seem a bit flat after the spectacular mountain vineyards of the Douro and all our Portuguese hospitality and wines.

Six Grapes

A bottle of Six Grapes, with the original late 19th - early 20th century label

Graham’s Six Grapes Port is one of our longest standing signature wines.  Strictly – by IVDP standards – it is a Reserve Ruby.  In fact, it is something much much more.  Most Port producers’ Reserve Ruby ports are blended from the wines left over after the selection of the best lots from each harvest for vintage, LBV and other premium styles of port.  Not Six Grapes.

It is a common misconception that the Six Grapes name refers to six varieties of grapes in the blend, but in fact “Six Grapes” has always been Graham’s own in-house designation for its highest quality wines.  Before leaving the Douro, Graham’s wines have traditionally been classified in terms of quality level on a scale of one to six grapes, with “Six Grapes” being the designation for wines of the highest quality.   Upon arrival in the lodge in Gaia, the Six Grapes symbol has always been marked on the casks containing the best quality lots:  potential vintage wines.

Eighteen months after a harvest, we make our final selection of wines to be blended for our classic Graham’s or Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Ports.  Wines de-classified from the final Vintage blends are then designated for use in Six Grapes.  This means all the wines are of the highest quality and originated in our own A-rated Douro quintas.  The wines will then continue to be aged for up to two further years in immense wooden balseiros to soften their tannins while preserving their intense fresh blackberry fruit character.

When ready to bottle, the wine is fined (to remove any sediment), but never filtered, in order to maintain the richness and complexity which characterises Graham’s estate grown ports.  The result is an extraordinary ruby port which tastes like a young Vintage:  intense aromas and palate of fresh fruit flavours, typically black fruit, plums, perhaps cherry, with a slightly exotic nose (aniseed, and the esteva, or rock-rose note typical of Graham’s) and incredible richness, sweetness and balance, which you can continue to savour on the long, clean finish.  Classic Graham’s flavour and quality.

The Six Grapes name and symbol made it first appearance on the bottle at the end of the nineteenth century and has been in almost continuous use ever since.  A notable landmark for the wine was its appearance on the first class wine list on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary in May, 1936.  This honourable selection was repeated when Cunard launched the Queen Mary II in January 2004.  Today, perhaps partly due to having successfully ‘crossed the pond’ so many times, Six Grapes has become one of the most popular Ports on top restaurant wine lists across North America.

Six Grapes port is the perfect accompaniment to very dark chocolate (70% is our favourite) or rich, dark chocolate desserts.  It also works fantastically well as a counterpoint to strong tangy cheeses such as Stilton or Aged Cheddar.  For this reason, you can often find it by the glass on restaurant menus – ask, and be sure they serve it in a large glass so you can properly savour those aromas.  It is also a favourite of wine critics as an affordable, every-day alternative to Vintage port, particularly at holidays, for example, Tom Cannavan has picked Six Grapes for Easter as his wine of the week choice to accompany all those wonderful chocolates this weekend.

Do you enjoy Six Grapes?  Leave us a message and tell us where in the world you are, and what you serve with it – we would love to hear about your favourite food pairings.

Graham’s Ports and Chocolate

In a recent discussion about wine, someone said, by all means, drink the wine of a country with its unique food, but when you are having family food, comfort food – drink Portuguese wines.  For many of us, chocolate is the ultimate comfort food, and Port is certainly the ultimate Portuguese wine.  The combination is spectacular.

As with any food pairing, the key concept is matching the weight and intensity of the food with that of the wine.  With dark, intense chocolate flavours we suggest Graham’s Six Grapes, a Late Bottled Vintage or a younger, ripe-fruit-driven Vintage Port.  In fact, when we show these Ports we frequently provide a plain 70% chocolate to our guests.

At two food pairing events in England earlier this year restaurant owners, chefs and sommeliers tried several of our wines with a wide variety of foods.  There was no doubt at both venues that our Six Grapes wine was ideal with dark chocolate, in fact the ultimate favourite of one evening was the pairing of  Six Grapes and Mini Dark Chocolate Fondants.  Your blogger is (frequently!) partial to humble home made chocolate brownies – very dark intense ones – with Six Grapes.

The English tasting groups also enjoyed Quinta dos Malvedos 1998 with a Chocolate Praline dessert, and imagined that a chocolate paired with some kind of brambley flavour would also be good.

With that in mind, we did a little research recently, and made an intense chocolate torte which we served with fresh raspberries and Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage 1999.  The raspberry and chocolate combination together with the rich, plummy intensity and long luscious finish of the wine was out of this world.

Have you tried Ports with chocolates or chocolate desserts?  Will you be serving this combination during your holiday and end of year festivities?  We would love to have your comments and suggestions here, or if you have photos, please post them with your comments on our Facebook page (link in the margin).