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GRAHAM’S 1945 VINTAGE PORT: ALIVE AND WELL

Vintage Port’s standing as one of the world’s great classic wines was confirmed and strengthened at Christie’s Fine Wine Auction held in London on October 23rd, 2014. The majority of the Vintage Port lots submitted for auction achieved prices above Christie’s High Estimate price markers, reflecting the great interest generated by some very rare lots of wine that attracted high bids.

Cover Christies WJG45_AmsThe auction revealed Vintage Port’s relevance in today’s market for fine wines with bidders willing to pay final hammer prices, which in many cases were well above the High Estimate price. An apt example of this was provided by an auction lot of 6 bottles of Graham’s legendary 1945 which went for £6,500, well above Christie’s indicated High Estimate of £4,800 and also — very significantly — 30% more than an identical lot of Graham’s ’45 that was auctioned at a Christie’s Fine Wine Sale two years ago in Amsterdam. A reminder if one were needed that the 1945 Vintage Port, one of the twentieth century’s finest, is now extremely rare.

Cover Christies WJG45_LonThe Graham’s 1963 also achieved a magnificent result with an auction lot of 6 bottles going for £1,800, again well above Christie’s High Estimate indication of £1,100 (or 64% more than the High Estimate marker).

Graham’s Johnny Symington who attended the auction was very pleased with the outstanding performance of Graham’s Vintage Ports, not just with regard to the older wines but also more recent Vintages such as the 2011 (Graham’s The Stone Terraces Vintage Port) and the 2000. Johnny and his cousin Clare were invited to host a pre-sale dinner at Christie’s attended by Christie’s guests on the night before, and this proved an equally successful event, which paved the way for the auction itself.

Edwin Vos, Christie’s International Senior Wine Specialist, wrote to Johnny the day after the auction: “I guess we have shown that vintage port is very much alive. The interest the Symington wines received from our dinner guests and during the sale was encouraging.”

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Memories come in many forms… Graham’s Ne Oublie Very Old Tawny Port

Three generations of the Symington Family (the custodians of Graham’s Port since 1970) have been launching Graham’s rare Ne Oublie Very Old Tawny Port: a wine dating from the time Andrew James Symington arrived in Portugal to work for Graham’s in 1882.

The wine was bought to commemorate the year of AJS’ arrival in Portugal and what would become the beginning of his family’s commitment to Port, the Douro and Portugal. This wine has become symbolic of the family’s legacy.

27 members of the Symingtons gathered at Christie’s in London for the official launch in the UK, followed a week later by the official event in the Graham’s 1890 Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia to reveal the wine in Portugal.

27 members of the Symington family at Christie's, London

Graham’s Ne Oublie has a touching story, which is told in every detail. The blood of three nations flows in the veins of the Symington family; so, it was only fitting that artisans from these three, Portugal, Scotland and England, should craft the packaging for this very rare, very special wine. The wine is bottled in an individually numbered, handmade crystal decanter designed by Portugal’s leading glass manufacturer Atlantis. Three sterling silver bands adorn the glass, moulded and engraved by Scottish silversmiths, Hayward & Stott and carrying the mark of the Edinburgh Assay office.

The leather case has been handmade by Smythson’s of Bond Street, luxury British leather craftsmen. This is a peculiarly apt expression of the family’s history, since Maurice Symington, grandfather of the current generation of directors, recorded his thoughts and experiences in leather diaries handmade by Frank Smythson himself.

When the small bottles of Ne Oublie were opened at Christie’s and at Graham’s Lodge to give journalists and fine wine merchants their first taste of this remarkable wine the whole room was filled with the wine’s complex perfumes.

Victoria Moore at The Telegraph described the experience:

“It’s an incredible piece of history… I could smell it a foot away from the glass, curling, intense, like bitter orange peel and caramelized clementines, then tasting rich with dried fruit and toasted almonds underneath it. Not like wine at all, really, but delicious. I was still enjoying the nose before I washed up this morning, emailed a friend who had poured a tiny glass the night before. That is some wine. And it will go on.”

After enduring over 130 hot summers first in the Douro and then in the cooler maritime climate of Vila Nova de Gaia on Portugal’s Atlantic coast this wine is something special.

Andrew Jefford in his article in World of Fine Wine captures this wine’s story:

“You simply can’t create complexity of this order in under a century or so, I suspect… There was a cleanliness and a precision about the wine, though, that was a testament to 130 years of exemplary stewardship… a synopsis of life and time.”

In their blog, Lea & Sandeman, ruminate on the impact that Ne Oublie might have: “As an exercise in shining a light on Port, Paul hopes this extravagant release will turn heads – and it certainly should, this is a fabulous, fascinating drink which illustrates brilliantly the remarkable potential and fascinating complexity achievable in this historic wine region.”

There is certainly a lot of excitement around this wine. Those present at these two launch events were privileged to witness the preview of a specially commissioned short film, directed by the Portuguese filmmaker Artur Serra Araújo, which you can see here. You can also read more information about the people and the stories behind this remarkable and rare treasure here.

The Symingtons have neatly summarised what this wine means to their family: Memories come in many forms; ours just happen to be in wine.