Tag Archives: Graham’s Lodge

Graham’s Lodge Awarded TripAdvisor’s “Certificate of Excellence”

TripAdvisor has once again awarded Graham’s 1890 Port Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia with a “Certificate of Excellence” for receiving consistently good reviews from its visitors on the online platform.

TripAdvisor is a travel website that provides user-generated reviews of places and attractions worldwide and besides awarding Graham’s with the Certificate of Excellence, TripAdvisor have also rated Graham’s Lodge as the number one “thing to do” in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Although now open to tourism, Graham’s Lodge still plays a fundamental part in the ageing of all of the company’s Port, as it did when it was built in 1890. Situated on a hilltop overlooking the twin cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, a trip to the region is not complete without a visit to the lodge and a tasting of Graham’s Port.

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Second Annual “Jornadas do Boi” in Vinum Restaurant

On the 12th of November the restaurant and wine bar Vinum, located in the heart of W & J Graham’s historic 1890 Lodge, launched the second edition of the gastronomic event Jornadas do Boi.

The interior of Vinum at Graham's 1890 Lodge
The interior of Vinum at Graham’s 1890 Lodge

Aiming to celebrate the autumn flavours found in the traditional cooking of Trás-os-Montes, one of the inland provinces of Northern Portugal, the menu is composed of the strong, hearty flavours that make the food from this region famous.

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Trás-os-Montes rib steak (costeletão)

The centrepiece of the menu is the boi velho, 7 to 8 year old field reared cattle The two animals, weighing 1278 and 1330kg, were selected because of their exceptional quality by Imanol Jaca, one of the worlds most respected butchers, having worked with chefs and restaurants worldwide. The aged meat, from extraordinary animals, is lightly salted and grilled. Served with red peppers, the simplicity of the dish is captivating, as is the taste.

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Red peppers

Of course, the ingredients in the rest of the menu are also exquisite, from the fresh cannellini beans, to the stone milled flour that makes Vinum’s bread, each element of the meal is the best there is to offer.

The wines suggested to accompany the meal are the Altano 2013 white, Quinta do Vesuvio 2009 red, and to finish, the Quinta dos Malvedos 2001 Vintage Port. Of course, as Vinum is situated literally meters away from 3,500 ageing casks of Graham’s most precious wines, the exceptional Portuguese cheeses (and English Stilton) and chocolate truffles can be accompanied by a port of your choosing, served by the cup.

Available every day until the 5th of December, the complete menu, consists of:

Dried codfish (bacalhau) salad,

 Stewed Iberian pigs trotter and ear with cannellini beans,

Trás-os-Montes rib steak with seasonal red pepper,

An assortment of artisan cheeses,

Chocolate truffles.

Reservations can be made directly with Vinum on: +351 220930417, or online at www.vinumatgrahams.com.

Vinum Restaurant & Wine Bar – One Year On

One year ago today, on the 21st March 2013, we officially inaugurated the newly renovated Graham’s Lodge and Vinum Restaurant & Wine Bar. Looking back, it has been a year of which we can be proud.

The Symington family’s partnership with Sagardi family has proved extremely successful. The Symington family has created an outstanding wine list, including their own Douro wines and ports as well as those of other winemakers with whom they have close relationships, from Portugal and around the world. While at the same time, Sagardi has brought together the best of traditional Portuguese cuisine with a cosmopolitan touch. The result is a menu, a wine list and a team that has now, already, made Vinum one of the top gastronomic destinations in the north of Portugal.

One of the year’s culinary highlights was the Boi de Trás os Montes menu prepared last autumn. Two oxen were specially selected from farmers in the Trás os Montes region (which literally means, Behind the Mountains): this is one of Portugal’s most exciting and relatively undiscovered culinary regions. This seasonal menu that was designed to accompany the meat celebrated the local ingredients of the region and the Portuguese wines that perfectly complement them.

Vinum also hosted the charity dinner at the end of last year for Bagos d’Ouro and the launch of the Symington family’s commemorative Graham’s 1982 Single Harvest Tawny Port. This raised a substantial sum for the Douro based charity.

There is no better place to be in Porto or in Vila Nova de Gaia when the sun is shining than the terrace outside Vinum with a glass of wine and tapas. Vinum’s mission is to set the standard for outstanding Portuguese cuisine, and the signs are so far very positive. Portugal’s food and wine are still relatively new on the international gastronomic scene. Thanks to projects like Vinum Restaurant, though, the country is starting to gain the reputation it deserves.

Vinum has recently received two important awards. First, it won the Best of Wine Tourism award for Best Portuguese Restaurant, in the Great Wine Capitals competition. Then second, at the annual Revista de Vinhos awards ceremony in Portugal, Vinum was named Best Restaurant of the Year 2013.

These two accolades are wonderful milestones by which to measure the Restaurant’s achievements over the last year. Really what they reflect though, is the passion and dedication to fine Portuguese food and wine that the whole of the Vinum team has embodied in their work in the last year. It is this that has built Vinum’s reputation as one of the best Portuguese restaurants around.

Find out more about Vinum, the menu or make a reservation here.

A Port For a Prince

Each individually numbered bottle comes in a very attractive presentation box.
Each individually numbered bottle comes in an attractive hand-crafted presentation box.

Graham’s Commemorative Bottling to Celebrate the Birth of HRH Prince George of Cambridge.

To mark the birth of HRH Prince George, the Symington family has decided to bottle a special commemorative edition of Graham’s Single Harvest Tawny Port from 1982, the year the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were born. To have selected a remarkable Tawny Port from the birth year of the parents to toast the birth of their first child makes this celebratory edition incomparable.

Prince George was born on 22nd July 2013 and is third in line to succeed his great grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, after his grandfather Prince Charles and his father Prince William. It is the first time, since the reign of Queen Victoria over a century ago that three generations of heirs to the throne are alive at the same time.

Graham's 1982 Commemorative Port, available in Jeroboams (4.5 litre bottles) with an oak box and in 75cl bottles.
Graham’s 1982 Commemorative Port, available in Jeroboams (4.5 litre bottles) with an oak box and in 75cl bottles.

For three decades, this very fine Port has been gently ageing in seasoned oak casks under the watchful eye of the Symington family, owners of this long established Port House. Two generations of Symington winemakers have followed the wine’s progress in the original Graham’s 1890 Lodge, on its long journey towards perfect maturity. Charles Symington, head taster and winemaker, has selected just 6 pipes (a little over 4,000 bottles) for this limited edition release. Each bottle is individually numbered.

In recent years Graham’s has released various exceptional Aged Tawnies, amongst them the 1961 and 1969 Single Harvest Ports, as well as the Graham’s 1952 Diamond Jubilee Port, which was bottled to commemorate Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Jeroboam Nº1 will be auctioned at a fund raising dinner in Graham's Vinum Restaurant on November 21st.
Jeroboam Nº1 will be auctioned at a fund raising dinner in Graham’s Vinum Restaurant on November 21st.

In the UK, Graham’s 1982 Single Harvest Tawny Port will be available from Berry Bros. & Rudd, Fortnum & Mason and Hedonism Wines, amongst others. In Portugal too, the Port will be available from leading fine wine merchants as well as at Graham’s own 1890 Lodge shop. The Port will be on the wine list of one of London’s most exclusive Hotels and Restaurants — The Goring, where the Duchess of Cambridge stayed the day before her marriage to Prince William. In Portugal it will feature on the wine list of Graham’s Vinum Restaurant, which opened earlier this year and is already highly regarded as one of Porto’s finest restaurants.

In aid of a good cause: a contribution from the proceeds of the sale of this limited edition Tawny Port will be donated to a children’s charity based in the Douro region where this wine was produced. We have selected Bagos d’Ouro, a charity that helps underprivileged children and young people in the region, namely by supporting their education. A fund raising dinner will be held at Graham’s Vinum restaurant on November 21st during which Jeroboam bottle Nº1 and 3 x 75cl bottles (in a special oak case) of the Graham’s 1982 will be auctioned.

LogoBOPort has always been a wine associated with celebration and longevity, given its ability to age over long periods. W & J Graham & Co invites you to raise a glass of this superb 1982 to salute the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s firstborn child.

Tasting Note, Graham’s 1982 Tawny Port

Graham's Vinum Restaurant where a fund raising event will be held in support of a Douro charity: Bagos d'Ouro
Graham’s Vinum Restaurant where a fund raising event will be held in support of a Douro charity: Bagos d’Ouro

The Port is beautifully aromatic with notes of vanilla, soft butterscotch and quince, combined with exotic spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. The palate is velvet-smooth with highly polished definition and elegance. Hints of honey, raisins and caramel show through, perfectly balanced by a backbone of orange zest with silky tannins.

Master of The Vintners’ Company Baptizes Cask at Graham’s

Michael Cox points to THE MASTER, the large cask he was about to baptize (with a glass of Port) in the Graham's 1890 Lodge on October 24th.
Michael Cox points to the evidence on “THE MASTER”  of the baptismal ceremony he has just carried out in the Graham’s 1890 Lodge, following in the footsteps of many of his predecessors.

Michael Cox, who recently completed his year as The Master of the Worshipful Company of Vintners, followed in the footsteps of previous Master Vintners by baptizing the MASTER’S CASK in the Graham’s 1890 Lodge on Thursday October 24th, whilst on a visit to Oporto and the Douro where he spent some time at Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos. Like his uncle before him, Guy Gordon Clark O.B.E. (Master Vintner in 1989), Michael baptized the Master’s cask by throwing a glass of Graham’s Port against it (only after taking a sip beforehand). The ceremony at Graham’s dates back to 1928, when the visiting Master began this tradition at the Graham’s 1890 Lodge.

The Worshipful Company of Vintners is one of the oldest and most respected of the Great Twelve Livery Companies of the City of London, having received its first charter from Edward III in 1363. In 1928 it became the first of these venerable Guilds to make an overseas visit, namely to Portugal. The visit, which did much to rekindle the interest of the British in Port, also enhanced the prestige of the Vintners, demonstrating how it could further the interests of the United Kingdom Wine Trade. Michael began his term as Master Vintner in the year the Company celebrated 650 years since receiving its first Royal charter.

Michael prepares to hurl a glass of Port against the large cask — "The Master", thus 'baptizing it.
Michael prepares to launch a glass of Port against the large cask — “The Master”, thus ‘baptizing it.

Michael is one of the most well-liked and respected figures in the UK wine trade and comes from a long line of wine professionals; his great-great-great grandfather founded the successful wine importing business of Matthew Clark & Sons in 1810 (long time distributors of Graham’s Ports in the UK). His successful career led to his appointment as Wines of Chile Europe Director, a role in which he has excelled, having firmly established Chilean wines amongst the most popular and admired by the British wine consumer. In 2010 and in recognition for his services, President Piñera of Chile made Michael a Commander of the Order of Merit of Chile, the highest honour that can be bestowed to a non-Chilean.

Paul Symington (left), Graham's Joint Managing Director who hosted his friend, Michael Cox at the Graham's 1890 Lodge for the traditional baptismal ceremony.
Paul Symington (left), Graham’s Joint Managing Director who hosted his friend Michael Cox at the Graham’s 1890 Lodge for the baptismal ceremony, a tradition dating back to 1928 during the Vintners’ Company first overseas visit.

Vintage Update: Malvedos and Vale de Malhadas

The 'Port Arthur' vineyard (centre foreground) at Malvedos: Thursday morning, September 26th.
The ‘Port Arthur’ vineyard (centre foreground) at Malvedos: Thursday morning, September 26th.

The latest report from our Malvedos winemaker Henry Shotton:

Thursday 26th September

Weather

Night of Wednesday the 25th overcast but cool. Fortunately, the forecasted rain has not made an appearance.

On opening the winery on Thursday at 07:20 it felt refreshingly cool with a blue sky and some wisps of high white cloud. The promise of a warm day hung in the air.

Vineyard

The Malvedos grape pickers prepare to harvest the Port Arthur vineyard, one of Graham's The Stone Terraces two components.
The Malvedos grape pickers prepare to harvest the Port Arthur vineyard, one of Graham’s “The Stone Terraces” 2011 Vintage Port components (the other being from the Cardenhos vineyard).

Early today we picked perhaps some of our best looking Touriga Nacional; blocks 37 (the Cardenhos vineyard, just behind the house, facing North), and blocks 43 and 125 (the West-facing ‘Port Arthur’ vineyard). These vines are on the oldest (stone) terraces at the Quinta with just one row of vines on each terrace. They surround the house and it was from here that two years ago, almost to the day, we selected the grapes responsible for making the 2011 Graham’s ‘The ‘Stone Terraces’ Vintage Port, which has been very well received by customers and critics alike.

The Malvedos West-facing old stone terraces being harvested early Thursday morning.
The Malvedos East-facing old stone terraces (‘Port Arthur’) being harvested early on Thursday morning.

Winery

Our first lagar with the Tua Vinha Velha (from the first grapes picked during this harvest for Graham’s – on Monday the 23rd) was fortified yesterday during the afternoon.

Our cooling system broke down last night and we had to call Sr. David, our reliable handy man. Things often break down at the beginning of the vintage as all the machinery and equipment has not been in action since the last harvest. Luckily, as the weather has cooled no harm was done.

The first Touriga Nacional lagar (which we filled on Tuesday) was showing a deep almost purple colour with fresh, vibrant fermentation aromas and it was fortified at 3am this morning by the night shift — it comes with the territory, as they say…

'Weighing up' the visiting Portfolio team, which clocked in at 1,283 Kg - real heavyweights...
‘Weighing up’ the visiting Portfolio team, which clocked in at 1,283 Kg – real heavyweights…

“The Heavyweights” visit: Just before lunch, the team from Portfolio Vinhos, the Symington family’s own distribution company in Portugal, visited the Quinta and Henry showed them around the winery. He thought it would be fun to weigh them on the scale normally used for weighing incoming grapes. Their total weight was 1,283 Kg, the equivalent of a tractor load of grapes — a heavyweight team, without a doubt…

Friday 27th September

Rain clouds drift menacingly towards Quinta do Vale de Malhadas, early Friday morning.
Rain clouds drift menacingly towards Quinta do Vale de Malhadas, early Friday morning.

Yesterday during the evening, some ominously grey clouds began to appear, drifting in from the west, proof of the weather fronts, which have been gathering over the Atlantic Ocean for several days. Early this morning, some of us hopped across to Quinta do Vale de Malhadas, the Graham’s vineyard located furthest East in the Douro (Douro Superior sub-region), about 20km upriver from Malvedos as the crow flies. The caseiro, Sr. José Maria was marshalling his roga (team of pickers) as they harvested a 6 hectares (14.8 acres) block of Tinta Roriz grapes and another of mixed vines, both between 35 and 40 years old. We barely had time to exchange greetings when the heavily laden clouds presented us with a steady downpour, which sent everybody scattering for cover.

Picking an old mixed block (with primarily Tinta Roriz grapes) at Vale de Malhadas, just before the heavens opened...
Picking an old mixed block (with primarily Tinta Roriz grapes) at Vale de Malhadas, just before the heavens opened…

However, the shower  — although reasonably abundant — didn’t last for more than about 20 minutes, so there was no cause for alarm. In fact we’re very pleased with the appearance of the grapes, which looked well ripened and in very good condition. Some berries were promptly tasted and their lovely sweet and concentrated taste confirmed our positive impressions. Our viticulturist for Vale de Malhadas, Mário Natário, later confirmed that just 2mm of rain had fallen and that this had barely affected the grapes. For the next 3 to 4 days, Sr José Maria and his roga will continue to harvest primarily Tinta Roriz.

The Vale de Malhadas old winery, not currently in use (the grapes are vinfified at other Graham's quintas).
The Vale de Malhadas old winery, not currently in use (the grapes are vinfified at other Graham’s quintas).

As noted above, at Malvedos there was no rain last night, but when we arrived at the winery just before 8 this morning, the first drops began to fall and this was followed by a steady downpour which lasted perhaps half an hour. Intermittent showers followed and the afternoon, although quite overcast, was mainly dry. This is nothing compared to the rain that came down in buckets along the coast at Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. The front progressed eastwards, but fortunately for us deposited most of its rain over the Marão – Montemuro mountains that shield the Douro Region from the brunt of the weather fronts that roll in from the Atlantic and effectively act as a weather barrier.

This is what the weather front looked like on Friday; fortunatelky most of its rain was deposited on the Marão Mountains (left, shrouded under thick cloud).
This is what the weather front looked like on Friday; fortunatelky most of its rain was deposited on the Marão Mountains (left, shrouded under thick cloud). The Marão range is the natural western border of the Douro region.

During the morning we were visited by Susan Smillie of the UK Guardian Newspaper. The previous day, Susan had visited the Graham’s 1890 Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia and enjoyed a “delicious” lunch (in her own words) in the VINUM restaurant there. As a Scot, Susan felt quite at home in the surroundings of the 1890 Lodge and at Quinta dos Malvedos, both of which of course reflect the entrepreneurial spirit and passion for winemaking of two Scottish familes: the Graham’s and the Symingtons.

Susan Smillie of the Guardian Newspaper visited Malvedos. Her interest in Port was reinforced by the time spent in Porto (1890 LOdge and VINUM restaurant) and in the Douro Valley.
Susan Smillie of the Guardian Newspaper visited Malvedos. Her interest in Port was reinforced by the time spent in Porto (1890 Lodge and VINUM restaurant) and in the Douro Valley. Here Henry explains the workings of the lagares: grape treading tanks.
A 35 year old vine (mixed block) at Vale de Malhadas, just before its grape bunches were picked.
A 35 year old vine (mixed block) at Vale de Malhadas, just before its grape bunches were picked.

Henry showed Susan around the Malvedos winery and she was fascinated by the lagares which she was able to compare with the stone lagares that she had seen the night before at Graham’s sister vineyard of Quinta do Vesúvio.

Due to this morning’s rain, Charles consulted with Henry and decided to make a slight alteration to the picking order and this may change again tomorrow, depending on how the weather works out. Flexibility is key. Although some further rainfall is forecast for the next few days it’s unlikely to be abundant and for the time being it’s therefore very much business as usual.

The small North-facing Cardenhos vineyard (located just behind the house at Malvedos), about to be harvested, early Thursday morning.
The small North-facing Cardenhos vineyard (located just behind the house at Malvedos), about to be harvested, early Thursday morning.

Wine Critics Praise the 2011 Vintage Ports

Grahams_2011_LabelThe recently announced 2011 Vintage Port declaration has met with considerable interest in Portugal and overseas. At Graham’s, we are very proud of our wines and it is very encouraging to register the excitement the 2011 Vintage is generating. This week, Jancis Robinson MW , one of the world’s leading wine critics wrote, “…anyone with an interest in superbly made top-quality red wine worth ageing for decades should arguably turn their backs on Bordeaux 2012 and look instead at Port 2011…There is little doubt that 2011 produced some stunning vintage ports, into which more effort and skill has gone than any other previous vintage in the Douro. And I find it impossible to think of any other wine region, anywhere in the world, that produced better wines.” In her assessment of 31 different Vintage Ports, Graham’s The Stone Terraces 2011 Vintage Port and Graham’s 2011 Vintage Port were among the highest ranked, deserving exceptionally high marks: 18.5/20 and 19/20, respectively.

In similar vein, Manuel Carvalho, writing in Portugal’s respected ‘Público’ newspaper on April 27th, described Graham’s The Stone Terraces 2011 as a “masterpiece”, going on to write: “For its exuberant aromas of fruit, mint and Douro shrubs, for its suggestions of black tea, for its intriguing spice notes, such is its complexity and richness. For its volume on the palate, the power of its tannins, which announce decades of longevity whilst at the same time combining with the acidity and fruit to render it immediately approachable.” His wine critic colleague — Pedro Garcias — was so impressed with the Graham’s 2011 Vintage Port that he summed up as follows, “One simple adjective suffices to describe this Port: superb”. Furthermore he predicted that the 2011 Vintage has what it takes to aspire to a legendary status in the history of Port.

The second 2011 Vintage Port tasting at the Graham's Lodge attracted 15 journalists, wine writers and critics.
The second 2011 Vintage Port tasting at the Graham’s Lodge attracted 15 journalists, wine writers and critics.

2011 Vintage Port tasting, Graham’s Lodge, April 30th: The first showing of the 2011 Vintage Ports produced by the Symington family was on April 18th (scroll down to see previous post) in which Portuguese journalists were hosted by Paul and Charles Symington. The family decided to organize a second tasting, earlier this week in response to the enormous interest shown in Portugal following the declaration, barely two weeks ago. We will spare our followers repetition, but it is worth reproducing here some interesting, complementary aspects — recounted by Paul and Charles in both tastings — that weren’t touched on in the previous post.

Paul and Charles guide the 2011 Vintage Ports tasting
Paul and Charles guide the 2011 Vintage Ports tasting
  • Paul Symington emphasized the importance that Vintage Port declarations play as personal and career-defining moments, just as they were for previous generations who are remembered very much for the Vintages that they made ‘on their watch’. Paul has been involved in 9 Vintage declarations and Charles in 5 declarations, thus far.
  • All the 2011 Vintage Ports made by the Symington family were 100% from their own vineyards, a natural development given their sustained investment in vineyards since the late 1970s (vineyard acquisitions and vineyard replanting). With a total of 965 hectares (2,385 acres) of vineyards, dotted across the finest sub-regions of the Douro Valley and representing an incredible diversity of terroirs, the family has remarkable scope in selecting wines for their Vintage Ports.
  • For the first time in half a century (specifically since the 1963 vintage in the Douro) the Vintage Ports in 2011 were 100% vinified in lagares (shallow treading tanks) and this shows through in the superb quality displayed by all the 2011 wines.
  • A point not often explained but one that has a great bearing on the family’s capacity to consistently produce outstanding Vintage Ports is the tremendous benefit of owning and operating several small micro-wineries (referred to by some as ‘boutique’ wineries) with independent winemaking teams (coordinated by Charles Symington) whose sole objective is the production of the best possible Port. There is no loss of focus in the pursuit of this goal because they are not distracted by the requirement to make styles of Port other than those with the potential to be graded as Vintage Port.
  • Leading on from the above, Charles was also keen to stress the significance of the substantial investment made over the last 10 to 15 years in numerous small storage tanks at these specialist wineries. This allows each fermentation to be kept separate until such time as the winemakers and tasters decide how to best use them. Paul reinforced that the possibility of keeping such ‘diamonds in the rough’ separately is a key contributor in the making of exceptional Ports.
  • During this second tasting session, Charles and Paul made a bit of a joke about the distinction made between old vines and the others — when describing the provenance of grapes that contribute to Vintage Port blends. The fact is that when we refer to old vines, we really should say very old mixed vines (50 years+) because ‘the others’ are 25 to 30 years old and thus, by any standard, are themselves old, mature vines (planted in single varietal parcels during the early 1980s).
The line-up of 2011 Vintage Ports made by the Symington family
The lineup of 2011 Vintage Ports made by the Symington family

Following this second tasting which involved 13 different wines (the 5 components of the Graham’s 2011 Vintage + 8 Vintage Ports; two Graham wines; two Vesuvio wines and one each from Cockburn’s, Dow’s, Warre’s and Quinta de Roriz), the 15 guest tasters were invited to lunch at the new Vinum restaurant at Graham’s where the highlight was a lovely Graham’s 1963 Vintage Port, celebrating its 50th birthday this year.

Participants in the tasting enjoy an appetizer in the wine bar before lunch at the adjoining Vinum restaurant
Participants in the tasting enjoy an appetizer in the wine bar before lunch at the adjoining Vinum restaurant

Graham’s Declares the 2011 Vintage Port

Portugal was the first country in which the 2011 Vintages were shown. The UK, USA and others will follow in the coming weeks.
Portugal was the first country in which the recently declared 2011 Vintage Ports were shown. The UK, USA and others will follow in the coming weeks.

This has been an eventful week for Graham’s. On Monday, April 15th, Graham’s declared the 2011 Vintage Port. A few days later on Thursday the 18th, Charles and Paul Symington hosted a tasting of the family’s 2011 Vintage Ports at the recently renovated Graham’s 1890 Lodge. Their guests were Portuguese wine journalists and this event marked the first time that a declared Vintage Port was first shown in Portugal, before any other country. Some of the country’s leading wine critics came to this tasting, keen to gain their first impressions of the wines that have been generating considerable interest. Judging by the very positive comments it is clear that our guests agree with us that the 2011 is an outstanding Vintage.

Many of Portugal's most influential wine writers gathered at the Graham's Lodge to gain their first impressions of the 2011 Vintage Ports.
Many of Portugal’s most influential wine writers gathered at the Graham’s Lodge to gain their first impressions of the 2011 Vintage Ports.

The event started with an opportunity to taste the component wines that comprise the Graham’s 2011 Vintage Port. This wine is a careful selection of the finest wines produced at Graham’s five Douro Quintas. This proved an interesting experience in helping the tasters to understand what makes a classic Graham’s Vintage Port. Charles started with the Quintas whose aromatic contributions are more evident: Lages, Vila Velha and Malvedos. Lages wines have long been favoured for their elegant complexity, showing fine violet aromas, characteristics no doubt influenced by the property’s (cooler) north and east-facing aspects in the Rio Torto. Similarly, Vila Velha, with a predominantly west-facing aspect, has a relatively cool maturation cycle, which allowed its late-ripening Touriga Franca grapes to excel and deliver superb aromas of rockrose and violets in 2011. Malvedos, the cornerstone of Graham’s Vintage Port since 1890, provides floral characteristics of eucalyptus and mint with soft violet overtones as well as rich flavours of cassis, mulberry and blackberries. Quinta do Tua and Quinta do Vale de Malhadas were the last two component wines tasted and they each showed the muscularity for which they are known, in the form of tremendous concentration and weighty tannins which add great structure and staying power to the final wine.

Paul and Charles Symington talk the guests through the wines
Paul shares some anecdotes with his guests
The line up of component wines which comprise the Graham's 2011 Vintage Port blend.
The line up of five component wines which comprise Graham’s 2011 Vintage Port

Leading on from the fascinating terroir tasting of the component wines, it was time to sample the Graham’s 2011 Vintage Port, whose final blend is made up as follows: 35% Malvedos; 19% Vale Malhadas ; 18% Vila Velha; 16% Tua; 12% Lages. Both Charles and Paul explained the sequence of events that laid the foundations for this Vintage year: Abundant 2010/2011 winter rains, which replenished the water reserves deep in the Douro subsoil and compensated for an otherwise very dry year; a very dry June and July, followed by an ideal weather pattern immediately leading up to and during the vintage (opportune rain showers in late August/early September, followed by weeks of dry, sunny conditions); perfectly ripened grapes with copybook balance of baumés (sugar content), phenolics (pigments, tannins) and acidity (freshness and longevity).

The tasters put the wines through their paces
The tasters put the component wines from Graham’s five Quintas (vineyards) through their paces

A very interesting characteristic is apparent in the Graham’s 2011 Vintage Port, as well as in the other Symington family’s 2011 Vintage Port houses, namely a marked schistous minerality which lends the 2011 wines a very distinctive profile. They have an exceptional depth of colour and concentration, superb aromatic elegance and well-structured schist-edged tannins. Paul described this schist character as akin to the smell of the parched, powdery Douro schist soil just after rain when it exudes a wonderful, fragrant wet-earth scent. Charles explained that this very attractive aromatic character also owes much to the exceptional performance of the Touriga Franca varietal in this vintage. He explained that as a late-ripening variety, the Touriga Franca thrived in the idyllic conditions leading up to and during the vintage (it was the last variety to be picked in October). In other words, the weeks of uninterrupted dry sunny conditions, which followed the well-timed rain of August 21st and 1st/2nd of September allowed the Touriga Franca to ripen evenly and completely, delivering its full quality potential. Charles is a great believer in the Touriga Franca and explained that this variety is often unjustly overshadowed by the Touriga Nacional. It can be a tricky varietal to grow in less favourable weather, but when conditions are right, it has a great deal to offer, particularly in aromatic finesse. Accordingly there was a higher inclusion of Touriga Franca — 31%, compared to 25% in the previous declared Vintage, the 2007.

IMG_1969Of the total production from Graham’s five Quintas (88,855 cases), and following months of exhaustive tastings, Charles and his cousins selected just 9% — or 8,000 cases — to release as Graham’s 2011 Vintage Port.

Graham's TST labelPaul and Charles then revealed that together with their cousins, they had decided to offer for the first time, alongside Graham’s classic Vintage Port, a very small bottling (250 cases, or 3,000 bottles) of Vintage Port drawn from two very special parcels of traditional stone-terraced vineyards at Quinta dos Malvedos. Accordingly, they named the wine, Graham’s ‘The Stone Terraces’ Vintage Port. These two 18th century terraced vineyards have consistently produced extraordinary Ports. One of the two vineyard parcels was originally called Port Arthur and has eleven schist stone terraces, ten of which have only a single row of vines on each. The other vineyard is known as Vinha dos Cardenhos and between them, the two parcels amount to a tiny fraction (1.8 hectares) of the Malvedos vineyard (89 hectares). The latter has a predominantly South-facing aspect, whereas the Port Arthur and Vinha dos Cardenhos vineyards are East-facing and North-facing. These cooler aspects mean the grapes mature very gradually and evenly and being shielded from the powerful July and August Douro afternoon sun, their unique aromatic properties come more readily to the fore. This is a very individual and distinct Vintage Port of extraordinary intensity and quality.

The north-facing Vinha dos Cardenhos, behind the Quinta house at Malvedos
The north-facing Vinha dos Cardenhos vineyard parcel, behind the house of Graham’s historic Quinta dos Malvedos

Paul Symington’s tasting note for the 2011 Graham’s The Stone terraces Vintage Port: This wine is very individual; it has highly specific characteristics with a very intense tannic structure and a colour of purple-black intensity. The easterly and northerly aspect of these two small vineyards results in fresh scented aromas of violets and mint. There is a complex palate of weighty and spicy tannins combined with blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. This is an extraordinary wine of great power and elegance; it is a new departure for Graham’s and the Symington family.

The Cardenhos and Port Arthur vineyards, shown here in a 1925 survey of Quinta dos Malvedos.
The Cardenhos and Port Arthur vineyards, shown here in a 1925 survey of Quinta dos Malvedos. The original survey chart is exhibited at Graham’s Museum in the 1890 Lodge

Following this tasting session, which included a further six 2011 Vintage Ports from Graham’s sister companies (Cockburn’s, Dow’s, Warre’s, Quinta do Vesuvio and Quinta de Roriz), the tasters were invited to lunch at the recently opened Vinum restaurant, contained within the Graham’s Port lodge. The food was served with various Symington Douro wines, including the Chryseia 2004 Douro DOC (made jointly by the Symington family and Bruno Prats) and — to end the meal on a particularly high note — Graham’s 1963 Vintage Port (served from two magnum bottles). The Vintage Port was simply sublime, 50 years old and still so vital and complete. Curiously some commented that this Port too showed the ‘schistous’ aromatic notes that Paul had earlier associated with the 2011 wines. There were also wonderful aromas of tea-leaf and mint, bergamot and cinnamon and a seductive palate, complex and very, very refined. An absolute delight. We believe that in 2061, when the 2011s reach fifty, they too will offer up a similarly extraordinary experience.

What better way to end a fabulous meal than with two magnums of Graham's superb 1963...
What better way to end a fabulous meal than with two magnums of Graham’s superb 1963…
The tasting was followed by a delicious meal served at Graham's VINUM restaurant
The tasting was followed by a delicious meal served at Graham’s VINUM restaurant

The VINUM Restaurant & Wine Bar at Graham’s 1890 Lodge — now open!

Vinum_LogoFollowing months of careful preparation, the VINUM restaurant at Graham’s opened its doors to the public on February 19th. The VINUM Restaurant & Wine Bar forms an integral part of Graham’s renovated 1890 Lodge, sections of which have already opened to visitors. The new visitors’ centre — ‘Graham’s 1890 Lodge’ — will be formally inaugurated on the 21st of March. This is a full working Port Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia and especially attractive in that it now offers its visitors a restaurant and wine bar. Graham’s has teamed up with SAGARDI, www.gruposagardi.com , internationally recognized as specialists in wine-related gastronomy at the very highest level. At VINUM, you are presented with ideal food pairings for the Symington family’s extensive range of Douro and Port wines. The entrées, main courses and desserts are specially created to accompany these wines.

The Vinum Restaurant in the Graham's 1890 Lodge
The Vinum Restaurant in the Graham’s 1890 Lodge

VINUM’S Portuguese team will strive from the outset to create wonderful food from all the best natural ingredients that can be produced in, and sourced from, the North of Portugal, including of course, the Douro Valley and from the cold and clean deep waters of the neighbouring Atlantic Ocean. The Portuguese Atlantic coast has a world reputation as a source of some of the world’s very best seafood. Fresh fish will be served daily from the day’s catch, obtained from the local Matosinhos fishing harbour.

Another view of the Vinum restaurant.
Another view of the Vinum Restaurant.

Vinum’s setting is very much in the Lodge environment. To one side, once sat down at their table, diners can view the seemingly endless rows of pipes, separated from the restaurant by a clever, discreet metal and glass screen. On the opposite side there is the large bulk of the Lodge’s granite walls. Elegant iron columns support the attractive original Riga pine timbers and roofing; their seasoned tones casting an inviting, soft golden light over the tables. In short, a very atmospheric surrounding in which to enjoy delicious meals with some wonderful wines.

The 'Privado' area of the Restaurant; a reserved area for small groups or private parties.
The ‘Privado’ area of the Restaurant; a reserved area for small groups or private parties.

The restaurant comfortably seats up to 90 people and a further 64 in the adjoining Atrium terrace. If required, an additional 16 people can be accommodated at the chef’s private table. VINUM is open all year round, serving lunch and dinner, as well as light snacks and wine by the glass in the wine bar.

The Atrium: The VINUM restaurant also features a very attractive external covered seating area, on the terrace adjoining the main Lodge façade and known as ‘The Atrium.’ This terrace has one of the very best views of any restaurant in Gaia and Porto. Given the Graham’s Lodge location on high ground, it commands expansive views of the old medieval quarters of Porto and Gaia, as well as the iconic Dom Luis ‘double-decker’ bridge over the Douro River. This view is spectacular both during the day and at night, when all the medieval landmarks are beautifully floodlit. This terrace can furthermore be enjoyed in all weathers as a well designed, graceful conservatory type structure allows for year-round usage and therefore, come rain or sunshine, VINUM’S diners can always enjoy the remarkable vistas.

'The Atrium' at Vinum; enjoy your meal with incomparable views.
‘The Atrium’ at Vinum; enjoy your meal with incomparable views.

The Wine bar: with its stylish and carefree bistro ambience, visitors can enjoy a variety of snacks (‘tapas’, ‘pintxos’, sweet pastries) and wine by the glass, seated on tall stools around the bar itself or at small round tables. There is also an outside, open air terrace, ideal for enjoying Porto’s year round sunshine with a chilled white wine or perhaps a lightly chilled Old Tawny Port.

The stylish wine bar at Vinum
The stylish wine bar at Vinum

Bring your family and friends and pay us a visit at Vinum; we are confident you will be impressed. Why not come before lunch and visit our museum and lodge, enjoy an appetizer at the wine bar and then progress to the restaurant proper to sample Vinum’s superb gastronomy?

The Wine Bar at Vinum: come and enjoy wines by the glass with some great tapas
The Wine Bar at Vinum: come and enjoy wines by the glass with some great tapas!

If you would like to book a table please ring +351 220 930 417 or email us at: reservas@vinumatgrahams.com

The Wine Society hosts Paul Symington and Graham’s Ports in a Magnificent Evening of Fine Cuisine

The Chryseia 2007 Douro wine, made jointly by the Symington family and Bruno Prats, drew manty superlatives from those present.
The Chryseia 2007 Douro wine, made jointly by the Symington family and Bruno Prats, drew many superlatives from those present.

The Wine Society’s 12th Annual Festive Dinner, which took place in the magnificent Merchant Taylor’s Hall in the City of London on December 18th was a resounding success. The delighted guest of honour, Paul Symington, was particularly pleased with how Portuguese cuisine impressed the guests, commenting: “In my long experience of promoting Portuguese wines in the UK, I have never seen an audience so captivated and enthralled by the quality of world-class Portuguese food, in this instance prepared by chef Rui Paula.” Paul added that it was a pleasure to witness the easy rapport established between the resident English chef of the Merchant Taylor’s Hall restaurant and his Portuguese counterpart, “the effortless understanding between Richard and Rui, and their teams, no doubt contributed to the exceptional quality of the food and service that the guests were privileged to experience.”

João Vasconcelos, Graham’s Market Manager for the UK, echoed Paul’s sentiment and mentioned that many of the Wine Society members attending the dinner made a point of letting him know that this was, by far, the finest Festive Dinner organized by The Society.

Chef Rui Paula (centre) with the Merchant Taylor's Hall resident Chef, Richard on his right, in the hall's lofty kitchens
Chef Rui Paula (centre) with the Merchant Taylor’s Hall resident Chef, Richard on his right, in the hall’s lofty kitchens

Following his welcome speech, in which Paul described how the great wines of the Douro are his family’s very lifeblood, it was time for fine Portuguese cuisine, accompanied by fine Portuguese wines (made by his family), to take centre stage. Each wine was described by Paul, as each course was served. Rui Paula designed the menu around the wines (Symington family Douro DOC wines and Graham’s Ports) and in this task his acknowledged talent was once more revealed: the perfect food and wine matches were unsurpassed. Rui thanked The Wine Society and Paul Symington for the unique opportunity to showcase his cuisine outside his native Portugal, where he owns and runs two of the country’s finest restaurants; one in Oporto (‘DOP’) and the other in the Douro region (‘DOC’), both of which have legions of fans.

A packed house of Wine Society members prepare for the 5 course wonder of Portuguese dishes
A packed house of Wine Society members prepare for the 5 course wonder of Portuguese dishes

Other highlights of the evening were the Graham’s Ports that were served with the dessert and cheese courses. The Graham’s 20 Year Old was served at just the right temperature (lightly chilled) with the exquisite ‘Abade de Priscos’ pudding, whilst the Graham’s 1970 Vintage Port stole people’s breath by its sheer quality (although those familiar with this Graham’s landmark Vintage weren’t in the least surprised that this Port still delivers so much pleasure, showing many years of life still ahead of it).

The Graham's 1970 Vintage served with traditional Portuguese cheeses (Serra, Ilhas and Azeitão) was triumphant.
The Graham’s 1970 Vintage served with traditional Portuguese cheeses (Serra, Ilhas and Azeitão) was triumphant.

The excellence of the table wines was also extolled, the Altano Quinta do Ataíde 2008 Reserva interacting perfectly with the rich flavours of the ‘Francezinha’ (Traditional Oporto Veal Sandwich with Mozzarella Cheese and Crayfish Sauce), whilst the Chryseia 2007 married beautifully with another traditional Portuguese dish — the Suckling Pig with Potatoes Gallete (‘Leitão com Batata Gallete’).

Graham's 20 Years Tawny impressed guests as a perfect dessert accompaniment - served at just the right, lightly chilled, temperature.
Graham’s 20 Years Tawny impressed guests as a perfect dessert accompaniment – served at just the right, lightly chilled, temperature.

The venue of the dinner, The Merchant Taylor’s Hall has occupied its present site between Threadneedle Street and Cornhill since 1347, in other words, it has stood in the same site for over 600 years. The Merchant Taylors’ Company is one of the Great Twelve Livery Companies of the City of London and can trace its foundation back over 800 years. Livery Companies, or Guilds as they were previously known, began in mediaeval times as fraternities, which were often religious but also existed to protect the interests of particular trades.

The Wine Society owes its existence to the Great Exhibitions of the mid-19th century. For the last of these, in 1874, various countries sent large quantities of wine in cask to be stored in the cellars of the Royal Albert Hall where, to quote from an early history: ‘it entirely escaped notice from the visitors’. Portuguese growers, who had taken great efforts to present their wines, appealed for help and it was the subsequent efforts to promote their sale that laid the seeds for the foundation of the Wine Society, the world’s longest established wine club. Yet another long-standing tie between Portugal and Great Britain, who share the world’s longest standing alliance between two nations.

Chef Rui Paula in the illustrious setting of the Mercgant Taylor's Hall in the City of London, December 18th, 2012
Chef Rui Paula in the illustrious setting of the Merchant Taylor’s Hall in the City of London, December 18th, 2012