Tag Archives: Harvest 2013

Graham’s 2013 Harvest – Tasting the Ports for the first time

When Charles Symington is in the Tasting Room it is very difficult to talk to him. He simply doesn’t hear you: he is intensely focused. All that can be heard is the sipping of wine, the clinking of glasses being placed back on the bench, and the low murmurs of the three tasters as they compare their impressions with one another.

“You need tranquility and peace when tasting,” Charles explains. There certainly is that in Graham’s Tasting Room: it is a place of deep concentration. Over recent weeks, samples of the 2013 Port Wine from each vineyard and each fermentation have been on their way from the Douro to the Tasting Room in Vila Nova de Gaia. Charles and his team, Nuno Moreira and Manuel Rocha, have been assessing each lote of young Port Wine and determining its future.

As they work through each sample, they determine which of Graham’s Ports the wine will be suitable for. This sometimes requires that they foresee the wine’s characteristics up to 40 years into the future for Graham’s 40 Years Old Tawny Port, for example. There is one special case though and that is Graham’s Six Grapes.

Charles explains that Six Grapes is so special that you only very rarely come across a wine of sufficient quality to make it. If you go looking for Six Grapes, you won’t find it: it is something that you come across while you’re not looking – and it doesn’t happen very often.

Like in an artist’s studio, the light in the Tasting Room is also extremely important. If it is not right Charles will often postpone his team’s work, especially when tasting Vintage Ports, which because of their deeper colour require the perfect conditions to be assessed properly. For the same reason, tasting is only done in the mornings.

It is a massive logistical challenge to gather all these samples. “You can’t just email wines around,” Charles remarks.

For some months after the brandy has been added to the wine, the young Port Wines cannot be tasted. They require this period of time to “fall bright”, that is, to become fully expressive in flavor and colour. During this period, the wine actually grows darker and the aromas intensify.

Charles and his team use this period to make fresh blends of Graham’s Aged Tawny Ports, which are then allowed to marry together for at least one year.

Charles, Nuno and Manuel conduct a quick first assessment of the wines, during which they record their first impressions and organize the wines accordingly into broad categories. They then work through them much more slowly, spending a long time over each lote, before deciding on their final classification.

Charles’ general comments about the 2013 wines were that they had remarkably good colour. A Port Winemaker, he then said, has to be fascinated by colour.

Have you got any questions for Charles regarding our 2013 wines? Ask him here – post us a comment.

Winemaker’s Update: Vintage at Malvedos — day 2 and 3

Some clouds during the morning dissipated and the afternoon was bright and mostly clear at Malvedos.
September 24th: Some clouds during the morning dissipated and the afternoon was bright and mostly clear at Malvedos.

Henry Shotton, winemaker at Malvedos informs:

Tuesday 24th September 

Vineyard

Sr. Arlindo with a team of 25 pickers began (under pleasantly cool conditions) at 7 in the morning on the Malvedos Touriga Nacional (TN), which will keep us busy for at least the next three days. They started with blocks 75, 76 and 77 planted in 2000, whose grapes tasted perfectly ripe and had soft skins when Charles and I did the rounds of the TN blocks yesterday. They then moved on to two older blocks planted in 2000 – 97 and 88 – situated on the Eastern part of the Quinta which will fill the first lagar of TN that will be trodden tonight.

Some of the very first bunches of splendid looking Touriga Nacional grapes reached the winery early morning on Tuesday.
Some of the very first bunches of splendid looking Touriga Nacional grapes reached the winery early morning on Tuesday.

Winery

The Vinha Velha (very old mixed vines) and Tinta Amarela (TA) lagar from Tua was trodden last night for four hours and gave an excellent 14.55º Baumé. Despite a full complement of pickers the lagar was a little short, just 8,363 Kg (normally 11,500 to 12,000 per day); this being primarily due to the very low yields of the Vinha Velha. Although a lot of ground was covered, fewer than normal grapes were picked.

Henry welcomes visiting members of the Algarve Wine Society to give them a tour of the winery.
Henry welcomes visiting members of the Algarve Wine Society to give them a tour of the winery.

During the day we received a visit from the Algarve Wine Society (mainly expatriate retired Brits) and they were shown around the winery. Soon after their arrival the Autoridade Para As Condições Do Trabalho (a UK equivalent would be The Health and Safety Executive) made a typically unannounced visit in search of any illegalities among the pickers and winery staff. Not exactly what we needed when we are trying to make the best possible Port wines.

Unexpected visitors at the Malvedos winery on Tuesday: health and safety inspectors, complete with armed escort (left)...
Unexpected visitors at the Malvedos winery on Tuesday: health and safety inspectors, complete with armed escort (left)…

Of course all the paperwork was in order, although our guests from the Algarve Wine Society were quite puzzled by the inspectors’ armed police escort…Even Jackie Thurn-Valsassina, our Australian PR and Events Manager had to produce her passport as proof of identity. Her Aussie humour soon had everybody smiling and relaxing with a glass of Port (health and safety inspectors included).

Puzzled members of the Algarve Wine Society: "are we going to see wine being made or an arrest being made...?"
Puzzled members of the Algarve Wine Society: “are we going to see wine being made or an arrest being made…!?”

Wednesday 25th September

Weather

Night of the 24th was very overcast and muggy, however ­ — to our relief — no rain fell at Malvedos.

Morning of the 25th: 07h30 – pleasantly cool morning. Dark clouds have gone and lots of blue sky in sight.

Vineyard

Arlindo and his team continue harvesting at Malvedos. Today we picked the 3rd lagar of the vintage – a blend of TN (block 16 – one of our best with 7,766 vines planted in 1987) together with two blocks of Tinta Amarela: 61 (1984) and 62 (2005). We have co-fermented (i.e. in the same lagar) these two varieties in previous vintages where the structure of the TN is very well complemented by the lifted aromatics of the TA.

Winery

Now two full fermenting lagares progressing well and filling the 3rd today. We expect our first fortification this evening after dinner. The second lagar of the vintage (100% Touriga Nacional) delivered a very satisfactory 14.25º Baumé.

The second lagar (first 100% Touriga Nacional Lagar) of this vintage. The colour is great and the Baumé is excellent at 14.25º.
The second lagar of the vintage (but the first 100% Touriga Nacional lagar), which we began to tread yesterday. The colour displays the depth and intensity we expected and the Baumé is excellent at 14.25º.