Jorge Nunes has been in the Far East this past month, visiting our distributors and many of the bars and restaurants that offer Graham’s Ports on their menus.
In Taipai Jorge was at Just in Bistro Xin Ye, Chef Justin Quek‘s most recently opened restaurant. All three of his restuarants feature Asian cuisine with a distinctly French approach, reflecting his own roots in Singapore, his French training and his creative use of the local Taiwanese specialties.
The service team at the Bistro enjoyed a training session which included tasting our wines and some food pairing experiments with a variety of dishes – notice the very big smile on Jorge’s face with that soufflé in one hand and a bottle of Graham’s 10 Year Old Tawny in the other!
Afterwards the doors were opened to Just in Bistro’s customers for a special event showing Graham’s 10 Year Old Tawny, Late Bottled Vintage and Quinta dos Malvedos 1998 Vintage Port with an array of dessert dishes.
If you are in Taipei, be sure to visit the Bistro, where in addition to the wonderful cuisine, you can enjoy Graham’s 10 Year Old Tawny and Late Bottled Vintage, which are available by the glass. If you do go, we would love to hear from you, please leave a comment to tell us which dish you paired your Port with!
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.
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.
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 produces a wide range of ports, and ensuring consistently high quality across all our products is of course paramount. For the wines which are unique to any given vintage, whether classic Vintage ports, single quinta Vintage bottlings, or Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) port, once the blend is agreed, it is re-tasted and double checked for quality when we prepare for a bottling run. These wines are also tasted and checked for quality after bottling, at regular intervals.
But we also have another rather unique quality challenge when it comes to producing our “stock” non-vintage wines, such as Six Grapes or our tawny blends. We have to ensure a consistency across bottlings despite the fact that every year the final wines will be blended from an ever-changing stock of component wines.
Assessments for quality and consistency often draw in the entire family as well as staff from the Sala da Prova (Tasting Room) and commercial teams. This assessment is so critical, and requires such concentration, that Dominic took the photos for the blog himself, rather than introduce non-essential personnel to the room during this exercise.
Thursday they were assessing new lots of Six Grapes and also reviewing the Graham’s 2006 LBV again before bottling. In each case the “new” wines are compared very carefully with previously bottled examples. We must have perfect consistency not just of quality and style, but flavour and colour. Ultimately, they should be able to taste blind and not discern any difference whatsoever between the wine from the previous bottling and the wine drawn from the sample cask.
From left to right, Euan Mackay (Sales Director), Charles Symington (Head Winemaker), Manuel Rocha (Sala da Prova), Rupert Symington, and Paul Symington in front, scrutinising the wine. Dominic Symington is behind the camera and Henry Shotton, the Quinta dos Malvedos winemaker during harvest, is camera-shy and out of view.
You know that we at Graham’s are obsessed with quality, but this is never more clear than when we are tasting our ports just one last time before committing to bottle or release a new wine.
Typically a cask sample or bottle will be brought up from the Lodge to our tasting rooms for our head wine maker Charles Symington to review and discuss with the Sala de Prova (tasting room) team. If he approves the quality and character of the wine, we go ahead with the commercial decisions to bottle wines presently in cask or to release bottles from storage at the Lodge into the marketplace.
Henry Shotton, whom our readers will know as the winemaker at Quinta dos Malvedos during harvest, is officially the first after Charles to taste the wines and begin writing up the tasting notes, but mysteriously enough word goes out those bottles are open and available to taste, and nearly every member of the family as well as Marketing and Sales (and blogging!) teams finds their way to the tasting room to check out the wines for themselves! Henry leaves his pad out for everyone to note down their impressions, and when the reviews are all in, he will draft the official technical tasting sheets which will be found on the Graham’s website.
Graham’s 2006 LBV
Last week, we had a cask sample of Graham’s 2006 LBV available for final review. The wine has been patiently ageing in immense wooden balseiros at our Lodge for nearly four years now, and the decision has been made to bottle this early in 2011. Unofficially, this is really luscious. Officially, the tasting notes are as follows:
Winemaker’s Comment on the 2006 Vintage
“While the last fermentations are ending at the time of writing, it is clear that there are some very fine tanks and casks of Port from the 2006 harvest amongst the total wine made this year. Overall it can be said that the average quality of wine made is reasonably good throughout the valley.”
Charles Symington, 16th October 2006
Graham’s 2006 Late Bottled Vintage has a dark, opaque ruby colour with a deep red rim. With a lovely complex nose packed with opulent and powerful aromas of freshly picked rich, dark, blackberries, black cherries and hints of chocolate. The palate has a velvety intensity and is backed with solid, structured, rich and intense black fruit flavours.
A racy and firm tannic structure leads to a long, sweet and immensely seductive finish.
Graham’s Crusted Port Bottled 2003
The crusted style of port is possibly one of the least understood. Briefly, it is a blend of wines from two or possibly three harvest years which is aged two to three years in wood, then bottled without any fining or filtration, hence the name “crusted” as, after several years in bottle, a natural deposit will form. Just as for vintage ports, the wine should be stored lying on its side, and when ready to serve, should stand upright for a few hours to allow the deposit to settle before the wine is decanted. IVDP regulation only allows the year of bottling to feature on the label. Regulation also requires the maker hold the wine in bottle at least three years before releasing to the market. The wines will drink well upon release, but will age and develop in bottle very like a vintage port; in fact crusted port is an excellent value alternative to vintage.
In the case of Graham’s Crusted Port Bottled 2003, this was officially released last month, though another bottle was brought up from the Lodge last week together with the LBV sample and opened for everyone to check one more time! Official tasting notes:
Deep ruby colour with a red rim.
At the time of writing (2010) Graham’s Crusted Port bottled 2003 has beautifully mellow and perfumed bottle age bouquet. Intense nose of crushed berries and red fruits such as cherries combine with freshly picked mint and eucalyptus notes.
On the palate suave flavours of ripe blackberries and hints of dark chocolate are lifted by silky tannins and a fresh acidity, leading to a long persistent finish.
Drinking well. But still room to develop.
We certainly enjoyed these wines in the tasting room and hope you will enjoy them on your tables soon. When you do try them, please stop back and leave a comment for us here or on our Facebook page, we would love to hear from you.
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).