Tag Archives: Ruby Port

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

Graham’s Natura

Graham’s is pleased to announce the launch of Natura, a new reserve ruby port made from organically farmed grapes.

The Symington family hold 126 hectares of organic vineyards in the Douro Valley.  The majority are in the northeastern area of the Douro Superior in the Vale de Vilariça, where we have three quintas:  Quinta do Ataide, Quinta da Canada and Quinta de Assares.

Additionally, Quinta das Lages in the Rio Torto valley, south of Pinhão, has supplied grapes for Graham’s ports for nearly 100 years, and several hectares at the top of the quinta have been farmed organically for some years now.

With this range of organic material to work with, Charles Symington explored the possibility of creating a Port exclusively from these organically grown grapes to respond to the market’s growing interest in sustainable agriculture and organic wines.

Natura is a true Graham’s port, with the rich, fruity, sweet style which has always set the brand apart.  But if you were to taste Natura side by side with, for example, our Six Grapes, you would find the Natura more fresh, soft and elegant.  Natura is simply another expression of the Graham’s style, which we invite you to enjoy.

Quality at All Levels

Paul Symington is often quoted as saying:

There is but one single-minded objective here – to produce the very finest port possible.

That focus on quality is carried well beyond the viticultural and wine making activities, and is reflected throughout the entire product development, production and delivery process.  In this time of belt-tightening, it’s important our customers know that our commitment also carries through our entire line, from the entry level Graham’s Ports through to our extraordinary aged Tawnies and Vintages.

On reviewing the product range, we felt that the packaging of our entry level Port wines could do better justice to the quality of the wines.   Our internal design team, led by Henri Sizaret, VP of Marketing, retained the classic cellar label shape but re-thought the colour ways for each of the wines, Fine Ruby, Fine Tawny, Fine White and Extra Dry White, to better convey the style of each wine and above all, the outstanding quality which is the pedigree of Graham’s.  We added a brief and inviting tasting note to each label as well, to guide the consumer in their choice.

In Paul’s words, “Graham’s has an outstanding history of quality, and we feel the new range complements this image. This move also reflects our care for our trade partners with improved designs for better shelf stand out and appeal.”

Whilst the wines remain the same excellent and enjoyable value for money that has always distinguished Graham’s entry level range, the new packaging has just been introduced, and is already starting to appear in stores globally.  Look for it in all of the more than 50 markets around the globe where Graham’s is sold.

Another Kind of Quality Control

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.

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).