Tag Archives: Six Grapes

French Film Partially Filmed at Malvedos Premieres Today in Portugal


The French film, la Cage Dorée (The Gilded Cage), directed by the young Franco-Portuguese director, Ruben Alves and which has a cast of well-known Portuguese and French actors makes its premiere in Portugal today — August 1st. Filmed on location in Paris and at Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos in the Douro Valley, the film has been a box-office hit in France, having been seen by over one million cinema goers since it premiered there on April 24th. The producers of the film are hopeful that this success will be mirrored in Portugal.

Dominic Symington welcomes members of the cast and film director, Ruben Alves to the Museu do Douro.
Dominic Symington welcomes members of the cast and film director, Ruben Alves (centre) to the Museu do Douro.

The charming comedy revolves around the story of a young Portuguese couple who emigrate to France in the early 1970s in search of a better life. Several decades later, they inherit a Douro quinta and this is where Quinta dos Malvedos becomes, itself, one of the stars of the film. Following much exploration in the Douro early in 2012 in search of a suitable location to shoot the Portuguese scenes of the film, the director immediately fell in love with Malvedos (after visiting many other quintas) and was thrilled when the Symington family agreed to his request to film there. During a week in July 2012, Malvedos was a hive of activity as the cast of French and Portuguese actors played out their roles amidst one of the most spectacular settings in the Douro Valley.

Actress Rita Blanco and actor Joaquim de Almeida stake a claim on a large bottle of Six Grapes!
Actress Rita Blanco and actor Joaquim de Almeida stake a claim on a large bottle of Six Grapes!

Leading Portuguese actor, Joaquim de Almeida, who enjoys a successful career in Hollywood, and the popular actress, Rita Blanco, star in the roles of José and Maria (he a builder and she a concierge). They are supported by a varied cast of other Portuguese, as well as French and Franco-Portuguese actors such as Chantal Lauby, Jacqueline Corado and Barbara Cabrita.

Besides Malvedos, Graham’s is also represented in the film by one of its landmark wines — Six Grapes, the Port served by José and Maria when they entertain guests at their Parisian home.

Rita Blanco, in the role of Maria, pours her guest a glass of Graham's Six Grapes.
Rita Blanco, in the role of Maria, pours her guest a glass of Graham’s Six Grapes.

On July 22nd, the film producers organized a first screening in Portugal and naturally they chose a Douro venue in which to do so — the town of Lamego. To give them a fitting welcome on their return to the region, the Symington family organized a reception in the attractive surroundings of the Museu do Douro (the Port Wine Museum) in Régua during which a tutored tasting of Graham’s Ports was provided for the film cast, crew and all assembled guests. Besides Graham’s delicious Six Grapes, the superb Graham’s 2001 Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port was also much appreciated by all.

Jackie Dias, Graham's PR & Events Manager, with actor Joaquim de Almeida and film director, Ruben Alves.
Jackie Thurn-Valsassina, Graham’s PR & Events Manager, with actor Joaquim de Almeida and film director, Ruben Alves.

Six Grapes Quality Touriga Nacional

The Six Grapes symbol on the wine bottle
One of many casks at the Lodge designated Six Grapes in quality

Graham’s Six Grapes is one of our iconic wines, a rich reserve ruby blended to mimic the intense fruit flavour profile of a very young vintage port.  As well it should, since its component parts are the wines that were left after blending our Vintages.

The symbol of the Six Grapes has always been Graham’s own in-house designation for its highest quality wines.  Before leaving the Douro, all wines were recorded into a ledger, with symbols of a bunch of grapes drawn alongside each entry to indicate their quality.  Each bunch symbol was drawn with a number of grapes in the bunch from one to six, with Six Grapes as the designation for wines of the highest quality.   Upon arrival in the Graham’s Lodge in Gaia, the Six Grapes symbol has always been marked on the casks containing the best quality lots:  potential vintage wines.

So it was only fitting that when our first Touriga Nacional came into the winery this morning, in absolutely pristine condition, the bunches lent themselves to the formation of the Six Grapes symbol.

Six Grapes quality Touriga Nacional

This lot come from the new parcel where I found Charles one evening a few weeks ago.  At the time he told me how very rarely young vines can produce a flavour profile surprisingly like a much more mature vine, rich and complex.  Despite the recent heat, the bunches coming in have been beautiful, as you can see.

What Charles Does in the Off Season

Charles Symington

What does the winemaker’s calendar look like for the other ten or eleven months of the year, when he is not harvesting and making the new port wines?  Charles Symington, Graham’s head winemaker, describes the annual cycle of his “To Do” list.

Tastings are a year round occupation.  After the new harvest wines are made, they remain in the Douro to settle in the cool winter conditions.  There is a major tasting of all new wines in December, on the basis of which Charles can begin to make decisions about blending lotes (batches).  As the wines are brought down from the Douro between approximately December and April the wines can be blended as necessary upon arrival for storage in our Lodge in Gaia.  Typically for Graham’s we will have ended harvest with around 100 lotes, and by this time the following year they will have been consolidated into roughly 65 wines.

Just some of the samples in our Tasting Room

Wines typically close up after harvest for a period of about six months, and often can get much darker, as well as generally developing their character, getting bigger and better (or perhaps not).  For this reason, beginning in April Charles again systematically tastes all the new wines to confirm or amend their quality categorisation and likely use, e.g. wines earmarked for possible use in Vintage ports, LBV, tawnies, and so on.  This is also the time of year when he reviews the wines initially flagged for likely Vintage use, and can begin the triage to move wines from Vintage to Six Grapes designation.

By the second January following harvest, he will have made his decision and if necessary his final blend for a Graham’s Vintage declaration or Quinta dos Malvedos  bottling.

In parallel with the assessment of the prior harvest wines, Charles and Manuel Rocha and Nuno Moreira of the Sala de Provas (Tasting Room) routinely review all our wines, of all appropriate ages, that have been earmarked for use in a particular style of wine.  For example, just recently they reviewed all the possible Reserve and LBV wines (stocks between 4 and 7 years old) and Charles finished blending the Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage 2007.  This new LBV will shortly be registered with the IVDP (Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto, the Port trade’s regulating body) and will be bottled in January 2012.  Charles is very pleased with the 2007 wine – if any of you are familiar with the Vintage Ports from 2007, you know what a wonderful year it was.

When blending new batches of non-vintage wines, the team compare them with previously bottled wines to ensure consistency.

While ensuring we blend and bottle our ports of a specific harvest in a timely fashion (Vintages for release roughly 18 months after harvest, Crusted 2 to 3 years after harvest, and LBVs 4 to 6 years after harvest), Charles also keeps an eye on stocks of our blended wines, for example all our entry level and Reserve ports, as well as our 10, 20, 30 and 40 Year Old Tawnies, and plans to blend and bottle new supplies of those products as needed.

July is typically the time of year when stocks are lowest, so a full inventory is taken and double checked against our records before pretty nearly the entire firm takes holiday the first two weeks of August, and then begins countdown to the next harvest.

And no, Charles didn’t say a word about plans for 2010 declarations or bottlings.  Even the blogger will have to wait till next spring for that news.

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).