Tag Archives: Tasting Notes

Graham’s Shows Renewed Tawny Port Range in Holland

Pedro Leite gets the tasting session off to a start

September 4th, Huis de Salentein, Nijkerk, Holland: earlier this week Pedro Leite, one of our market managers, hosted an informal workshop to present the recently re-launched Graham’s Tawny range — consisting of 5 cask-aged tawny Ports — to a captive audience comprising Verbunt’s sales team, who do a splendid job distributing and representing Graham’s Ports in the Netherlands.

The 12 participants (national account managers), headed by sales manager Jeroen Broos, were impressed by the superb quality of the wines. Pedro was eager to show this dedicated team the refinements gradually introduced over recent years by head winemaker and master blender, Charles Symington, which have culminated in the superb range that the Symington family re-launched earlier this summer in Portugal.

Pedro Leite and Verbunt’s Joost van den Hurk sampling the wines.
Joost, blender for the day, tries to get the formula right!

In the relaxed surroundings of Verbunt’s charming Huis de Salentein building, Pedro hosted a tasting session, which included a blending exercise for the Graham’s twenty year-old tawny, using the various component wines. The designations, 10, 20, 30 and 40 years of age on Tawny Port labels indicate the average age of the constituent wines. In the case of this particular Port, the components wines are 14, 25 and 27 years old, meaning that the average age of the 20 YO Tawny is actually closer to 25 years!

The spotlight was on Joost van den Hurk who bravely volunteered to assist Pedro in putting together a blend for the 20 year old, using the three component wines that Pedro took along especially for this session. Judging by the positive reactions of those present, the impromptu master blender did a very good job.

The Verbunt team were very upbeat about the wines tasted and noticed a more pronounced differentiation between ‘The Tawny’ wine and the 10 Year Old Port. This they have no doubt will give each wine a more individual character, which will help consumers identify and more clearly understand the differences between the two. The even better quality of the 20, 30 and 40 years tawnies was also evident to all those present and the 30 and 40 year tawnies were singled out as showing particularly well-balanced acidity, rendering them fresher and supremely elegant.

Graham’s re-launched Tawny range

These opinions are doubly satisfying for us because they come from an experienced and knowledgeable group of professionals; the fact most of those present have worked for Verbunt for many years gives them the advantage of hindsight because they have been familiar with Graham’s Tawny Ports for quite some time and are thus able to compare the wines they tasted now with those they remembered from previous years.

Remember to enjoy these superb Ports lightly chilled, particularly in warmer weather.

Graham’s 1952 Single Harvest Tawny Port

Graham’s is very pleased to announce the release of the Graham’s 1952 Single Harvest Tawny Port in a special limited edition bottling to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Whereas most Tawny Ports offered for sale are blends of an average age as indicated on the bottle – 10, 20, 30 or 40 Year Old – a Single Harvest Tawny is Port wine from a single vintage aged in small oak casks.  Our winemakers taste and assess the quality of these wines at least annually, and over the years they are used as components of progressively older blends of tawny port.  Very rarely a few of these casks show such quality that we hold back and allow it to age, unblended.  And even more rarely, we decide it is so extraordinary that it ought not to be blended at all, but bottled as a Single Harvest Tawny Port, also known as a Colheita.

In the case of the 1952, three generations of Symington wine makers have had the foresight and wisdom to hold back a few pipes of this wine and allow it to continue maturing in cask.  In fact, this Tawny is still showing such freshness that it could continue to mature in cask if we wished.

The five Symington cousins currently active in the company have the responsibility of tasting the older wines remaining in our cellars on an annual basis, and it was in one of these tastings last autumn that this tawny port from 1952 stood out.  Not only did Charles, Dominic, Johnny, Paul and Rupert agree on the magnificent quality of this lot, but Johnny served the 1952 at home at Christmas to further test-market the wine with the broader family.

The result was the decision to bottle the 1952 as a Single Harvest Tawny, and as 1952 was the year that Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne, we sought and are honoured to have received the Palace’s approval to offer the wine to the public “To Commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II” as can be seen on the label.

Very naturally, we turned to London wine merchants Berry Brothers & Rudd, with whom we have worked for generations, to craft this special limited edition product for the Jubilee.  The first release of  Graham’s 1952 Single Harvest Tawny will be just 1,000 individually numbered bottles, available individually or in hand crafted oak gift cases of 3 bottles.  Additionally ten jeroboams (4.5 litre bottles) will be released.

Port has always been a uniquely Portuguese and English wine, and in recognition of this long standing alliance, Graham’s 1952 Single Harvest Tawny will initially be offered exclusively in England through Berry Brothers & Rudd, and in Portugal after 11 May through Graham’s Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia and Portfolio Vinhos.

This extraordinary wine has inspired an exquisite tasting note from Simon Field, Master of Wine and the Port Buyer at Berry Brothers & Rudd:

Striking mahogany, with hints of amber at its rim, the wine has an extraordinary aromatic intensity, redolent of old libraries, autumnal bonfires and distant poetry.  The palate is profound and majestic, astonishingly intense and powerful, regal in its complexity, a timeless elixir.  Notes of molasses, dried apricot, figs and clove, dance across the palate, elegant and symphonic in their structure, dignified and profound.  Orange zest freshness and finely-wrought tannins underwrite structural harmony with the long finish indulging a gentle nostalgia and a real sense of worth.

Whether you are celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee or your own special anniversary or landmark event, Graham’s 1952 Single Harvest Tawny will be an exceptional Port wine with which to mark the occasion.

Symington Family Estates Announce 2010 Quinta Vintage Ports

The Symington family are pleased to announce their decision to bottle 2010 Vintage Ports from our top quintas.  Two 2010 Vintage Ports will be released shortly for purchase en primeur:  the Quinta do Vesuvio and Dow’s Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira.

In addition, we will bottle Quinta Vintage Ports from each Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos, Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim, Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha and Cockburn’s Quinta dos Canais.  In keeping with our normal practice, once bottled these Vintage Ports will be laid down in our own cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia for release when ready to drink – typically 10 to 12 years after harvest.

After three very dry years, the winter of 2009-2010 saw an extraordinary change, with heavy rains of 100 mm or more recorded at Pinhão for each of six months in a row.  The viticultural year progressed well until July and August when we had not one drop of rain.  Temperatures in excess of 35ºC throughout most of August slowed the maturation cycle, as the vines cannot photosynthesise and mature the grapes properly in conditions of continued extreme heat.  As a result the harvest began 5 days later than usual, but was conducted under mostly perfect conditions with only one overnight rainfall in early October.  Paul Symington’s full Harvest Report for 2010 is available here on the Blog.

For more information about the 2010 Vintage Ports, including details of the blends and tasting notes for the Senhora da Ribeira and Vesuvio, please see the full article in the News page of The Vintage Port Site.

Aromas and Flavours

Dominic Symington is on the road again, this week in São Paulo, Brazil at Expovinis, showing a range of Graham’s Ports including Six Grapes and the Graham’s 1983 Vintage, 10 and 20 Year Old Tawnies, and our 1969 Single Harvest Tawny.  Whilst there is nothing very unusual in this, he worked with José Carlos Santanita, of The Wine Academy who are also at Expovinis, to create an unconventional presentation and tasting experiment for visitors.

Arrayed on the table surrounding a bottle of Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny were wine glasses, each containing samples of herbs, spices or fruits, such as star aniseed, nutmeg, pepper, orange peel, and various fresh tropical fruits.  Guests were invited to enjoy a tasting of the Tawny and then “nose” the various foodstuffs.  This helps the connoisseur to identify aromas and flavours in the wine by comparing them with an actual sample of that food, and may also suggest compatible food pairings.

Dominic’s own findings:

I did compare lemon thyme and dried desiccated orange peel … Even a hint of cinnamon stick and a little vanilla pod.   Amazing how individually you can find hints of these aromas when you smell them pure in a glass and then compare to a glass of 20 Year Old Tawny!  Sadly I didn’t have a chance to try this with a young vintage.

Anyone who has done a wine course is likely to have worked with the bottled aroma essences in wine education kits, but have you ever tried this kind of experiment with foods, flowers or other aromatic materials to compare with your Port wines?  What have you found that surprised you?

Pairing Port and Cigars

Graham’s 1994 Vintage Port has recently won an unusual accolade:  that of the best Vintage Port to pair with the Habano cigar Romeo y Julieta Belicoso.

Like Port, fine cigars are unique products of their region, agriculture, and processes of selection, curing, fermentation, ageing and blending.  The work is intensely manual and requires extraordinary attention to quality every step of the way.

Habanos SA, the world leader in the premium cigar market, sponsors the annual Festival del Habano, the world’s most prestigious Cigar event.  Held annually in Cuba, its wide ranging program includes events focussing on premium products to match with their cigars.  This year, the focus was on Port.  A preliminary event last November narrowed the field to just five port wines in each the Tawny and Vintage categories for pairing with two specific cigars.  On 1 March at the 14th Festival del Habano in Cuba, judges were asked to pick the best pairing of the Montecristo Edmundo with a Tawny Port and the Romeo e Julieta Belicoso with a Vintage Port, based on the tastes and sensations experienced.  The Ports were tasted blind.

Complex and full-bodied, Graham’s 1994 Vintage Port shows intense fruit aromas and a long finish of dark chocolate and ripe black fruit.  This extraordinary port pairs magnificently with the balanced and aromatic Romeo e Julieta Belicoso, a cigar produced from leaves entirely from the Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba, widely regarded as producing the finest quality tobacco.

Not only did Graham’s win the Vintage pairing, but sister brand Dow’s 20 Year Old Tawny, known for its remarkable raisiny, dried fruit flavours, exquisite creamy texture and exceptionally long, lingering finish, was the winning Tawny for pairing with the Montecristo Edmundo.

Vertically Speaking

Rupert Symington and Roy Hersh

Readers may recall our mentioning Rupert Symington’s visit to Vancouver last March, where, together with Roy Hersh, he presented “Elegance, Power and Complexity” a vertical tasting of eight of Graham’s Vintage ports since 1970.  

If our readers are not yet familiar with Roy, we are pleased to introduce him to you here.  Roy has enjoyed a long career in the food and wine industry, as wine critic, judge, writer and teacher.  In 2003 he was one of just two Americans invited to join the Confraria do Vinho do Porto (Port Wine Brotherhood) here in Porto.  To fulfill his oath to promote Port, he launched For the Love of Port, a website which is a terrific resource to the Port lover, as it includes an active discussion board, a database of members’ tasting notes, and a subscriber’s newsletter, as well as offering annual insiders’ tours to Porto, the Douro and Madeira.

Below is Roy’s report on the Vancouver tasting, with his own tasting notes.  (Note: The following material is Copyright July 2011, Roy Hersh)

The scene was set at the 33rd annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.  A gathering of consumers and media members packed the room to partake in a very special tasting of Port.  Just moments before the presentation was to begin Rupert Symington approached me to join him on the podium to present a vertical tasting of eight extraordinary vintages of Graham’s Port ranging from 2007 to 1970.

This was one of the premiere tastings featured this year, as “Fortified Wine” was one of the two main themes featured during the weeklong festival.  The room was filled with a mix of curious wine enthusiasts and some avid Port fans seeking to gain a greater understanding of Graham’s while sipping on some mighty impressive Vintage Ports.  I felt somewhat unprepared, not even knowing what was included in the lineup; but how do you say no to Mr. Symington?

Rupert had prepared an agenda and eloquently spoke about the history of Graham’s, Quinta dos Malvedos and other vineyards involved in the mix, and he provided fine descriptions about treading in lagares, the cellar worthiness of Port and a brief discussion of the important period between 1720 and 1890, as well as the typical production levels for vintage releases of Graham’s.  Great info!

We then turned directly to the actual tasting session, which began with the youngest Vintage Port, the 2007 and headed back in time to 1970:

2007 Graham’s Vintage Port – Opaque magenta with a purplish edge.  Lush floral aromas with mocha and chocolate.  Plum and boysenberry flavors with medium ripe tannins and a seamlessly, long finish.  From a small crop that yielded only 72,000 bottles.  I think it’s safe to say the 2007 Graham’s should age very well for 30-40 years.  94+ points

2003 Graham’s Vintage Port – Fantastic fragrance of freshly crushed grape exhibiting great purity and seasoned by scents of menthol and esteva.  Dark fruit flavors prevail, bright, rich and concentrated.  Although a powerful Port, its refined tannins and sublime texture lead up to a most stunning finish. Drink now to 2048.  9,000 cases produced.  Graham’s  excelled in this hot vintage! ~ 95+ points

2000 Graham’s Vintage Port – Aromatically this was a bit reticent, but some coaxing allowed the red fruit notes to emerge.  Medium weight and seemingly more vinous than either the 2003 or 2007.  Smoky and spicy black cherry, cocoa and eucalyptus flavors melded beautifully. The 2000 is still very tannic and will support long term cellaring, improving for many years and showing more grip than either previous Port.  Drink now or cellar through the middle decades of the century. A gorgeous young Vintage Port, it deserved more hours in decanter and it would have performed even better.  But why quibble about a great Graham’s like this? ~ 94+ points

1994 Graham’s Vintage Port – Vinous, extremely balanced and offering scents of red licorice and raspberry fruit with a mocha note. The 1994 offers focused and concentrated fruit that stands out in a crowd.  The acidity and ripe, round tannins deliver deft balance.  This is going to reward patience and although easy to sip now, Graham’s ’94 will evolve at a high level for another 5 decades and should be permitted to improve in bottle.  It’s a remarkable, classic Vintage Port. ~ 95+ points

1985 Graham’s Vintage Port – The audience realized after having tasted their way through half of Graham’s stellar vintages; that they were onto something special with this 1985 offering. Great depth of color and deeply extracted, with no clue we were drinking a Port possessing a quarter century of bottle age.  Great intensity and extraordinary density; this 1985 is unbelievably youthful.  Spicy and sweet ripe plum and sandalwood seasoning, crisp acidity along with soft and mouth coating tannins.  It is a Port for the ages; I look forward to seeing how well this will drink in 25 more years.  ~ 94+ points

1980 Graham’s Vintage Port – 1980 is likely the most underrated of the vintages included in this tasting.  I have always been a great fan of the Dow, Warre, Gould Campbell & Graham’s Ports from this year.  The Symington family seemed to “own the vintage.” Delicious, soft, classic Graham’s style; it’s still showing prominent tannins at 31 years of age.  Sweet grenadine and ripe fig flavors along with eucalyptus, cocoa powder and a sublimely soft, smooth mouthfeel and persistent finish.  1980 was never considered a legendary vintage, but it just goes to show how soundly Graham’s performs even in vintages that were not appreciated by the critics when young. 1980 Graham’s will easily drink well for 15-20 more years from here.  92+ points

1977 Graham’s Vintage Port – I will admit when I am wrong.  Throughout the early part of the 1990’s and up to the mid-point of the past decade, I was never a fan of the 1977 Graham’s.  It was too hot and spirituous for my liking and I couldn’t see how after so many years, this would ever resolve itself.  The last six bottles I’ve been a part of since 2005, have proved me wrong.  The 1977 has finally morphed and today, it presents really well.  Notes of prune, tea leaf, herbs and bouquet garni elicit an evocative aromatic profile.  Delicious and finely balanced with vibrancy and round tannins providing structure at nearly 35 years of age.  I see this continuing to improve for at least another 15 years before hitting a plateau.  The “comeback kid” has arrived. ~ 93+ points

1970 Graham’s Vintage Port – This was the first Vintage Port produced as the Symingtons purchased the firm from the Graham’s brothers in 1970. James Symington (Rupert’s father) actually made this very first vintage under the new ownership.  I’ve always been a huge fan of this particular Graham’s and it is up there with other exalted Ports like Nacional, Fonseca & Taylor which is rarified territory in this brilliant vintage.  This particular bottle was exemplary, a really fine showing; with an amazingly youthful appearance and a hedonistic, silky mouthfeel of great length. ~ 96+ points

Graham’s has proven again, that the consistency of its Port is its hallmark.  It is my opinion, having led or participated in vertical tastings of all the major Port houses, that since WW2, no other Port producer has achieved the same level of excellence, regardless of vintage, as has Graham’s.  Another remarkable quality of this shipper is the ability of its Vintage Ports to consistently age 50+ years.

Note:  Roy’s tastings notes on these wines have now been added to the Knowledge Base of our Vintage Port Site, where you can read more about Graham’s and all the Vintage Ports made by Symington Family Estates.

The Grapes

At Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos, just above the winery, there are a few short terraces which were planted in 2000 with just one or two rows each of the most important grape varieties used in Port wines.

One of the great strengths of Port is that it is a blended wine, so we can make use of the flavour profiles and structural qualities of several different grapes in order to produce wines with the perfect combination of deep colour, great flavour complexity and a firm, balanced structure to ensure a long life.

As previously reported by both our head winemaker Charles Symington and our research viticulturalist Miles Edlmann, the vines are fully two weeks ahead of the average development cycle, and we have had an early pintor (colour change).  See for yourself with these photos taken on the 22nd July at Malvedos, and take a virtual walk with us through this demonstration vineyard to learn a little more about our grapes.

Tinta Roriz

Tinta Roriz, above, is best grown in dry, well-exposed areas as these grapes have a thick skin which protects against sunburn.  At its fully ripened best, Tinta Roriz gives Graham’s wines long-lasting structure, intense colour and powerful tannins all of which make it an ideal choice for wines meant to age for a long period of time.   The nose is aromatic, often characterised by spices and rockrose, and the palate tends towards black fruits such as mulberry, blackberry, black cherry and jam.

Tinta Roriz is also known as Arogonês elsewhere in Portugal, and Tempranillo in Spain.

Tinta Barroca

Long a favourite of Port makers, Tinta Barroca is known for high tannins and high sugar levels.  The bunches are long and loose and the berries thin skinned which make it susceptible to sunburn.

The colour of Tinta Barroca wines is not particularly intense, and acidity can be low, but it brings flavours of cherry, raspberry and mulberry, elegant aromas and a long finish to our blends.

Touriga Nacional

Touriga Nacional is probably the most well known of the Port grapes, and prized for its intensity and complexity.  Its flavour range includes raspberry, black fruits and floral notes, particularly violets.  With high tannin levels and good natural acidity, this grape ensures our Ports age without loss of structure or balance.

This variety typically produces only one kilo of grapes or even less on older vines, the clusters are small and the individual berries are smaller than other varieties, with a distinctly dark blue colour, almost like a blueberry.

Touriga Francesa

Touriga Francesa is a widely planted grape for reasons of both quality and quantity.  Whilst the wines are not as intensely concentrated as those made from Touriga Nacional, they have good natural acidity and fabulous lifted floral aromas of esteva (rockrose) as well as red fruit and sometimes blackberry flavours.  The vines are naturally and consistently high yielding, and in fact we need to control that tendency somewhat to ensure the quality of the grapes.

The Francesa has thick skinned berries, which makes it very resistant to the intense heat of the Douro.  It grows well throughout the region, but it really thrives where it can enjoy maximum sunlight to ensure full ripening.

The grape is also known as Touriga Franca, its official name since 2000.

Souzão

Souzão is a thin skinned variety which is very susceptible to sunburn – in fact we do not grow Souzão at Malvedos, except this demonstration row, because the south to southwest facing exposure is not ideal.  In blends, this grape brings notes of herbs, pine tar or smokiness.

Tinta Amarela

Tinta Amarela has thin skins and compact bunches, which can make it a bit of a challenge to the viticulturalist to keep healthy.  Good canopy management and a dry situation lower the risk of disease and ensure full ripening.

The wines are remarkably fragrant, and have a nice balance of acidity which make it well worth including in blends, despite its rather low tannins and less intense colour.

Would you like to learn more about these grapes and Douro viticulture in general?  Miles Edlmann writes very clearly and entertainingly about viticulture.  The Vintage Port Site has a series of articles by Miles about viticulture, including one about the annual cycle of the grapevine, another with more information about the grape varieties, and more.

If you want to follow the cycle of the current viticultural year and keep up with meteorological conditions in the region, you will want to follow his Douro Insider reports which are posted each month in this blog.  The full archive can easily be accessed directly on this page of the Blog site.

The Vintage Port Site

What was the 1945 season like in the Douro? What do the critics say about this wine? How do I decant it? See The Vintage Port Site for answers to all these questions and more.

Graham’s and Symington Family Estates are very pleased to announce the re-launch of The Vintage Port Site.

As owners and makers of Graham’s as well as many more of the world’s most admired Port brands, and with a family history in the Port trade going back 14 generations, the Symington family possess a collection of source material and knowledge about Port which is unique in the trade.

According to Paul Symington, Chairman and Joint Managing Director, “With this site, we can now share the stories, the details and our passion for superb Vintage Ports with the novice and expert alike.”

The heart of the site is our Knowledge Base.  In this archive, users can now search for more information about every Vintage Port we have declared or bottled since 1945 and the harvest conditions in which the wines were made. The tasting notes, gathered together from in-house tastings as well as international wine critics over the lifetime of the wines, provide a unique opportunity to understand how Vintage Port ages and flavours mature over an extended period of time.

For years the ultimate resource for information on Vintage Port, the site has been completely updated and features:

  • A fresh new look with simple, intuitive navigation
  • Fresh reference content on Port Basics, such as History, Blending, Declaring a Vintage and more
  • The articles about Viticulture in The Douro, written by Miles Edlmann, SFE’s Research Viticulturalist,  remain the best introduction to the unique conditions and viticulture of the region
  • A guide to Enjoying Port, including recommendations on how to buy, store, decant and serve your fine Vintage Ports
  • Finally, if you still can’t find the answer to your question, Ask The Expert.  We will respond to your query in two business days, on line.  All questions and answers will be retained in a searchable archive.

The Vintage Port Site will be much more than a static reference site, however.  Cynthia Jenson, the Graham’s blogger who has also been responsible for the re-design of the Vintage Port Site, will continue to expand the Knowledge Base, both back in time, and in the range of tasting notes for each wine.  Readers will also enjoy a steady stream of News articles from Cynthia about our brands, quintas, historical and technical subjects, as well as news of the latest releases.

Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage 2009

Touriga Franca from Block 31. Full disclosure: this particular photo was taken in 2010!

We are very proud to announce that Graham’s has bottled our very first wine whose making was chronicled in this blog:  a Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage 2009.

You may recall that 2009 was a challenging year.  We had had 3 dry winters in a row, so in-ground levels of water were low.  On the up-side, we got some good rain in June, which helped the vines cope – most importantly, enabling them to put out good leaf cover, which served well to protect the grapes later in the summer from the very hot Douro sun.  The grapes were slow to reach phenolic ripeness, and even though we waited longer than many to start our picking, it was a generally earlier than usual harvest, and yields were generally down, particularly in the Upper Douro, where Malvedos is situated, near Tua.  More details are available in Paul’s full Harvest Report.

But, as Paul so frequently points out, with the really astonishing micro-climatisation of the Douro, and the many varieties of grapes we can blend into our Ports, we can just about always make some good wines.  Somewhere on those hillsides, there will be at least a few parcels that did reasonably well in this particular year’s conditions and will make good wines.

For the Malvedos 2009, two of the parcels that responded particularly well to the conditions and set the tone of the finished wine, were blocks 29 and 31 of Touriga Franca.

Touriga Franca is a grape that does well in conditions like 2009’s – it has thick skins, so it is particularly resistant to the desiccating effects of sun and heat, and it really only achieves complete ripening when and where it can enjoy full sunlight and exposure.

Parcels 29 and 31 are just above river level (around 100-120 m of altitude) and face full south across the river.  The vines get all the sun there is, and given a bit of a bend down river, they continue to get sun till quite late in the day, as the sun sets into a sort of notch in the hills to the west.

These were the first blocks of Touriga Franca we picked, on 24 September 2009, and Henry knew he was on to a good thing when he saw the first grapes come in, as you can read in the blog.

The wine was Henry’s 10th lagar of the vintage, and he recalls being pleased with the baumé of 13.2°, which may be why he chose it to star in our very first Video experiment on the blog.  You can see – and hear! – the robotic lagar punching down the cap of the fermenting wine here:

I asked Henry about this lot, and what exactly it brought to the finished Malvedos 2009.  He replied:

This Touriga Franca realized its potential (complete ripening requires lots of sunlight and good exposure), producing a wine robust and rich in colour and structure, with particularly lifted, exotic floral aromas adding complexity, as well as intense blackberry fruit flavours and velvety tannins.

As it happens, the blogger tasted a sample last weekend alongside the Graham’s 2007.  The Malvedos 2009 is incredibly rich with dense fruit – the family resemblance you find in all Graham’s or Malvedos vintage ports – but those floral aromas are extraordinary.

So, now you know what you can look forward to.  As with most of our single-quinta vintage bottlings, the wine, now bottled, has been laid down to age in our lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, and we will release it when it is ready to drink, probably in 8 to 10 years’ time.  Mark your calendars.

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.