Tag Archives: Wine Tasting

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.

Gum Cistus – the taste of the Douro

Sometimes, a smell or taste strikes us and we are transported to a specific place and moment in time. Wine, for example, has the ability to express a sense of place, which has been captured in the bottle and is then released in your glass.

This notion that wine reflects the essence of its origin, its Terroir, is not limited to only the soil or aspect of any given vineyard but also encompasses the native flora and fauna of the region. Vineyards are an integrated part of their native ecosystem, not as disconnected from it. Every aspect of the environment in which the vines grow contributes the final quality of the wine.

In the Douro Valley, we have a great example of this: the wild aromatic plant known variously as Esteva, Rockrose, or Gum Cistus. Gum Cistus, which grows in low banks of scrub, imparts its refreshing peppermint and eucalyptus flavours to the grapes in the neighbouring vineyards. As a result, Graham’s Ports gain the ability to inspire those olfactory ‘madeleine moments’ that recall the magic and the atmosphere of the Douro.

The 'Gum Cistus', 'Esteva', or 'Rock-rose' of the Douro Valley

The leaves of the Gum Cistus are coated with a natural resin, which protects the plant from the summer sun and bush-fires. In the heat, this resin vapourises and fills the air around the vineyards with a perfume that none who have visited the Douro in summer will easily forget.

The skins of the grapes similarly have a waxy coating, which captures aromas and particles from the atmosphere around the vineyards. These flavours are then imparted to the wine when the grapes are fermented with their skins (as they are when making Port or red wine).

Grapes from the Douro Superior, the eastern-most of the Douro’s three subregions, have a particularly pronounced ability to capture some of the characteristics of the Gum Cistus. There is also a noticeable difference across grape varieties. The Touriga Nacional, one of Portugal’s most famous varieties, expresses the essence of its native Douro terroir more than any other grape does.

This is perhaps the greatest power that wine has over us: to express the unique character of a magical place. It reminds us that wine is intimately connected to the soil and environment in which it is produced and that its taste is closely interwoven with its provenance.

Master of The Vintners’ Company Baptizes Cask at Graham’s

Michael Cox points to THE MASTER, the large cask he was about to baptize (with a glass of Port) in the Graham's 1890 Lodge on October 24th.
Michael Cox points to the evidence on “THE MASTER”  of the baptismal ceremony he has just carried out in the Graham’s 1890 Lodge, following in the footsteps of many of his predecessors.

Michael Cox, who recently completed his year as The Master of the Worshipful Company of Vintners, followed in the footsteps of previous Master Vintners by baptizing the MASTER’S CASK in the Graham’s 1890 Lodge on Thursday October 24th, whilst on a visit to Oporto and the Douro where he spent some time at Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos. Like his uncle before him, Guy Gordon Clark O.B.E. (Master Vintner in 1989), Michael baptized the Master’s cask by throwing a glass of Graham’s Port against it (only after taking a sip beforehand). The ceremony at Graham’s dates back to 1928, when the visiting Master began this tradition at the Graham’s 1890 Lodge.

The Worshipful Company of Vintners is one of the oldest and most respected of the Great Twelve Livery Companies of the City of London, having received its first charter from Edward III in 1363. In 1928 it became the first of these venerable Guilds to make an overseas visit, namely to Portugal. The visit, which did much to rekindle the interest of the British in Port, also enhanced the prestige of the Vintners, demonstrating how it could further the interests of the United Kingdom Wine Trade. Michael began his term as Master Vintner in the year the Company celebrated 650 years since receiving its first Royal charter.

Michael prepares to hurl a glass of Port against the large cask — "The Master", thus 'baptizing it.
Michael prepares to launch a glass of Port against the large cask — “The Master”, thus ‘baptizing it.

Michael is one of the most well-liked and respected figures in the UK wine trade and comes from a long line of wine professionals; his great-great-great grandfather founded the successful wine importing business of Matthew Clark & Sons in 1810 (long time distributors of Graham’s Ports in the UK). His successful career led to his appointment as Wines of Chile Europe Director, a role in which he has excelled, having firmly established Chilean wines amongst the most popular and admired by the British wine consumer. In 2010 and in recognition for his services, President Piñera of Chile made Michael a Commander of the Order of Merit of Chile, the highest honour that can be bestowed to a non-Chilean.

Paul Symington (left), Graham's Joint Managing Director who hosted his friend, Michael Cox at the Graham's 1890 Lodge for the traditional baptismal ceremony.
Paul Symington (left), Graham’s Joint Managing Director who hosted his friend Michael Cox at the Graham’s 1890 Lodge for the baptismal ceremony, a tradition dating back to 1928 during the Vintners’ Company first overseas visit.

The Wine Society hosts Paul Symington and Graham’s Ports in a Magnificent Evening of Fine Cuisine

The Chryseia 2007 Douro wine, made jointly by the Symington family and Bruno Prats, drew manty superlatives from those present.
The Chryseia 2007 Douro wine, made jointly by the Symington family and Bruno Prats, drew many superlatives from those present.

The Wine Society’s 12th Annual Festive Dinner, which took place in the magnificent Merchant Taylor’s Hall in the City of London on December 18th was a resounding success. The delighted guest of honour, Paul Symington, was particularly pleased with how Portuguese cuisine impressed the guests, commenting: “In my long experience of promoting Portuguese wines in the UK, I have never seen an audience so captivated and enthralled by the quality of world-class Portuguese food, in this instance prepared by chef Rui Paula.” Paul added that it was a pleasure to witness the easy rapport established between the resident English chef of the Merchant Taylor’s Hall restaurant and his Portuguese counterpart, “the effortless understanding between Richard and Rui, and their teams, no doubt contributed to the exceptional quality of the food and service that the guests were privileged to experience.”

João Vasconcelos, Graham’s Market Manager for the UK, echoed Paul’s sentiment and mentioned that many of the Wine Society members attending the dinner made a point of letting him know that this was, by far, the finest Festive Dinner organized by The Society.

Chef Rui Paula (centre) with the Merchant Taylor's Hall resident Chef, Richard on his right, in the hall's lofty kitchens
Chef Rui Paula (centre) with the Merchant Taylor’s Hall resident Chef, Richard on his right, in the hall’s lofty kitchens

Following his welcome speech, in which Paul described how the great wines of the Douro are his family’s very lifeblood, it was time for fine Portuguese cuisine, accompanied by fine Portuguese wines (made by his family), to take centre stage. Each wine was described by Paul, as each course was served. Rui Paula designed the menu around the wines (Symington family Douro DOC wines and Graham’s Ports) and in this task his acknowledged talent was once more revealed: the perfect food and wine matches were unsurpassed. Rui thanked The Wine Society and Paul Symington for the unique opportunity to showcase his cuisine outside his native Portugal, where he owns and runs two of the country’s finest restaurants; one in Oporto (‘DOP’) and the other in the Douro region (‘DOC’), both of which have legions of fans.

A packed house of Wine Society members prepare for the 5 course wonder of Portuguese dishes
A packed house of Wine Society members prepare for the 5 course wonder of Portuguese dishes

Other highlights of the evening were the Graham’s Ports that were served with the dessert and cheese courses. The Graham’s 20 Year Old was served at just the right temperature (lightly chilled) with the exquisite ‘Abade de Priscos’ pudding, whilst the Graham’s 1970 Vintage Port stole people’s breath by its sheer quality (although those familiar with this Graham’s landmark Vintage weren’t in the least surprised that this Port still delivers so much pleasure, showing many years of life still ahead of it).

The Graham's 1970 Vintage served with traditional Portuguese cheeses (Serra, Ilhas and Azeitão) was triumphant.
The Graham’s 1970 Vintage served with traditional Portuguese cheeses (Serra, Ilhas and Azeitão) was triumphant.

The excellence of the table wines was also extolled, the Altano Quinta do Ataíde 2008 Reserva interacting perfectly with the rich flavours of the ‘Francezinha’ (Traditional Oporto Veal Sandwich with Mozzarella Cheese and Crayfish Sauce), whilst the Chryseia 2007 married beautifully with another traditional Portuguese dish — the Suckling Pig with Potatoes Gallete (‘Leitão com Batata Gallete’).

Graham's 20 Years Tawny impressed guests as a perfect dessert accompaniment - served at just the right, lightly chilled, temperature.
Graham’s 20 Years Tawny impressed guests as a perfect dessert accompaniment – served at just the right, lightly chilled, temperature.

The venue of the dinner, The Merchant Taylor’s Hall has occupied its present site between Threadneedle Street and Cornhill since 1347, in other words, it has stood in the same site for over 600 years. The Merchant Taylors’ Company is one of the Great Twelve Livery Companies of the City of London and can trace its foundation back over 800 years. Livery Companies, or Guilds as they were previously known, began in mediaeval times as fraternities, which were often religious but also existed to protect the interests of particular trades.

The Wine Society owes its existence to the Great Exhibitions of the mid-19th century. For the last of these, in 1874, various countries sent large quantities of wine in cask to be stored in the cellars of the Royal Albert Hall where, to quote from an early history: ‘it entirely escaped notice from the visitors’. Portuguese growers, who had taken great efforts to present their wines, appealed for help and it was the subsequent efforts to promote their sale that laid the seeds for the foundation of the Wine Society, the world’s longest established wine club. Yet another long-standing tie between Portugal and Great Britain, who share the world’s longest standing alliance between two nations.

Chef Rui Paula in the illustrious setting of the Mercgant Taylor's Hall in the City of London, December 18th, 2012
Chef Rui Paula in the illustrious setting of the Merchant Taylor’s Hall in the City of London, December 18th, 2012

On Line and In the Douro

Bloggers capturing the incredible views of Symington Quintas from a lookout point high over the Douro

If you are reading this blog from Graham’s or follow our blog on The Vintage Port Site, you know how brilliantly the internet can bring you into remote wine regions, and how much you can learn about wine on-line.  Graham’s was one of the first Port producers to commit to an on-line presence, and as we have expanded our activities, it has been a pleasure to meet and entertain many other writers, photographers and videographers whose curiousity and passion for wine is shared on-line.

Last week we entertained some of the most creative of the new generation on-line wine enthusiasts as they made a harvest tour of the Douro Valley, starting with a convivial dinner at sister brand Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim near Pinhão, hosted by Charles and Marta Symington.  The next morning Miguel Potes of our Marketing Department played Pied Piper leading them over the mountains through tiny Douro villages (and narrow roads!) to show them some of the most breathtaking outlooks over the region.  The journey ended at Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos where they enjoyed a tour of the winery with Miguel and Henry Shotton.

Spectacular view of Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim on the Douro at Pinhão

Watch their sites for news and information about the Douro, Port and Douro DOC wines and their experiences here, and enjoy their unique approaches to learning and sharing information about wine:

Ryan Opaz of Catavino – Ryan and Gabriella Opaz were among the first to focus on Iberian wines through this lively site which brings  together a broad range of content and personal insights to the food, wine, travel opportunities and cultures of Portugual and Spain from a great team of collaborators.

Robert McIntosh of Thirst For Wine – In this site, Robert writes of his own tasting and wine travel adventures, with particular focus on the UK wine scene.  Together with Ryan and Gabriella, Robert has been a leader in leveraging digital and social media outlets to bring wine to the non-specialists, and this site also includes his observations on many aspects of the wine business and communications.  Robert found a few moments in the middle of the week long itinerary to post Catching My Breath in the Douro.

Tara O’Leary is the UK-based Wine Passionista.  It’s an appropriate name as writer and sommelier Tara’s passion for wine comes through in her engaging videos which help viewers learn about wine with a fun but down-to-earth approach to get past the potential confusion and straight into the sheer enjoyment of wine.

On the West Coast of America, Madeline Puckette, together with Justin Hammack and their team, are also aiming to educate the novice wine drinker on their site Wine Folly, which “bridges the gap between wine geekery and pop culture.”  Madeline is a sommelier based in Seattle who is using a variety of media to help you learn about wine; whether you want guidance through the maze of selecting a wine, wonder what minerality is about, or want to settle down to an on-line wine course, her site will have something to educate and entertain.

Duncan Rhodes is the Barcelona-based founder and editor of the Urban Travel Blog, for the adventurous traveller who isn’t remotely interested in the usual top-sights-and-Michelin-starred-restaurants itinerary.  A vast collective of writers from around the world contribute feature articles and City Guides which report not just on the travel experiences, but local trends and culture as well as nightlife, eco-tourism and the occasional foray beyond the city limits.

Many thanks to Bárbara Ameal of the IVDP, the Port and Douro DOC wine regulator, who organised and hosted this trip.

L to R Justin Hammack, Barbara Ameal, Robert McIntosh, Tara O’Leary, Charles Symington, Ryan Opaz, Cynthia Jenson (SFE) and Madeline Puckette

Malvedos Winemaker’s Update: Friday, 28 September

Tinta Amarela at Quinta dos Malvedos

At 07:00 an overcast morning with moderate temperatures, which continued throughout the day.  These conditions – bright overcast and mild warm temperatures – are perfect for ripening the Touriga Franca.

Today the pickers polished off the last of the Malvedos Touriga Nacional and we filled the remainder of the lagar with Tinta Amarela, which we were also able to pick entirely this afternoon.

As previously mentioned we are suspending the picking over the weekend and will re-commence next Monday 1st October.  Because of the rain we experienced last Sunday and Tuesday it was felt that we needed a pause before picking our Touriga Franca grapes (a significant proportion of the vineyard at Malvedos) at their ideal maturity.  There is of course always a risk of more rain, but as the weather forecast predicts clear weather for the next fortnight, we felt this was a risk worth taking which will certainly pay off in terms of greater phenolic ripeness and concentration of the sugars.

Charles examining the Touriga Franca
Juca grilling chouriço for midnight supper

Charles was here today accompanied by Euan Mackay (Sales Director) and we visited all the Touriga Franca parcels in both Malvedos and Tua in order to determine the picking order for when we restart the vintage on Monday.  Based on tasting berries and the softness of the skins (and their readiness to impart colour) it was decided to begin with the Touriga Franca from Tua on Monday, then on Tuesday to pick the remaining Tinta Roriz at Malvedos, mixed with an old Vinha Velha plot from Tua, before moving to the Malvedos Touriga Franca on Wednesday next week – with the objective of having everything picked and in the winery by next weekend.

This evening we had a night shift, and Juca was kind enough grill some chouriços for us, which we enjoyed with a cold beer at the end of the shift.

Review of the 2012 Wines So Far

We also took advantage of Charles’s visit to taste all the wines that we have made so far.  He felt that generally speaking the wines have good colour, a balanced acidity, and a unique freshness in comparison to some other years, which is due to cooler temperatures and fewer raisins.

Euan Mackay, Charles Symington and Henry Shotton reviewing the 2012 Malvedos Ports made so far

All the wines had the same inky dark colour, which was an opaque purple, and the Barrocas and Nacionals were particularly intense.

The Barrocas expressed a powerful black berry aroma with a structured, velvety and almost overpowering richness.  The blend of Barroca and Mistura Casta (a vineyard planted with a mixture of Douro varieties) was earthier in character with a slightly drier and more elegant finish.  The pure Mistura Casta wines demonstrated the rich and concentrated fruit flavours of old vine mixed planting.  Finally, the Nacionals (one each from Malvedos and Tua) exhibited vibrant aromas of dark fruits such as blackberries and floral hints of violets and nuances of peppery spice.

All of the 2012 Malvedos Ports made so far this harvest, lined up for Charles’s review

Malvedos Winemaker’s Update: Wednesday 26 September

View of Malvedos from the top of the new plantation works 11:00 AM

It was a bright blue sky this morning without a ripple on the river; however, as the day wore on there was a mixture of sun and clouds.  Fortunately there was no more rain!  Charles says the forecast is for clear weather ahead – let’s hope so.

Charles made a brief visit yesterday, and decided to suspend the Touriga Nacional for now and to pick block 17 of Tinta Roriz instead, as he felt the former required another day after the rain while the latter was ready to go.  As a result we filled a lagar today of Tinta Roriz, which has good colour and looks promising.

Charles has also decided to suspend picking this weekend due to the heavy rain that we received yesterday.  This will give the Touriga Franca a little more time to concentrate its sugars again and will then be ready by Monday.  In the meantime we will finish off the Malvedos Touriga Nacional on Thursday and Friday.

Whilst not every harvest is going to give us a declared Vintage Port, this kind of flexibility in responding to weather conditions and the maturation of the grapes, and adjusting our plans so we can harvest each variety at its peak, is one of the reasons Graham’s is known for the consistently high quality of all our Port wines over the years.

Tracking the picking on the quinta map in the winery

Throughout the harvest we gradually fill in a large map of the Quinta to track our progress with the picking.  You can see the pink-filled areas on the western end of the quinta, where we picked all the mixed variety vineyards of Sibio, the pale green on the eastern side is the Barroca we picked in the first few days, and the Touriga Nacional picked so far is in bright blue.  Block 17 of Tinta Roriz was still showing white at the beginning of the day, in the centre of the map, just to the right of the striped parcel (which represents an uncultivated gorge).  As you can see, we still have a long way to go to harvest all the remaining Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca!

The first lagar of Touriga Nacional from Malvedos is an incredibly rich colour

Today was a busy day in terms of operations in the winery. We transferred two lots of fortified port to the storage lodge just below the winery, each one to its own separate tank. We also fortified our first lagar of Malvedos Touriga Nacional, which was an intense and deep purple colour – perhaps the darkest so far.

We also had an incredibly busy morning in terms of visitors.  First Rupert arrived from the Malvedos house with a group of Americans who came out with our California-based U.S. distributor, Premium Port Wines, and then Miguel Potes of our Marketing Department arrived with a group of international bloggers.

Just as these two groups were moving on, Paul and Charles arrived with Victoria Moore of the Daily Telegraph.  As luck would have it, we were just receiving a delivery of grapes, so she could see the winery activity from the very start.  After watching this, Paul conducted Victoria over the winery to explain the Port making process in both the traditional lagares (we have two at the Malvedos winery) and the modern lagares.  Afterwards,  Charles, Paul and Victoria all tasted the Ports made so far this year, of which her personal favourite was the Touriga Nacional made from Quinta do Tua.  Finally, we also laid out for her a vertical tasting of Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Ports from 2009 to 1965 in the front of the old tonels in the lower level of the winery.

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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.

Master of Wine Master Class Begins

Sunday the Master Class for aspiring Masters of Wine kicked off at Graham’s offices in Vila Nova de Gaia.  Twenty four Portuguese wine professionals, including winemakers, sommeliers, restaurateurs, journalists, distributors and wine marketing specialists convened to begin an intensive 3-day introduction to the Master of Wine qualification.

Lynne Sherriff MW

Lynne Sherriff MW, Chairman of the Institute, welcomed the students and introduced the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) and the value of the Master of Wine qualification for wine professionals.  The emphasis at the IMW is on knowledge and integrity, and the value of the Master of Wine self-study programme goes well beyond the obvious “learning more about wine” to mastering specific skills of methodical analysis, problem solving, and clear communication.  Lynne also emphasised that the candidates will learn discipline and sheer perseverance – the entire program is founded on a rigorous self-study scheme and almost no one passes every exam paper the first time; it takes real dedication to study independently, learn from your exam results and carry on to try again.

Lynn also spoke of the fact there are nearly 300 Masters of Wine and another 300 students currently studying for their MW, and not one is Portuguese.  Symington Family Estates have always been supportive of the IMW and recently Paul Symington has been working with the Institute to find a way to encourage Portuguese wine professionals to study for and achieve this qualification.  The result is this Master Class, the first to be held in Portugal, and the Symington Scholarship which will be offered to one candidate who is accepted to the Study Programme this autumn.

Philip Tuck MW

Philip Tuck MW and Mai Tjemsland MW then reviewed the exam syllabus and got down to the first and most fundamental of skill sets:  wine tasting.

Interestingly, they began by re-arranging the participants to work in three groups – one of the sommeliers and journalists, another of the wine makers, and the third of those on the commercial side of the trade.  They were asked to evaluate two white wines as they do now, and report to the larger group their assessment.  The sommelier table described the first wine in very expressive, almost poetic terms, emphasising the elegance and aromas.  They focussed on the qualities – and used language – that make a wine appealing.  The winemakers, describing the same wine, were far more technical in their assessment, speaking of the development of the wine, the phenolics, oxidation, and alcohol levels.  The commercial team were very pragmatic:  their first observation was that this was an entry level wine and they focussed on the “style” of the wine.

Philip and Mai then introduced the approach used in the MW papers, which teaches the student to analyse what is in the glass by its appearance, nose, palate and finish.  In addition, students should be prepared to discuss the winemaking techniques, origin and quality of the wine based on their blind tasting sample.  Whilst all the observations made during the first round were valid, Philip and Mai went on to explain how to present those observations in a succinct and systematic way that supports the student’s conclusion identifying the wine.

The group have an intensive programme ahead, which will include one broad tasting of Bordeaux and Burgundies, and another of sparkling, sweet and fortified wines.  Several sessions will focus on wine topics such as grape varieties, wine making and markets, and a round table discussion of wine industry trends, whilst other sessions will concentrate on the skills of critical thinking, planning and writing, which are vital not only for the MW exam papers, but for the ongoing communication and education role of a Master of Wine.  Monday evening Paul Symington will host the group at dinner at The Factory House in Porto.  Finally, Tuesday afternoon, those who wish to apply for the Study Programme this autumn will have the opportunity to take the entry exam.

Behind the scenes, Graham’s own staff are providing logistical support for the program:  Júlia Furtado, one of our management assistants, has been the key liaison in the planning and organisation of the three day event, and Nuno Moreira of our Tasting Room is assisting the IMW team to set up and serve the tasting flights.

Graham’s wishes all the attendees good luck over these three days, and with their exam and studies if they decide to pursue their Master of Wine beginning this autumn.

Update: Keep an eye on the IMW Facebook page to keep up with more news and photos from the session in Porto, as well as year round news of IMW activities.

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Medal Success for Graham’s Ports

Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos 2001 Gold Medal Winner IWC & Decanter 2012

Graham’s Ports have once again been recognised for their excellence in the top blind tasting competitions:  The International Wine Challenge (IWC), The International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC), and the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA).

Graham’s won a dazzling array of 22 Gold and Silver awards across the three competitions, including double Gold – from the IWC and Decanter – for the Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port 2001.  This superb Quinta Vintage Port is already available in the USA and will be released in other markets globally by the end of this year.  We agree with the IWC judges who described this Port as “joyful to drink”!

Dark jammy blackcurranty nose.  Palate is vivid, crisp and concentrated.  Starting to open up, energetic, youthful but already joyful to drink.

Other Decanter Gold Medal winners included Graham’s 10 and 20 Year Old Tawnies, the IWSC awarded Gold to Graham’s Crusted Port bottled in 2006, and the IWC awarded the Graham’s 1969 Single Harvest Tawny a Gold Award as well.  In addition we also were awarded 16 Silver medals.

In fact, between the three competitions our full range of Premium Port styles – including 10, 20, 30 and 40 Year Old Tawnies, 1969 Single Harvest Tawny, Six Grapes, Late Bottled Vintage 2007, Crusted 2006, Graham’s Vintage 2000, Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage 2001 and Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage 2004 – all won medals, and in most cases two or three medals.  No other Port producer has such an extraordinary record of recognition – either across their entire range, or over the years – as Graham’s and Symington Family Estates.

Paul Symington is understandably pleased, calling this year’s array of awards great recognition of “the excellent work of all our production people from the Douro to Vila Nova de Gaia.”