Port is the world’s first officially demarcated wine region (1756). It is a protected region in that it is the only place in the world one can produce authentic Port. Port is a fortified wine whereby grape brandy is added to still wine during the production process to stop fermentation and create a sweet wine that I would choose for dessert any day…
During this years’ Vancouver International Wine Festival, I was given the opportunity to attend Graham’s Tawny Port seminar featuring Graham’s Joint Managing Director, Rupert Symington and moderated by Gustavo Devesas, Graham’s Marketing Manager. This incredible 90-minute seminar was a mini-history lesson in Port and featured five decades of Port wine to sample.
Graham’s Port was established in 1820 in Porto, Portugal by two Scottish brothers, William and John Graham. Today, Graham’s is owned and managed by the Symington family who have been premium Port producers for five generations. Graham’s is the most awarded Port House in the world.
Port is aged, but not produced, in Porto. Graham’s owns 45,000 hectares of vineyard land which lies throughout the Upper Douro region of Northern Portugal. The grapes that are used to make Port are thick-skinned varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinto Câo and Tinta Roriz. These grapes make up the blend for the still wine.
Of paramount importance in crafting Tawny Port is the use of wood barrels to age the wines and impart subtle complexities to the final product. We were shown a video of Graham’s very own Cooperage and Cooperage Team in which the Master Cooper, Emilio Oliveira, personally selects the wood for each barrel and supervises the assembling and maintenance of each cask.
- Graham’s ‘Six Grapes’ Reserve – This wine is a full-bodied young Ruby Port with a good amount of dark fruit and blackberry flavour. Symington called it an ‘everyday Port for the Vintage Port drinker’.
- Graham’s ‘The Tawny’ Mature Reserve – This Tawny Port has an average age of 8 – 9 years. It is not yet available in our B.C. market but there was mention that it may be soon. Delicious with silky orange peel and caramel notes.
- Graham’s 10 Year Old – Graham’s signature wine – the average age of the wines in this Port is 12 years old. Refreshing with flavours of fig, honey and a dash of eucalyptus.
- Graham’s 20 Year Old – Symington referred to this wine as ‘a Tawny Port to watch the stars with’. It has balance, elegance, and freshness. The wine has an inviting flavour profile of lemon rind, caramel, and hazelnut.
- Graham’s 30 Year Old – One of Graham’s ‘meditation’ wines – here, the wine is more about the wood barrels and the aging process than about the base wine. Graham’s lose approximately 30% of their wine to evaporation. This Port is concentrated and pungent with notes of cigar box, spice, and cinnamon.
- Graham’s 40 Year Old – This wine should really be called ‘Over 40’ as the average age of the wines is 53 years. Graham’s changed the bottles from dark to clear glass to show off the extraordinary colour of their aged Ports. Notes of spicy ginger, leather and meat – this is a strong, masculine wine.
- Graham’s 1994 Single Harvest Colheita – The lucky people who went to this seminar were some of the very first to get to try this recently bottled 1994 Single Harvest Port. The 1994 vintage is considered to be one of the very best years for Port production. Sultry and luscious with notes of bergamot and orange peel.
- Graham’s 1972 Single Harvest – Graham’s only produced 712 bottles of this exceptional Port from nine casks. This wine was my favourite of the flight. It was made from only the finest wines Graham’s produces. Powerful, yet elegant, and beautifully complex with notes of dried apricot, orange peel, caramel and rock salt. The 1972 Single Harvest is balanced, expressive and boasts a very long finish – finessed and exceptional.
This seminar included all that I could have hoped for. I came away with a huge amount of respect for the process that goes into crafting exceptional Port wine and a sense that Graham’s Port is so incredible because everyone involved in the process wants to be a part of its’ success. It is no wonder Graham’s is the most awarded Port House in the world.