Flight of Ruby Styles of Graham’s Ports

Tasting ports in groups of several wines can highlight the differences between styles, vintages, or ageing regimes.  Graham’s master blenders rarely taste a wine in isolation, but compare several different samples, or samples versus finished and bottled wines, in order to fully assess the qualities of a given wine by contrasting it with others.

Very broadly, “ruby” is used to describe ports for which the making process preserves the deep red colour and the intense fruit character of the new wine.  These wines will undergo  wood ageing only in immense balseiros of thousands of litres, and never for more than six or seven years.  Ruby ports, both Fine and Finest Reserve, Six Grapes and Late Bottled Vintage, will be bottled ready to enjoy.  Crusted port is bottled and then stored by us for three years before being released, and can be enjoyed upon release or for some years after.  Vintage port of course is only made when we identify an exceptional wine which has the power and structure to age for decades in bottle after only two years in balseiro.

Wines are typically tasted in a sequence starting with the youngest, simplest or lightest weight and progressing to the most mature, complex and intense; in this way the palate is not so staggered by a powerful wine as to be unable to appreciate a younger or more finely nuanced wine afterwards.

The Graham’s Precious Ruby tasting at the Lodge is a line up of a Late Bottled Vintage, Six Grapes, and a Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage.  Visitors often question the sequence – they expect to be presented first with the Six Grapes, then the LBV, then the Vintage, based on the above tasting guidelines.

In fact, the Late Bottled Vintage is best presented first, though strictly speaking it is likely to be an older wine.  Our LBV spends four to six years in the large balseiros before it is lightly filtered and bottled.  This means that the wine is smooth, and although both nose and palate have plenty of red summer fruit, the impact of the fruit will have begun to soften and the wine may just begin to show some secondary flavour notes such as pepper or chocolate, depending on the exact vintage being tasted.  The cask ageing also gives this wine a long and complex finish.

Graham’s Six Grapes is, we think, unique among ruby ports for several reasons.  First and foremost, our intention with this blend has been to create an “everyday” port as much like a young vintage as possible.  In order to ensure a consistent vintage character, we actually select the wines for Six Grapes before we consider candidates for making into Late Bottled Vintage.

Comparing it to the LBV you will find Six Grapes more intensely sweet and more intense generally, both nose and palate are very rich, complex and purely fruity – you will not find any secondary flavours here.  The finish is again very long, but it is a very generous, luscious sweet finish, richer and more intense than the finish on the LBV, hence the decision to present Six Grapes after LBV in the tasting.

The Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage stands out from the other two for its darker and more complex fruit character and marked floral notes.  Whilst the first two wines are blended from all five Graham’s quintas, in this wine the unique character of Malvedos stands out.  With a southern exposure on the banks of the Douro, the grapes achieve full ripeness most years – which guarantees intensity and complexity of flavours.  Malvedos is planted with a very high proportion of Touriga Nacional (29%) which brings cassis, mulberry, blackberry and raspberry flavours as well as great structure.  The Quinta also features one of our favourite grapes, Touriga Franca (36%), which gives the wines their wonderful floral, especially violet, aromas.   The finish is again quite long – a Graham’s hallmark – but in the Vintage ports the finish is more firm, with more tannic structure.

Have you enjoyed the Precious Ruby tasting at our Lodge, or tried comparative tastings at home with Graham’s ports?  We would love to hear about your experiences and impressions.

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First Outlook for 2010 Harvest

At the end of the first week of maturity studies Charles Symington, winemaker for Graham’s port wines, shared his impressions of how the harvest could shape up, based on conditions so far.

Quinta do Tua on 18 August, looking upriver

First and foremost, the vines at all five of the Graham’s quintas look sound and in “fighting form” going into the final stage of ripening.  The heavy rains over the winter mean the vines have had reserves to draw on and are coping well with the heat, despite the lack of any rain since June.

Also welcome news is the fact that the grapes are showing a good balance of sugars and phenolic ripening – in other words, the maturation of pips and skin (the indicators of phenolic ripeness) is keeping pace with the development of sugar levels.  This is grounds to hope that when the sugar reaches the optimum level for harvest to make port, the grapes will be fully ripe and ready to render the maximum flavour and colour to the wine.

The week’s lab tests showed generally high weight of berries and generous quantities of juice – both indicators that the vines are getting enough water, despite two months of high heat and dry conditions.  Whilst the sugar readings are lower than average for this point in the season, this is not a cause for concern, especially given the balance of ripening as described above.  What the low sugar readings do tell us is to expect a later than usual harvest, as the grapes need more time to ripen.  This makes perfect sense given that pintor – the moment the grape colour begins to change from green to red – was a week later than average, and the latest Charles could call to mind in his career.  At this point, the indication is that we should be ready to harvest at Malvedos and our other quintas somewhere between 16 and 20 September.

The lab results also showed that the Touriga Nacional generally is behind normal, a bit of an outlier in terms of still showing higher acidity than other varieties, despite good phenolic ripeness.  On the other hand, Charles observed that the same pattern occurred in 2007.  Anyone who has tasted Graham’s 2007 Vintage will agree with his rather modest statement, “this is not bad news.”

Lab tests are not everything in assessing harvest conditions, however.  They tell us how well the grapes and vines are doing, and by comparing the data to prior years we can extrapolate the likely rate of development and estimate a harvest start date.

Touriga Franca, Quinta dos Malvedos 18 August

The quality of the harvest can only by judged by actually tasting the grapes.  This early, a winemaker can assess just the acidity and freshness of the fruit; flavour is actually the last thing to develop as a grape matures.  In the last week or two before harvest, tasting  the grapes becomes like tasting the wines and Charles can begin to imagine the flavours and qualities of the lotes (batches) of wine to be made and decide which grapes should be blended in the winemaking and which should be vinified as single varietal wines.  Finally the flavour of the grapes will also tell him when exactly the grapes should be picked – typically he can set a picking date 3 to 4 days ahead, but that is always subject to change, and decisions are confimed at the last minute.

In an ideal world, Charles could wish for a little rain before the end of the first week of September.  A good rain, accompanied by a day or two of overcast, would break the momentum of this hot summer as typically, by this time of year, temperatures do not recover after a rain storm to the prior levels.  If the heat continues unabated, it could stress the vines and arrest the progress of the phenolic ripening, whilst dehydrating the grapes and causing a too-great concentration of sugar.

So, all told:  present condition of the grapes is promising, hope for a bit of rain but not too much, or at least a decisive break in the heat, and expect a slightly later than usual harvest at Graham’s quintas in the Douro.

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Countdown to Harvest Begins

This week officially begins the countdown to the harvest for Graham’s port wines.  All our winemaking and viticultural team will have had their holidays, and  this past Monday we began our maturation studies.

Every week from now through the start of harvest, we will collect samples of grapes from all our quintas and then analyse the samples in the lab to assess the maturity of the vineyards and plan when and in what order we will harvest the grapes for Graham’s port wines.

Touriga Nacional at Malvedos 18 August

In the morning,  teams collect samples of 200 individual grapes from each designated vineyard (or parcel) at each quinta.  For example, at Quinta dos Malvedos we collected from three different parcels of Touriga Nacional – one just below the house, another halfway up the ampitheatre-like property, and another from a parcel at the top of the hill.  Similarly we collected berries from three different parcels of Tinta Barroca scattered around the property, and then the team moved next door to Quinta do Tua, across the Tua River from Malvedos, and collected grapes from one parcel of Touriga Nacional and another sample from our vinhas velhas – the old mixed-variety vineyard.

To get a truly representative sample, the berries are plucked from grape clusters on both sides of a row of vines, from clusters at top and bottom of vines, from clusters buried in leaves as well as those more exposed to sun.  We may include some green berries and also some berries that may have begun to dry out and become like raisins.  Once we have 200 grapes from the parcel, the bag is sealed, marked as to its origin and stored in a cooler until it is delivered to the lab.

Every week until harvest we will collect samples of 200 berries each from these same vineyards, run the same set of tests, and accumulate data for weight, juice volume, Baumé, total acidity, pH, colour and taste.  This early we expect to see lower sugars and higher acidities than later in the season, when that relationship will reverse.   Based on this week’s sampling, we can begin to make our harvest plans, which will be fine tuned each week as the assessment continues.

Must from 200-grape sample being run off from the mini-press at our lab

In the lab, each 200-grape sample goes through a pretty simple and straightforward process of assessment:  After weighing the sample, we roughly crush the grapes by hand in their collection bag, then press them in a miniature wine press and run off the must which is then centrifuged and measured for volume.  Finally, the must is poured into wine glasses.  Three chemical analysis tests are now performed, to measure Baumé, which is indicative of sweetness and alcohol levels, to measure total acidity, and pH.  Two low-tech tests are also performed:  we look at it to assess the colour, and we taste it to have a sensory impression to weigh against the test data collected.

Not all our testing is done in the lab, however, nor are our plans and decisions all based on lab results.  The ultimate deciding factors are human.  We draw on our own personal experience, as well as the historical records of the experiences of all the Symingtons and Grahams who have harvested these vineyards before us.  Charles Symington, our head winemaker, will now spend most of his days in the vineyards looking and assessing their condition for himself and tasting the grapes as he goes.  More from Charles and his preliminary assessment of conditions in an upcoming story.

Sample musts from Quinta das Lages: 2 x Touriga Nacional, 2 x Touriga Franca, 1 x Tinta Barroca and 1 from trial organic vineyard
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When and Where to Drink Your Port

In 1960 James Symington formally joined the family port business, and until his retirement in 1998 was instrumental in expanding distribution throughout Europe and opening up the North American markets for Graham’s and other family-owned brands of port.  He has written a short memoir, with many amusing anecdotes about the port trade, both historical and from his personal experiences.

When visiting the United States in the late 1970s he realised that the image of port was terribly intimidating to people – the use of port tongs to open bottles, the business of decanting, and the legendary formality of passing port correctly at British dinners all seemed to put people off.  James travelled widely, speaking with distributors and meeting their customers, encouraging everyone to enjoy fine vintage and tawny ports any time, any place, and cited his own experiences as examples of the adaptability of port to all kinds of occasions and circumstances, not all of which were terribly elegant or traditional.

The following excerpt from James’s memoir makes clear that all styles of port can easily adapt to a variety of circumstances and still taste wonderful and refreshing:

I was frequently asked how often I myself drank port.  I have to confess to being an avid port drinker and virtually not a day in my life goes by without my having a couple of glasses after dinner or during the day.  Port tastes particularly good on a picnic.  A robust vintage, decanted before leaving home, tastes delicious in the open air and I have downed many an enjoyable tot while shooting snipe on the marshes south of Oporto or after woodcock in the Hebridean islands of Scotland.  Having done my military service in the King’s African Rifles in Kenya in the mid 1950s I have a great fondness for Africa as a whole and Kenya in particular.  Safaris do not offer the most convenient environment for transporting bottles of port but I solved this problem by transferring the port into half litre plastic hip flasks usually to be found containing whisky in airport duty free shops.  Refilled with 20 Year Old Tawny port these may be packed into soft bags and can withstand the jolts and rough treatment often encountered on safaris.  On one memorable occasion a few years ago every evening we had 20 Year Old Tawny which had been thrown about all day on a camel’s back!  Tawny port is particularly resilient in these circumstances and it can still taste delicious even after such apparent rough treatment.  I was always at pains to point out the great versatility of port to our customers although I think they found the camel treatment rather extreme.

James in the 1970s. Devotion to duty!

Whilst we love to see our fine vintage ports presented in a beautiful old decanter on a highly polished mahogany table, and always enjoy the effect of candlelight refracting off our crystal wine glasses, we think it would be a shame to save port only for those more formal occasions.  The plastic hipflask via camel is perhaps a bit extreme, but port on a picnic is wonderful, and if the wine glasses are missing from your picnic hamper, don’t let that stop you …

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Aged Tawny Flight of Graham’s Ports

One good way to learn about Graham’s ports is to taste in flights of several wines, as the contrast between wines helps to clarify and highlight the qualities of each.  At the Graham’s Port Lodge, one of the popular choices for our visitors is a tasting of three tawnies, including The Tawny, Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny and Graham’s 30 Year Old Tawny.  This particular line up is not just delicious, it provides an excellent demonstration of the effects of ageing in small cask.

All port wines, when they are brought down river to Gaia in the spring after harvest, are first stored in immense wooden balseiros of tens of thousands of litres.  As our tasting room team assess each wine in the months and years after harvest, they may decide to move part or all of a particular wine into small casks of 550 litres, called pipes (or pipas in Portuguese) for eventual use in tawny ports.  All wine stored in a wooden container of any size will experience a very gentle and minute exchange of oxygen through the wood, but when a small amount of wine is in a small cask the effect of this transpiration is intensified.  Over a period of years in small casks the colour of the wine will change from deep dark ruby to more translucent tawny.  The flavour will also change and mature, from the luscious red- or black-fruit driven flavours of young port, to more mellow and complex dried fruit, fig, honey, caramel and nut flavours, and in very old tawny ports will move on to even more complex flavours like tobacco and coffee.

Graham’s “The Tawny” is a blend of wines which have aged from 7 to 9 years, whilst the wines in the indicated age tawnies will have an average age of blend of the number of years named on the label – in this flight, we contrast The Tawny with our 20 Year Old and 30 Year Old tawnies.

One clue to the age of a tawny port will be the intensity and shade of colour.  The Tawny is a very deep and intense golden-amber, a true and classic tawny colour.  When you look at the Graham’s 20 Year Old,  you see the same deep true tawny in the core, but with slightly less intensity of tone and a broader “rim” – the band of gradually diminishing colour at the edge of the wine when the glass is held at angle.  This is due to the proportion of older wines in the blend.  The 30 Year Old will be distinctly lighter, with an orange tint to the amber.

The Tawny is distinguished by an orange peel aroma on the nose, with hints of almond and possibly spice.  In the 20 Year Old the almond aromas come to the fore; although the orange scent remains in the mix it steps back as compared to The Tawny.  Graham’s 30 Year Old takes another turn altogether – all about dried fruits, the bouquet is strikingly perfumed and concentrated.

When you taste these wines you will find that the impact on your palate is much more complex than just flavour notes.  Whilst the orange peel in The Tawny comes to the fore on the palate as it did on the nose, the outstanding impression is how incredibly refreshing it is, very distinctly so as compared with other port styles; serve it chilled to enhance this.

Graham’s 20 Year Old also delivers to the palate what it promised on the nose – nuttiness first and foremost, with some caramel and a lingering whiff of orange, but this wine is very sensual on the palate, very rich, sweet and smooth without cloying.  Also very refreshing served chilled, the 20 Year Old Tawny is a particularly versatile partner for foods, the favourite choice amongst our Lodge staff being Crème Brulée.

Finally, our 30 Year Old Tawny Port shows its maturity in the sheer concentration and complexity of its palate which almost defies flavour note definition.  Here, the wine is about the finish – it simply lasts and lasts.  Although it could be paired with dark chocolate, this is a wine to be savoured as an after dinner treat by itself in lieu of any sweet dish.

We hope you will take the opportunity some time to try a flight of tawnies with friends, to savour the differences, to better understand the effects of wood aging, and most of all, to simply enjoy Graham’s wonderful range of tawny port wines.

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July 2010 Douro Insider

The weather this month was pretty much as one would have expected for July in Portugal.  It was very hot and very dry.  The extreme heat basically came in two waves – one at the start of the month and the second at the end, with some moderately warm respite in the early middle.  To begin with a mass of warm and dry air moved into the country from the north of Africa and Spanish interior.  This meant that temperatures rose steadily during the first week, generally peaking above 40º C by about the 7th, depending on your location.  (Incidentally, there was a similar situation on east coast of US around this time, with a high pressure area clearing the skies and keeping temperatures up.)  In Germany the heatwave caused chaos for the transport network before suddenly being swept aside by storms that were responsible for a small number of fatalities.  Fortunately for us, relief here came soon afterwards as a depression off the coast of Morocco extended northwards, bringing the mercury down again.  The 8th was thundery and very humid but it stayed dry, and maximum temperatures then began to drop more or less consistently until the middle of the month. Full Report

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Classic Tasting Flight of Graham’s Ports

Tasting Graham’s port wines in flights – groups of several different wines – is the best way to compare and learn more about port wine.  At the Graham’s Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia for all our visitors, at special tastings organised for our trade partners, and even in the tasting rooms while developing our blends, we prefer to try our wines in groups of three, at least, in order to better understand and evaluate the qualities of each wine.  Whatever may be your impressions of a wine tasted in isolation, trying it again alongside another wine or two can highlight flavours or sensations, because of the force of contrast with the other wines.

The best introduction to port, which we use at the Lodge, is a classic line up of a Late Bottled Vintage, our Finest Reserve Tawny, and a 10 Year Old Tawny.  These three illustrate perfectly how the aging process changes a port wine through its first decade or so.

The first thing to look at is the development of colour –  if you can hold the glass at an angle against a white surface, so much the better to see the differences.  The LBV will have aged in immense vats of tens of thousands of litres for four to six years before bottling.  With relatively little exposure to air or wood the colour is an intense, impenetrable, deep ruby red.  The Graham’s Finest Reserve Tawny port is a blend of wines that have been aged in small pipes of 550 litres from a very young age.  The greater contact with wood and air means the wine has begun to change colour, however, as this is a blend of relatively young wines, the colour is tawny but still rather red-toned, like cedar wood.  Finally, the 10 Year Old Tawny is deep classic tawny colour – a deep golden honey shade with little to no trace of red remaining.

The next thing to consider is the nose of each wine.  Give the glass a good swirl and then really bury your nose in it and inhale.  Give yourself a moment to consider, perhaps sniff your wrist to clear your nose (never wear perfume when assessing wines), and then do the same with the next glass.  The hallmark of a Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage is its very rich jammy red-fruit nose, though occasionally a particular year may lend a whiff of black fruits or pepper and spice.  Our LBV style is intended to retain the wonderful fruit flavours of the young wine, but has just enough age that the fruit scents have ripened to a jammy quality.  In contrast, the Finest Reserve Tawny will have a more muted fruit character, balanced and complemented with a distinct nuttiness – almonds or hazelnuts – on the nose.  That nuttiness is one of the indicators of aging in small casks.  Finally, in the 10 Year Old Tawny, any trace of red summer fruit will be gone and replaced with scents of dried fruits or possibly ripe figs, and there will be a distinct honey scent as well as the continued development of the nutty aromas.

When you taste the wines, take a sip and really swirl it throughout your entire mouth; different types of flavours register best in different zones of the mouth.  You will find the flavours on the palate fulfill the promise of the nose, with perhaps some additional flavours coming in, for example a possible touch of chocolate in some LBV years.  But what is really interesting is to think about the sensations, not just the flavours – how does the wine feel in your mouth, what about the finish?

Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage is always very full bodied – though the quantity of liquid in your mouth may be small, the sensation will be mouth-filling.  Tasting actually engages your sense of smell, so a very richly aromatic wine will produce that sensation of fullness and body in the mouth.  The LBV will be distinctly sweet and luscious, but the Finest Reserve Tawny will be a contrast – seeming more dry.  As ports age in small casks, and the fruit character becomes muted and nutty flavours develop,  the drying effect of the tannins come through, ever so slightly, to create that impression of relative dryness.  The Finest Reserve Tawny will strike you as elegant, even restrained after the fruit exuberance of the LBV.  And finally, the 10 Year Old Tawny is very mellow – imagine a mellow warm late autumn day in a liquid form – and will have a luscious finish, the flavours and sensations lingering long after the wine has gone from your mouth.

There you have the magic of Graham’s port and our winemakers’ skills in ageing and blending, summarised in three glasses!

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The Sala do Baptismo

Entrance to the Sala do Baptismo

When you visit the Graham’s Port Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, don’t miss the Sala do Baptismo.  Halfway between the main entrance to the Lodge and the downhill entrance gate to the property is an arched doorway that opens directly from the drive way.

There has been a long tradition at Graham’s of inviting special guests to “baptise” one of the tonels of port ageing in this separate room of the lodge with a glass of our 20 Year Old Tawny.  Exactly how, when and why the tradition began is uncertain, however the earliest record is from 1924, when HE M. Teixera Gomes, then President of the Republic of Portugal, baptised the tonel “O Presidente.”

Since then, many state dignitaries and special visitors have baptised the tonel of their choice:  The Consul, The Minister, The Emperor, O Presidente, The Ambassador, The Minister, The Governor, the Royal Reserve or The Sportsman.

The Minister, hard at work ageing a 1972 port

Some of the choices are natural and obvious, for example John Major (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 1990-1997) and RJL Hawke (Prime Minister of Australia 1981 to 1993) have both baptised The Minister.  The Royal Reserve has been baptised by a variety of Royal Highnesses from England and Nepal as well as representatives of several lines of the Braganças.  The Ambassador  tonel received a dousing from Stephen Hill, Her Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador to Portugal, to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of VE Day on the 8th of May, 1995.  By the way, the tonels in the Sala are not just for show, all of them are in use, for example The Minister contains 8,400 litres of a 1972 wine.

Some interesting people have chosen to baptise the Emperor, including the restaurateur Michel Roux, the American winemaker Robert Mondavi, a Cardinal and a Bishop, members of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Georg Riedel, 10th generation of the family which makes the famous Riedel wineglasses.

Googlies of Graham's 20 Year Old Tawny

The Sportsman was baptised by four members of the cricket team when Nasser Hussain’s England XI arrived to play the Portugal XI for the Lay and Wheeler Challenge in 2001 (who knew you could throw a googly with 20 Year Old Tawny?), and by Simon Fletcher, “Who in 1965 shot 2 elephants with one shot!”

Graham’s Port Lodge has also been honoured to host several important international conferences, including the summit of Foreign Affairs ministers from Portugal, Spain and all the Latin American countries; and an informal meeting of the Economic ministers of the European Union.  In both cases, the ministers made time to visit the Sala do Baptismo during their visits, and pay their respects to The Minister with a glass of 20 Year Old.

The Sala do Baptismo now also honours some rather less well known individuals:  there are wonderful photographic murals featuring the people who over the past 190 years have made Graham’s wines what they are, working in vineyards, wineries and the lodge.

As one guest wrote in our visitor’s book, “History in action – Great!!”

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Graham’s 2009’s – Where Are They Now?

Readers of the Graham’s Port blog during the 2009 harvest may recall that on 9 October our Malvedos winemaker, Henry Shotton, signed off, saying the wines were all fortified and resting in their winter homes in the Douro, to “fall bright” before transport to Gaia in the spring.  So… where are those wines now?

At the end of the harvest, Malvedos had created 12 lotes, or batches of wine.  Some were vinified as single-varietals, for example we had three different pure Touriga Nacional wines, from parcels which, according to their location within the quinta, yield very different flavour characteristics.  One blended wine was of course made from the vinhas velhas, or old vines, which is a vineyard planted years ago with the traditional Douro mixture of a dozen or more varieties of grapes.  Several more lotes were blends created for reasons of lagar capacities versus parcel yields, for example a blend of two small parcels of Tinto Cão and Tinta Roriz.

In December the first post-vinification samples were taken from all 12 lotes and sent to Gaia for tasting and analysis.  Charles Symington, our head winemaker, and the tasting room team together assess each wine, with the focus at this time being primarily on quality.

Thereafter, the wines are tasted monthly, and other Symington family members join the review process.  Decisions may be made to blend some lotes together, and some wines may be designated as potential candidates for vintage or single-quinta vintage.  Wines will change character after time in wood, so it is not unusual for a wine to open up and develop a greater complexity or flavour quality that might move it into the “watch for potential vintage” list, and others initially flagged for possible vintage can develop a flavour character that makes them better candidates for another style of port.

Right now, after taking several decisions to begin blending lotes, there are 7 Malvedos 2009 wines being monitored monthly.  Don’t forget though, Graham’s wines are blended from the products of four other quintas, as well.  At the end of harvest, those four quintas together had produced 30 lotes of wine, and those have also been rigourously reviewed and subject to decisions about blends, and possible use for vintage or other styles of port.

2009 sample wines from four of the Graham's quintas (two different samples from Malvedos)

All these wines were transported to Gaia in the spring and are now in large wooden vats, where they will continue to age and be assessed monthly.  In the tasting room one recent afternoon were samples from each quinta ready for assessment.  Less than 10 months old, the wines are showing distinct aromatic characters which reflect both the typical qualities of the individual quinta and the effects of the climactic pattern of the 2009 harvest year.

What will happen next with these wines?  The decision to declare either a Graham’s Vintage or Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage would be made in early 2011, when the wine is about 18 months old, and it would be bottled at 2 years of age.  Between 2 and 3 years after harvest, a lote might be a candidate for inclusion in the multi-harvest Crusted style of port.  When a wine is between 4 and 6 years of age, we may choose to bottle it as a Late Bottled Vintage.  Up to 7 years after harvest, a lote is a candidate for blending into our Six Grapes Reserve.  At any time, the wine may be designated for tawny use and moved into pipas, to develop the colour and secondary flavours that small cask ageing imparts to a tawny, and it may remain in those pipas for years.  Finally, bear in mind that a single lote may be used in part for one wine style, and in part for another.  The possibilities are nearly endless.

Samples from as far back as 1937 ready for tasting and assessment

In the tasting room was another group of samples from various prior years ready for review – note that the word colheita in Portuguese means simply year or harvest.  In a prior post we said there would be wines as old as 60 years ageing in casks at the lodge for use in tawny blends.  In fact, if you look closely at this photo, you can see the far left bottle is from 1937.  After 73 years, this wine is still undergoing monthly assessment as a possible candidate for blending and bottling into one of Graham’s premium aged tawnies.

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