November 2011 Douro Insider

Torrential rain fall - and sunshine - in the Douro in November

After yet another dry month in October (and apparently also the warmest October since 1931 at a national level), it was pleasing to see that the roads in the Douro were running like rivers on the 2nd of November.  The rain was torrential, and accompanied by high winds, but one felt nevertheless that the soil had been baked so dry and compacted over the long summer that this run-off was simply due to a lack of infiltration rather than the sheer volume of water itself.  One of the greatest problems with mountain viticulture is that so much precipitation is lost to the slopes rather than seeping into the soil.  In any case, what fell was welcome, and we enjoyed a very wet first week of the new agricultural year. Read Full Report

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Celebrate #PortDay with Graham’s

Graham's Quinta dos Malvedos in the heart of the Douro Demarcated Region, where true Port is made

Graham’s is pleased to support the Center for Wine Origins initiative to declare this Friday, 27 January, International Port Day.

The Center was co-founded by the wine producing regions of Porto and Champagne with a mission to protect the authenticity of regional wine names and promote accurate wine labeling through a wide range of educational and promotional activities aimed at consumers, policy makers and the media.  Their activities are focussed particularly on the American wine market, but the issue is of course a global one.

The Instituto do Vinho do Douro e Porto (IVDP), the regulating body for the Douro region, provides these guidelines for identifying a true Port wine:

  • Only fortified wine produced in the Douro Demarcated Region which conforms to the technical characteristics defined by the IVDP is Port
  • The maker must be registered and authorised by the IVDP to produce Port
  • The label must be approved by the IVDP
  • The bottle must bear the IVDP issued and numbered seal of guarantee

How can you show your support for genuine Port?  No matter where you are, this Friday you can enjoy a glass of Graham’s Port and then take to the Internet to blog, Tweet or post your video about it.  Use the #PortDay hashtag so Port lovers can find you and your comments.

Graham’s believes Port is most enjoyable when shared with friends.  Host your own tasting or dinner or join others.  There are many events including in-store tastings, meals, and Port and food pairing seminars across the USA, from Fort Lauderdale and Miami to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Seattle; see the full list and sign up through the Global #PortDay page.

If you are a wine professional in the USA, the Center for Wine Origins provides great ideas and free support materials to help you promote authentic Port wines, this Friday and year round.

If you are in Lisbon, Adegga.com is sponsoring a tasting jointly with the bloggers from Desafios da Adega.  You can learn more and sign up through Adegga’s #PortDay Tasting in Lisbon page, or through Desafio #PortDay.

Which Graham’s Port will you be enjoying on the 27th?  We look forward to hearing from you, either here or on the Graham’s Facebook Page.

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Graham’s at Hugos Restaurant

A team of top chefs prepared truffle-based dishes for the guests at Hugos Restaurant to enjoy with Graham's Ports

Dominic Symington has recently returned from Berlin where Graham’s was invited to take part in a Truffle Party at the Michelin-starred Hugos Restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel Berlin.  The event was organised by Thomas Kammeier, Chef at Hugos, who together with many guest chefs, including Joachim Koerper of the Michelin-starred Restaurant Eleven in Lisbon and Johannes King of the  two-Michelin-starred Restaurant at the Sol’ring Hof Hotel on the German Island of Sylt, prepared a variety of small truffle-based creations which guests enjoyed in an informal walk-around buffet.

Dominic Symington was at Hugos Restaurant in Berlin to serve Graham's Vintage 2007 and 20 Year Old Tawny

Thomas himself invited us to join the party, and Dominic brought along 6 Litre bottles of Graham’s Vintage 2007 and Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny for guests to enjoy with the truffle dishes.  Both were a great success and we ran out of wine before the end of the night.  Dominic said “It was a huge, fun evening.  I left at midnight and the party was still in full swing!”

During the event an auction was held to raise money for an African children’s charity which is supported by a group of top German chefs.  Thomas so enjoyed his own visit to the Douro last year, he asked if he could auction a 2 day visit to Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos.  As a result of the ensuing very highly contested auction two couples will join Thomas Kammeier and Johannes King (who, together with his restaurant team, visited Dominic at Malvedos just last week) on a Port lover’s dream trip to Graham’s during the harvest in September.  The Quinta dos Malvedos trip alone raised € 22,000 for the charity out of a total of € 60,000 raised on the night.

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Wishing for Rainfall

Late afternoon sun on a cloudless January afternoon beautifully highlights the stairways built into the  dry schist walls of the old vineyards at Graham’s  Quinta do Tua.  But we would rather see a few good rainy days, and soon.

Paul Symington has just received the rainfall records for all of 2011, and writes:

We have had only 426 mm rainfall at Quinta dos Malvedos in all of 2011.  Only 1998 and 2005 were drier in the last 15 years.  What saved and in fact made the 2011 Vintage was a very wet October, November and December 2010 (341 mm in three months) and then perfectly timed rain on the 21st August and again on the 1st to 2nd September, followed by perfect weather throughout the harvest at Malvedos.

But since then it has remained very dry at Malvedos, with each winter month so far well below average.  We need rain now.

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Vineyard Works at Quinta do Tua

Graham’s maintains a steady programme of investment for the future, and the work of maintaining our vineyards is perhaps the most visible and continuous example.

Quinta do Tua October 2010
Quinta do Tua January 2012

Alexandre Mariz, Graham’s viticulturist, regularly visits both Quinta do Tua and Quinta dos Malvedos to work with our caseiro Arlindo who oversees the day to day work in both properties.  Recently Alexandre toured the vineyards at Quinta do Tua to check on ongoing works on the new plantation, the drainage scheme and roadways, as well as the progress on other preparations for the new viticultural season.

In 2011 we took the decision to re-plant 5 hectares of vineyard at Quinta do Tua.  The old plants and trellis system were removed last spring, and in August we began the work of carving the new patamares, or terraces, from 5 hectares of vineyard overlooking the Douro and the village of Tua.  The landscaping work continued throughout the autumn and early winter, and is now complete.

As you can see from the photos particularly in the middle distance, where before we had very high terraces planted with a double row of vines, we have now created more, shorter terraces which we will plant this spring with a single row of vines.  This arrangement will make it easier and safer for tractors to work within the vineyards throughout the year.

System of capture points at the end of each terrace and pipes to channel excess rain efficiently
Drainage channel cut along the roadway to handle excess rainfall

The new patamares have also been designed to manage drainage effectively.  Each terrace is not actually level, but is slightly angled back into the hillside, so that when it rains the water will naturally flow to the back of the terrace, where it can soak into the ground.  In addition, each terrace is gently arced so that if we have very heavy rains, excess water that cannot soak in will naturally run off along the back of the terrace to the terrace ends, where it will fall into a system of ditches and pipes along the roadways and ultimately be channeled out of the vineyard to the river.

This type of channeled drainage system is being created, or in some cases repaired, throughout the quinta.  Alexandre took a walk following the line of newly installed drains from the heart of the vineyards down to the limit of the property to double check the works.  He was very satisfied with the work so far and was able to focus on next steps in his conversation with Arlindo.

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Graham’s Lodge Now Recruiting

Graham's Lodge Team: Emiliano, Bruno, Carolina, Raul, Rosalina, Serafim, Luis

With the start of the new year it is time for Graham’s Lodge to hire additional staff for the 2012 tourist season.  Would you like to join us?

The blogger asked members of the current Lodge team what they think is most important for applicants to bring to the job.  Raul, who has been with Graham’s for 5 years, promptly replied “A passion for wine and for people.”  Watching and listening to him lead tours or serve wine, he certainly has both!  Rosalina, who has been at the Lodge for 15 years said Teamwork was very important, then added “You have to like, no, you have to love working with the public.”  Emiliano, who has been with us since last March, also emphasised the need to be customer driven and a great communicator to be an ambassador for Graham’s.

If you have that passion for customer service and love to work with people, but worry you don’t know very much about Port… don’t worry.  When you are hired, you will receive training and experience far beyond what many specialist wine courses offer.  Last March the blog reported on the induction training in a series of articles – start by reading about the 2011 Lodge Team and follow them through every session of the week.

You may also want to look at the Graham’s Lodge website, which includes a map and directions if you would like to visit us to drop off your CV.

Can you captivate Graham's visitors as Emiliano (right) is clearly doing?

Please read the job description below and either stop by the Lodge with your CV or respond directly to the email below – using the usual symbols for the address (they are spelled out here to avoid spam).  Please do not use the blog comments fields to indicate your interest or the blogadmin email address, as it will only slow down your inquiry – contact the Lodge directly with your questions and your CV.  Good luck!

Procuramos Guia para o Centro de visitas da Graham’s

O Centro de Visitas da Graham’s é uma óptima oportunidade para se ficar a conhecer mais sobre os Vinhos do Porto Graham’s e também sobre o Vinho do Porto em geral. Todos os candidatos seleccionados têm formação específica em Gaia e no Douro com membros seniores da equipa comercial e de vitivinicultura da Grahams e sairão da empresa com uma formação superior sobre Vinho do Porto. Será nas caves Graham’s, construídas em 1890 com o objectivo de armazenar os vinhos da empresa e deixá-los a maturar nas melhores condições possíveis que cada candidato irá desenvolver as suas capacidades comerciais e de interacção com os cerca de 60.000 visitantes de várias nacionalidades que nos visitam anualmente. A função do Guia é receber estes visitantes, explicando a história da Graham’s, da família Symington e do vinho do porto e dando a provar os vinhos e acompanhando os turistas na compra de vinhos.

Procuramos jovens do sexo femenino ou masculino com as seguintes características:

  • Fluência em pelo menos 3 línguas
  • Forte espírito de Equipa
  • Discurso coerente e fluído
  • Dinamismo e capacidade de cativar
  • Capacidade de Aprendizagem
  • Licenciatura ou frequência universitária
  • Disponibilidade horária

As entrevistas vão decorrer durante o mês de Fevereiro para iniciar funções a partir do dia 12 de Março de 2012.

Se estiver interessado deve enviar o seu CV para grahams at grahamsportlodge dot com  (usa simbolos em vez de palavras) ou entregar na Rua Rei Ramiro nº 514, 4400-281 V.Nova de Gaia.

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Turn of the Year in the Douro

Paul Symington escapes to his own Quinta das Netas (in the Pinhão Valley) every chance he gets, and the New Year’s weekend was no exception.  From the photos he has passed along, taken on the 31st December, 2011 ended on a clear and sunny but decidedly frosty note, with the thermometer at freezing and a thin mist winding through the valleys.

Pruning has begun, as can be seen in the photos of the old vines and Touriga Francesa (planted before the name was officially changed to Touriga Franca!), but still work to go on his younger vines.  Paul is very hands-on in the management of his quinta, working with our viticulturist Miles Edlmann to plan the year round work and the harvest at Netas.

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New Year, New Header

Thank you to all our readers for your feedback and votes for the new header image for the Graham’s Port blog.  As you can see, the favourite – by quite a margin – was the tasting lineup at the Graham’s Lodge.  One of our readers put it very well in his comment on our original post:

…Every tasting is a moment of truth – when all the efforts of the dashing Douro and the Port people are gathered in a glass.

All of us at Graham’s are looking forward to the new year and some exciting developments we have planned, as well as the unfolding of the viticultural year in our Douro quintas.  We invite you to follow all the news here in the Blog and through Graham’s Facebook page and Twitter.

The Symington family and everyone at Graham’s and Symington Family Estates wish all of you the very best for a happy and prosperous 2012.

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