The Five Components of Graham’s Vintage Port

If you were to ask Charles Symington, Graham’s Head Winemaker, what makes Vintage Port special amongst the fine wines of the world he would tell you that it is the harmony created by the combination of wines from different vineyards. There is no other fine wine in the world that uses the grapes from multiple properties, each with different characteristics, to make their greatest wine.

Graham’s wines are all made from grapes taken exclusively from five mountain vineyard estates spread across the Douro Valley. Each one has a unique aspect, soil composition and microclimate. The five properties are Quinta dos Malvedos and Quinta do Tua (both in the heart of the Douro Valley on the north bank), Quinta das Lages (in the famous Rio Torto Valley), Quinta do Vale de Malhadas (high up the Valley in the Douro Superior) and Quinta da Vila Velha (on the south bank of the River). Charles talks eloquently about the different characteristics that each one of these Quintas (vineyard estates) brings to Graham’s Vintage Port.

The wines from Quinta das Lages are lighter, more ethereal, with floral, slightly resinous aromas: they are important for the elegance they bring to the wine, rather than their structure. The Rio Torto Valley is one of the greatest sub-regions of the Douro, famous for producing some of the finest Vintage Ports in history. Lages is the only one of the five Quintas not owned by either Graham’s or a member of the Symington Family. But since 1927 Graham’s has had very close relationships with this property, buying all its production and personally farming it.

Quinta da Vila Velha is predominantly north facing. It brings finely balanced acidity to Graham’s Vintage Port. And in particularly hot years the higher altitude and the cooler north facing vineyards can be a distinct advantage.

Quinta do Vale de Malhadas has only 400mm of rainfall a year: two-thirds of what falls at Malvedos. The property is also north facing: an advantage here because it keeps the vines cooler, not being exposed to direct sunlight in the middle of the day. Establishing vineyards here is the viticultural limit. But the wines are worth it. Typically, Malhadas wines have chocolate, blackberries and very ripe, smooth tannins. Charles notes that climate change will have a profound impact on vineyards such as Malhadas, which is already right at the extremes of survivability.

The wines from Quinta do Tua have powerful aromas, concentration and length. They are not as elegant as others, being noticeably more rustic in style. But they contribute good body and structure. This is a result of the high proportion of old vines on the estate, which have tiny yields, between 300g and 500g per vine.

Finally, there is Quinta dos Malvedos, Graham’s original Quinta since 1890, in one of the best locations in the Douro Valley. The Malvedos wines are usually the main component in Graham’s Vintage Port and are perfectly balanced and refined in their own right. Malvedos adds profound aromas of Esteva, or gum cistus flower, redolent with mint and eucalyptus. It also has powerful but ripe and velvety tannins and a great complexity of black fruits.

The process of making Vintage Port is a fine-tuned art. Charles selects specific parcels of vines from each of these properties to create a perfect harmony and balance. The proof is in the tasting. Graham’s Vintage Port is more than the sum of its parts. If you’ve tasted any, we think you’ll agree.

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Mike Colameco Visits Vinum Restaurant on His Food Tour of Portugal

Sitting in the Vintage Room at Graham’s Lodge earlier this week, Mike Colameco, American celebrity chef, tasted Graham’s 20 Years Old Tawny Port and groaned with delight. “My mind just started racing with ideas for food pairings,” he said afterwards. He listed a series of exquisite dishes that he thought would pair well with this port, including lentil-based dishes, succulent meats and other savoury dishes. This was a real revelation. The joy of the world of food and wine is that the possibilities are endless and always changing.

Mike Colameco, is host of ‘Mike Colameco’s Real Food’ and ‘Weekend Food Talk’, which air on TV and radio across America. He visited Vinum Restaurant this week as part of his tour of Portugal in order to cook with Head Chef Celme as part of a new series of programmes he is filming.

His trip is in partnership with Wines of Portugal (Vini Portugal), who have ensured that Mike is introduced to the top food and wine spots across the country. His next engagement was to catch a boat to take him up the Douro Valley but not before he had got in the kitchen with the award winning Vinum team.

Celme introduced Mike to some typical Portuguese dishes and house specialities. He expressed his admiration for the Vinum kitchen, murmuring on one occasion, “I wish I had a kitchen like this.” On the menu were ‘Alheira’ (Portuguese smoked sausage) with roasted peppers, Bacalhau (Cod) steaks in kale soup, and Vinum’s signature prime rib-eye steak grilled on the open fire.

Mike’s dynamism was infectious. He enthused about the supreme quality of the cod and the beef, massaging it and exclaiming, “just look at that marbling.” He spoke very highly of all the ingredients in the kitchen as he was introduced to the delights of Portuguese cuisine.

After his work in the kitchen he settled back with Rupert Symington on the terrace at Vinum with a glass of Graham’s Six Grapes and some dark chocolate truffles. This popular pairing was, he said, perfect – and we would happen to agree. It is also exciting to hear though that one of America’s top chefs sees the opportunity for an innovative and exotic future for Port and food pairing. Our mouths are watering with anticipation.

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