This Time It Wasn’t About the Port

Georg Riedel

A most unusual Port tasting was held at the Factory House in Porto last Friday:  although the five vintage ports on show were wonderful, the 18 port winemakers and critics present were asked not to judge the quality of the wines, but to judge which of 20 different wine glasses best delivered the aromas and flavours of Vintage Port.

Georg Riedel, 10th generation to head up the famous glassmaking company, and Johnny Symington, co-Managing Director of Symington Family Estates which, through their subsidiary Portfolio Vinhos Lda, distributes Riedel glassware in Portugal, hosted this extraordinary event.

The Riedel company, based in Austria, is renowned as the first glassmaker to propose specific shapes as well as sizes of glass to enhance the experience of tasting individual wines.  Friday’s event was an example of their ongoing research and partnership with the wine trade to determine the optimum glasses for specific wines, in this case Vintage Port.

On Friday, the panel members arrived to find the table of the second dining room at the Factory House laid with place settings of 16 glasses in a wide range of shapes and sizes.  Georg introduced the event, explaining how the shape of the glass can act as a loudspeaker for the wine, enhancing the intensity of the aromas and even influencing the drinker’s perception of the alcohol level, sweetness or dryness and mouth feel of the wine.  He then laid out the rules and format of the event as follow:

  • Round 1 they tasted from 16 glasses, and would be asked to eliminate 8;
  • Round 2 they had to eliminate 4 of those 8;
  • Round 3 the wine would be served in the remaining 4 Riedel glasses and also 4 glasses made by competitors; participants were to eliminate 4 out of the 8;
  • Round 4 eliminate 2 of the remaining 4;
  • Round 5 decide which one glass best presented Vintage Port to the drinker.

One Vintage Port was served for each round.  There was absolute pin-drop silence in that room as the participants concentrated, sniffing and tasting from each glass, sometimes taking two glasses aside to focus more closely.  The first flight was concluded surprisingly rapidly, subsequent rounds took a little more time.  But for the first three rounds the scoring was very clear, often unanimous or nearly so, whether to keep or eliminate a particular glass.

Of the four glasses that made it to Round 4, all were Riedel glasses: 3 of the competitors’ glasses were almost unanimously rejected, the fourth was closer, but still several votes short of being kept in competition.  Georg said he was excited to see that two of the remaining glasses were lead glass and two were not, though he did not identify which was which, and said no one but a glass specialist would spot the difference.  Leaded glass has a more porous surface, and he wondered if that might be an advantage in presenting Vintage Port to the drinker.

Of the two eliminated in Round 4, Glass Number 4 was the Ouverture White Wine glass, developed in 1989.  Georg commented that absent a specialised port glass, a white wine glass is a good choice for serving port.  In fact the glass is one of his favourites; for him this glass presented the Vintage Ports with less intensity but greater diversity of aromas, as well as a grainier texture, drier flavour and a wonderful mouth feel.  The other elimination was Number 12, the Vinum Port glass, which was designed in 1991 after a similar tasting event with winemakers.

In the end, it was a dead tie:  Glass Number 3 (left in the left photo) and Glass Number 11 (left in the right photo) each received 9 votes.  Georg was actually quite excited about the results:  Glass number 3 is the Sommelier Vintage Port glass which was developed in 1992 and is made of mouth-blown lead crystal, whilst Glass number 11 is the identical glass machine blown from non-lead glass.  The glasses used for the tasting had been made for the first time just 10 days previously.  He felt the results proved that in fact, a drinker’s impression of the wine is governed solely by the dimensions and shape of the glassware, and not by the lead content of the glass itself.

Both Johnny and Georg remarked that the tasting panel was comprised of top critics and the winemakers who, between them, represented 80 or 90% of the Vintage and premium Port production.  To have this group reach such a clear concensus confirms that yes, the shape of the glass really does affect the drinker’s perception and potential appreciation of the wine, and furthermore, that this particular shape is the one they feel will best present their Vintage Ports to consumers.

In case you were you wondering about the wines, the five Vintage Ports served were:

  1. Quinta do Vesuvio 2008
  2. Fonseca Porto Guimaraens 2001
  3. Graham’s 2000
  4. Vau Vintage 1999
  5. Graham’s 1980

In our next blog posting, Charles will give us his insights to how the wines were shown by the different glasses.

The Tasting Panel:

  1. Julie Barba, Riedel
  2. Luis Baila, RTP1
  3. Joaquim Augusto Cândido da Silva, Portfolio Vinhos Lda
  4. Charles Symington, winemaker, Symington Family Estates
  5. José Manuel Sousa Soares, winemaker, Gran Cruz
  6. Georg Riedel
  7. Eduardo Neto, Sommelier, Restaurante Pedro Lemos, Porto
  8. Ana Pereira, Ramos Pinto
  9. Pedro Sá, winemaker, Sogevinus
  10. Sergio Pereira, sommelier, Restaurante New Faces, V N de Gaia
  11. João Afonso, Revista de Vinhos
  12. José João Santos, Wine Magazine
  13. António Montenegro, Sogevinus
  14. Antonio Agrellos, winemaker, Quinta do Noval
  15. José Silva, presenter, Hora de Baco, RTPN
  16. Luis Sottomayor, winemaker, Sogrape
  17. David Guimaraens, winemaker, Taylor Fladgate Partnership
  18. Johnny Symington, co-managing director, Symington Family Estates

If you wish to try these glasses and do your own wineglass-testing tasting at home, three of the four final glasses mentioned above are available for retail purchase; only number 11 is so far only available to the trade.

Riedel’s website has full details about their range of glassware, a guide to help you select the right glass for your wine or spirit, and information about the firm and the family that has run it since the 17th century:

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Never Thought We’d See This

As Miles has observed before, whatever may be the feelings between the sales teams of the port houses, among the viticulteurs and wine makers there is a lot of respect and co-operation.

As witness today:  at a special tasting at the Factory House in Porto, it was David Guimaraens, winemaker for The Fladgate Partnership (makers of Taylor’s, Fonseca and Croft) who insisted the Graham’s 2000 Vintage Port be properly decanted when it was brought up from the cellar at the last minute for an additional un-planned tasting flight, and showed us all how:

Meanwhile, it appears Charles Symington, Graham’s own winemaker, was pouring himself a particularly generous serving – not a tasting sample, a serving – of the Fonseca Porto Guimaraens Vintage Port 2001.

More about this extraordinary tasting event in an upcoming blog … stay tuned!

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Hydro-Electric Dam on the River Tua

José Sócrates, Prime Minister of Portugal, at Quinta dos Malvedos to inaugurate the Tua dam project

Yesterday, 18th February, the Prime Minister of Portugal, José Sócrates, visited Tua to launch the construction of a hydro-electric dam on the river Tua.  Graham’s and the Symington family were asked if they would make their Quinta dos Malvedos available for a lunch after the ceremony.  Thus after various speeches by the dignitaries, more than 100 people sat down to lunch at Malvedos in various tents arranged in the garden.  This lunch included the Prime Minister, various Government Ministers, the Board of the EDP (Portugal’s power-generating public utility), the Presidents of all the local District Councils and many others.  Members of the Symington family were on hand to receive the visitors.  The Quinta has never seen so many people, even at the height of the vindima (harvest).

From the road bridge just below Quinta do Tua, looking up the river gorge, October 2010
Plan for the dam across the River Tua

The dam is a large project that will employ 1,000 people locally for 5 years, with a further 3,000 employed indirectly.  While the dam will produce clean energy for Portugal, it is a controversial project.  The dam will flood the lower part of the historic narrow-gauge railway that runs from Tua to Mirandela, although the railway has been out of commission for some years.  This project will change beyond recognition one of Portugal’s most beautiful rivers.  The spectacular gorges created over millennia by the river in its lower reaches, one of the Douro’s most wonderful sites, will be under water in 5 years, so this unique river will be replaced by a placid lake.  The latter will undoubtedly look lovely and is likely to attract visitors who will enjoy what it offers, but it will not be the Tua that we have known.

Those in favour of the dam argue of course that it will produce clean energy and that it will diminish significantly the huge foreign-exchange cost currently incurred by Portugal which has to import much of its energy needs. It is well known that Portugal has serious economic problems which impact directly on public services, so in this sense the project is good for the country.

The stone inaugurated by the Prime Minister to begin construction of the dam

The Mayors of all the various local districts are content as they have been able to negotiate an arrangement whereby some of the revenue generated by the dam will remain in the area to be used to fund local services.  This has never been done before and is a major concession by the central Government and the EDP.  There is also talk of creating a natural park that will stretch from the Tua all the way to the Sabor, far to the East of the Douro region.  The on-going de-population of the interior of Portugal and of the Douro is a fact, so if this project helps reverse this trend, then that will be a good thing.

By 4.30 pm the last of the guests had left and Branca and Prazeres began to put the Malvedos house back in order and Alexandre Mariz and Snr Arlindo, the viticultor and  caseiro, could get back to their normal tasks of caring for the Malvedos vineyards.

Paul Symington, 19th Feb 2011

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Repairing a Tonel

Tonel at Malvedos showing freshly planed staves from a repair early in 2010

Last summer we saw how a small port cask, or pipa, was repaired and re-built at Graham’s cooperage in Vila Nova de Gaia.  But how do we repair one of the giant toneis up in the Douro?

As it happens, one tonel at Malvedos was repaired last summer, but last week Dominic was visiting Quinta do Vesúvio, home of another Symington Port and Douro DOC wine brand, and finding the coopers in the middle of a repair job there, stopped to take these photos of the process for us.

One of the 14,000 litre toneis at Vesúvio was leaking a bit, so the wine was run off into another vat temporarily so the tonel could be repaired.  After careful examination the cooper decided to remove and repair a total of 14 staves.

As you can see in the first photo, the tonel was turned a bit on its cradle and the staves numbered before the hoops were removed and the staves taken out.  Most of the staves just needed a bit of cleaning up and planing, and were set back into place in numerical order.  Small pieces of board have been tacked on to hold them until the hoops are put on again.  The gap is where the replacement stave must be fitted in very carefully. As in the repair of the pipa in Gaia, dried reeds are wedged in between staves and also between the stave ends and the barrel head – you can see the tuft of reeds in the gap for the new stave.

The second photo shows how the end of each stave is notched to fit snugly around the edge of the barrel head.  Again you can see a few odd reed ends sticking out.

The cooper fitted all the old staves back into place, then worked on the replacement stave, planing it down by hand a millimetre at a time.  He was back and forth repeatedly planing a little, testing the fit into the tonel, planing a little more, to get it to fit just right.  You can see the sawdust that’s accumulated as they worked!

Wine in storage – whether in cask or bottle – will throw a perfectly natural and harmless deposit, mostly of tartaric acid crystals.  This deposit can build up in wooden casks, so every two or three years we try to catch all our casks at an empty moment and clean out this deposit.  If it is too thick, it can block the pores of the wood and prevent the micro-oxygenation – the passing through of minute quantities of oxygen – which helps age and give a softened, mellow character to the wine.  Micro-oxygenation works the other way too – the wine evaporates from the cask in what is known as “the angel’s share”, and we would not want to short change our good angels.  Here you can see someone inside the tonel scraping down the sides and shovelling out the deposit.

We actually keep a stockpile of cask parts from all kinds and sizes of casks to use for replacements.  We want Graham’s ports to benefit from the micro-oxygenation that wood allows, but we do not want the wood to influence the flavour of our ports, hence the consistent use of old casks and old wood to repair them.  Last summer whilst visiting Malvedos we tried to peek inside an old house at the top of the quinta; it was too dark versus the glare of sun outside to see anything, so we just stuck the camera in and took a picture.  Lo and behold – we discovered one such stockpile of old cask components, staves, heads, hoops, everything, neatly stored ready for re-use.  Recycling at its best.

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Found It?

Miles Edlmann, our research viticulturalist, was working up at Vila Velha today and caught this photo for us.  It would appear there is gold (the legendary Barão de Forrester money belt full of gold?) exactly half way between Vila Velha and Malvedos.  Not sure it could have drifted 15 km downriver from Valeira, but Miles is claiming salvage rights.

In our opinion, the rainbow couldn’t make up its mind and is splitting the difference between these two beautiful quintas which provide fabulous grapes for Graham’s ports.

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December 2010 Douro Insider

For fans of wintery weather, the last month of the year did not disappoint.  It started with much of Europe still in the grip of extremely cold conditions, as the unusually reversed conveyor (mentioned in the last report) started drawing in air from Siberia with predictable consequences.  There was plenty of snow and the usual closure of roads across many parts of the country.  Again, our relatively southerly position worked to our favour and, from a European perspective, we escaped lightly by comparison with other nations.  Elsewhere much of the continent was thrown into what can only be described as travel chaos, and all forms of transport were badly affected including (infamously) most of Britain’s major airports.  The deep frosts were even felt in Porto, with car doors and windows freezing shut overnight around this time.  Given the city’s position on the coast, its weather is influenced by the prevailing ocean currents which are primarily from the southwest and comparatively warm. It was therefore obviously something of a surprise to feel such cold.  Full Report

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The Bishop of Norwich

Does Graham’s know the Bishop of Norwich?  Rather unusually, yes, in fact we do… and he’s an extraordinarily nice man.  Why do you ask?

The Bishop of Norwich – The Tradition

Good manners and tradition dictate one should pass the port to the left, and it should make a full round back to the host and not be set down and forgotten mid-table, depriving others of their opportunity to enjoy the wine.  Trouble is, towards the end of a convivial evening not everyone remembers this golden rule as promptly as others might wish.

On the other hand, good manners also dictate that it’s a bit rude, not to say downright greedy, to call out, “Oi! Pass the port!!” or similar.

What does one tactfully do in such a quandary?

It seems that in the 19th century the then Bishop of Norwich was quite the bon vivant, and often forgetful of his obligation to keep the decanter moving around the table.  So much so, he became a by-word, and the gentle query, “Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?” became the customary polite reminder to the person who had stopped the port in its circulation.  If some puzzled person replied, “No… why do you ask?” they were advised “He is a lovely man, but he never passes the port!”  That was usually sufficient to get the bottle moving again.

The Bishop of Norwich – 21st Century

The Right Reverend Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, and Dominic Symington

A few months back, António Filipe, the Symington General Manager, received an email from a friend, and noticed The Bishop of Norwich was copied on the message.

Slightly disbelieving, António contacted his friend and asked, is this some kind of insider joke, a fellow port afficianado using this pseudonym for an email address?

No, in fact the man knew the real, ordained, presently-serving Bishop of the Diocese of Norwich personally, the Right Reverend Graham James.

Naturally, Graham’s promptly invited him to lunch at the Factory House in Porto, the home of the British Association, the 200-year-old league of English port shippers in Portugal.  Last week he was able to join us, and our fellow port shippers were astonished to be introduced to the Bishop of Norwich.

The current Bishop is, suitably, a great lover of Port and bon vivant.  Unlike his predecessor, he was very prompt to pass the port, the decanters stopping in front of him only for purposes of this photo, although Dominic did have to point out to him on one occasion that the decanter was in fact empty.  Guess he enjoyed the wine! It was a magnum of one of Graham’s sister brands, a 1977 Dow’s.

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Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Vertical

What do you do to cheer a cold, dark & frosty January evening in Denmark?  Taste 17 different vintages of Quinta dos Malvedos!

During the 2009 harvest, members of The Fyn (Denmark) Vintage Port Club visited Malvedos and were so impressed by the quinta and its wines, they conceived the idea of a major vertical tasting of just the single-quinta vintages.  Dominic Symington and Gustavo Devesas, of Graham’s sales team, joined 33 members of the club in Odense last week for this incredible event, which was organised by Henning Borup Jensen.

If you are familiar with wine tasting events, you know flights start with the lighter weight or more delicately flavoured and move to the more complex and full-bodied wines.  For this event, the tasting was broken into two flights with a pause in between.  The group of younger wines were tasted from oldest (those which you would expect to have begun to mature into dried fruit or secondary flavours) to youngest (those whose fresh or jammy fruit flavours would still be very robust).

First Flight – Younger wines … oldest to youngest.
1992 – 1995 – 1998
2001 – 2004 – 2006
2008 – 2009 (cask sample)

For the second flight of older wines, they tasted from youngest to oldest, anticipating greater concentration and power in older vintages.

2nd. Half – Second Flight – Mature, Older wines … youngest to oldest.
1987 – 1984 – 1982
1979 – 1976 – 1968
1965 – 1962 – 1958

Dominic shared his tasting notes:

As you will see from the scores below, 1958 was the run-away favourite of the night!  I don’t remember the last time I tasted this wine and it was a total revelation.  The 1958 was extraordinary, virtually water clear with a pale pink tinge in the center of the wine but with a fantastic complex rich and deep floral nose and a huge rich full flavour on the palate.  Really delicious with all the pepper and spice of a full bodied vintage port, lovely mature flavours with almost a hint of that transition from vintage flavours to the caramel tones of an old tawny.

The 1965 was also delicious, much more full bodied and weighty than the ’58 and would clearly have been the star of the night but was outshone by the surprise star.  I know the ’65 reasonably well, it’s a superb wine, beautifully balanced with all the elegance of a fully mature old Vintage Port and more than confirms the fact that the single-quinta Malvedos is superb Vintage Port in its own right.

Gustavo also commented that the 1995 was showing very well, he personally rated it his third choice of the night after ’58 and ’65.  1995 is one of those years that is overshadowed by its illustrious predecessor, so the quality of this wine surprised and impressed everyone.

The evening was rounded off with an excellent dinner extremely generously offered by the Fyn (Denmark) Vintage Port Club at the Birk & Conrad event restaurant.  Chef Stefan and his team, superbly led by Sommelier Niki produced and served an absolutely delicious dinner, which was accompanied by two of SFE’s Douro DOC wines:  Pombal do Vesuvio & Quinta do Vesuvio, both 2008, which were extremely well received.

With the dessert course the group enjoyed Graham’s Vintage 1997 Port and also our 20 Year Old Tawny.  Gustavo said he is no fan of chocolate, but the chocolate cake – four layers of chocolate sponge, from white chocolate through three intensities of dark chocolate – was an amazing pairing with the 20 Year Old Tawny.  We all think of chocolate with ruby ports and vintages, but Gustavo said the nuttiness of the Tawny was enhanced, really set off, by that particular cake.  He admitted he ate every crumb.

Dominic sent along the club’s final scores:  They mark quite severely! The first set of points is the sum of individual preferences for the best wine of the night – 3 for best / 2 for middle / 1 for lowest.

Malvedos Vintage 1958 – 51 points (92 points)
Malvedos Vintage 1965 – 27 points (88 points)
Malvedos Vintage 1976 – 19 points (91 points)
Malvedos Vintage 1962 – 18 points (88 points)
Malvedos Vintage 1995 – 18 points (88 points)
Malvedos Vintage 2004 – 9 points (86 points)
Malvedos Vintage 1979 – 6 points (89 points)
Malvedos Vintage 1982 – 6 points (83 points)
Malvedos Vintage 1987 – 6 points (88 points)
Malvedos Vintage 1984 – 5 points (87 points)
Malvedos Vintage 1968 – 3 points (88 points)
Malvedos Vintage 1998 – 3 points (87 points)
Malvedos Vintage 2006 – 2 points (88 points)
Malvedos Vintage 2009 – 1 points (86 points)
Malvedos Vintage 1992 – 0 points (86 points)
Malvedos Vintage 2001 – 0 points (87 points)
Malvedos Vintage 2008 – 0 points (84 points)

If you read Danish, you may want to visit The Fyn (Denmark) Vintage Port Club website

However, no Danish needed to appreciate these photos of the evening including the dinner.

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A Winter’s Day in the Douro

Sr. Mariz, Sr. Arlindo and a young olive tree getting a thorough pruning

Many of you will remember Alexandre Mariz, the viticulturalist for Quinta dos Malvedos and Quinta do Tua: during the harvest he was a frequent visitor, tasting grapes up in the vineyards and then working with Henry in the winery to settle the picking order, and of course checking on the wines in lagares or toneis, to satisfy himself Henry was doing full justice to his grapes!

So, what does he do on a cold winter’s day, when there isn’t a grape in sight?

Pruning the Vines at Quinta do Tua

For starters, he’s up in the vineyards several days a week.  From November through February, the primary activity is pruning the vines, and Sr. Mariz works with the caseiro, Sr. Arlindo, to establish the order of work and exactly how the vines should be pruned.  As a general rule, we start at the top of the quinta and slowly work our way down over the course of the winter.  At Quinta do Tua we have several young plantations, and how the vines are pruned in the first few seasons determines their configuration, and by extension their health and productivity, for the next sixty years or more.

Before pruning

We have a small team of skilled workers who do the pruning.  To fully appreciate the judgement and skill required, you need to understand a little bit about the growth cycle of a grapevine, and the critical point is to know that this year’s grapes will be produced from last year’s fresh growth.  In other words, around March of 2010 the cane left from last winter’s pruning began putting forth shoots – the long sappy green vines.  Throughout the spring and summer each of these vines was growing and putting forth leaves.  In the angle where leaves sprouted off from the vine, small nodes were formed.  Those nodes, or buds, are the point where the vine, throughout 2010, produced and matured the matter which will form 2011’s shoots, flowers and grapes.

During pruning: cane laid down, tied into place and double checking

The people who do the pruning have to look at the remains of 2010’s vines – which after harvest shed their leaves and mature from sappy green shoots to woodier canes – and decide which cane looks healthy, has a good number and arrangement of undamaged nodes to produce 2011’s growth, and is well positioned to maintain a good shape for the overall vine.  This last is not just a matter of aesthetics – if the chosen cane is jutting out to the front or back, rather than within the lines of the trellis system, there is a chance it could be caught and mangled in machinery passing down the inter-row space.  If that happened, we could lose the crop from that vine for this year.  Crop yields are low enough – we average only a little over 1 kg of fruit per vine – we can’t afford to lose production due to badly selected or trained canes.

After pruning, cut canes hang in the trellis above, to be cleared away by another team

In a 3 year old plantation of Touriga Francesa, the pruner assessed the growth, and cut all canes except the one he judged best.  That one cane was then cut to length, turned and laid along the lower wire of the trellis system and bound into place with a soft rubber tie that will hold the cane securely without cutting into the wood, and the length of the cane was adjusted if necessary to fit the space along the wires to the next vine.

Following after the men who were pruning were a couple more people whose job was to cut out and remove from the trellises all the waste canes, leaving the trellis clean and clear and ready for 2011’s growth.  The debris was laid in the middle of the row, to be removed later.

Sr. Mariz and Sr. Arlindo walked through the Touriga Francesa vineyard, watching the team pruning and discussing how the work was going, then continued on through several other plantations not yet pruned, to assess the work needed there.  Sr. Arlindo stopped at some Souzão which was planted only one year ago, and showed me how even these tiny plants need careful pruning to ensure their growth and health this year.

Everything Else at Quinta do Tua

Sr. Mariz is concerned with every aspect of the vineyards he tends, so once he was satisfied with the vines, he turned his attention to some young olive trees that needed pruning, and he and Sr. Arlindo worked on a couple trees at Tua, to get them into the correct open-cup shape (see photo at start of article).

Assessing the drainage concerns at Tua

From there, we paused to pick and eat some tangerines that grow conveniently near some drainage works that needed inspecting, and then walked up and down the hill along a water course beside one of the vineyard roads.  Clearly, water had been running down as planned, but there came a point where the water was dropping over an uncultivated ledge, and there is concern that really heavy rains might erode this further than desirable, but work will be undertaken to prevent that.

Meanwhile, Over at Malvedos

From Tua we went to Quinta dos Malvedos, where I was surprised to see a half dozen cars and trucks clustered around the winery.  Two things were going on here.

Nuno (the Malvedos tractorista) manning the pipe while Joaquim and Alexandre discuss the wine movements.

Most importantly, the first wine was being drawn out of its tank and moved to Gaia that day.  Normally this process might begin in March, but the winter has been very cold:  we have had freezing temperatures off and on since mid November, and even snow in some areas in November and December.  The cold helps the wines “fall bright” very quickly, so this particular wine was being moved at the end of January.  Joaquim, who lives year round at Quinta do Tua and has responsibility for the wineries at both Tua and Malvedos, monitors the wines all winter and advises colleagues in Gaia when they are ready to be transferred.

Finally, there are some minor building works in hand, small improvements to the loos and storage sheds behind the winery, as well as work in the mechanical plant room, which houses the works for the hydraulics and temperature control systems for the robotic lagares.  There were people from Symington’s own physical plant department up from Gaia, architects, engineers, and representatives from the local planning board all convened to review the plans and progress so far, and Sr. Mariz checked in with them as well.

And one other little visitor was very interested in the works in the plant room.

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Port Masterclass and Meal at Da Vinci Restaurant

Peter van Houtert (Verbunt), Margo Reuten (Chef at Da Vinci), Pedro Leite (Graham's), and Petro Kools (Sommelier at Da Vinci)

Back in September, whilst many of us were up in the Douro working to bring in the 2010 harvest, Pedro Leite, of our sales team, was enjoying Graham’s tawnies and several vintage ports at a very special event in Maasbracht, Holland

Margo Reuten of Da Vinci restaurant has two Michelin stars and is very highly regarded in Holland.  Following a masterclass in Graham’s Port she presented a meal in which each dish not only complemented a chosen port, but also incorporated both the port and chocolate.  Our Dutch distributors, Verbunt Wijnkopers, organised the event and created this wonderful evocative video, which rather nicely captures the mood of the evening as people learned about and enjoyed the wines and the meal.

The courses were as follows:

  • Goose liver with duck confit in a port syrup, accompanied by brioche filled with Valrhona Alpaco 66% chocolate – Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port
  • Sweetbread mousse, fig and nut tart, served with sultana bread and Valrhona Jivara Lactée 40% jelly and sweetbread meatballs with a port jelly – Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos 1999 Vintage Port
  • Roasted Black Forest saddle of venison, with Valrhona Coeur de Guanaja 80% chocolate and cherries – Graham’s 1994 Vintage Port
  • Composition of cherries in different ways with Valrhona Manjari 64%
  • Coffee macaroons and coffee ice cream, gold and chocolate mousse with foam of Valrhona Caraibe 66%
Third course, served with Graham's 1994

What do you think of the menu?  Have you ever tried ports with savoury dishes such as these, rather than the usual dessert or cheese course?  We would love to have your comments below.

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