Over the years I’ve enjoyed cracking Grahams ports so it was interesting to attend a small tasting to discover see the new style of their aged tawny ports – style of wine as well as the new classy packaging.A small group of us gathered at the smart O’Connell Street Bistro in the centre of Auckland to meet Jorge Nunes, Graham’s Asia Pacific Representative, who presented the tawnies as well as a couple of older ports, one of them very rare and precious.
William and John Graham founded their firm in Porto in northwest Portugal to trade in textiles. In 1820 they accepted twenty-seven barrels of Port as payment of a debt. The two brothers decided then to devote their energies to making the best Port wines from the Douro Valley: and so the Graham’s Port house was born.
In 1970, nearly a hundred years after their ancestor AJ Symington left Graham’s to set up on his own as a Port producer, the important Symington family bought Graham’s.
Jorge told us that the usual production of a port house is 80% standard and 20% premium product, whereas it is the other way round at Graham’s: 83% Premium and 17% standard.
He introduced the new style of Aged Tawnies, a development made by Charles Symington when he took over from his father, Peter, who retired as MD in 2009. Aware that there was a good stock of fine old port (Graham’s have 17,000 barrels in their cellars!) the packaging was dramatically upgraded: heavier clear glass bottle packaged in smart cardboard tube – not dissimilar from Balvenie Malt Whisky presentation…
The port therein maintains the Graham’s richer style though with higher acidity adding an appealing freshness to the wine.
Graham’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port
Toasted red fruits, coffee and nuts. Sweet but with a bright acidity. A mellow palate shows rich fruit flavours, figs and honey completed by a long finish. Direct.
Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port
Pale tawny, nutty, hazelnut and spicy red fruit. Sweet, good acidity, great swoops of delicious fruit, mellow touch of orange peel all with spicy yeasty sourdough notes. Long finish.
Graham’s 40 Year Old Tawny Port
Ochre tawny, demerara, savoury, dark red fruits, sweet but again balanced with good acidity still. Spicy with dusky herb notes – Christmas dried moscatel grapes… Great finish.
To show the versatility of these cracking Grahams Ports the chef produced three delicious little desserts which went so well with the wines.
We then had a change of focus, moving on to a Colheita Single Harvest 1969.
Recognising the 1969 wine as truly outstanding, Charles Symington, Head of Winemaking at Graham’s, selected it for a limited release.
Graham’s 1969 Single Harvest is a special bottling of only six casks from the 1969 harvest, each cask producing just 712 numbered bottles. Charles tasted each of the 21 casks of 1969 Port still maturing in Graham’s lodge and selected the six he deemed exceptional.
Graham’s Colheita Single Harvest 1969 Tawny Port
Pale bronze, toffee caramel with vanilla, dark stewed red fruits, sweet, concentrated rich fruits, crystallized citrus peel, allspice… Still fresh and full of life.
The event culminated in a very special treat – the merest sip of a wine from 1882!
The Symington family has released 656 bottles of a Port that dates back to the arrival of their great-grandfather Andrew James Symington in Portugal in 1882.
The family have named this wine ‘Ne Oublie’ after the original Graham’s family motto and for the company where Andrew Symington started his life’s work. The name reflects the respect with which the family regard their great-grandparents’ joint decision to commit themselves and their descendants to Portugal, to the Douro and to Port.
Now 130 years later his direct descendants have bottled one of the remaining three barrels. The other two barrels have been entrusted to the next generation of the family and it is they who will decide their future, in 2025 at the earliest.
We were provided with our drop from this elegant 10cl sample bottle.
And how did it taste? Very special – a taste of history!
Pale tawny, a very expressive bouquet of spice, caramel and honey as well as cooked strawberries and cinnamon. Sweet but with bright acidity. Spirity notes rich spicy deliciously complex with a long soaring finish, all still amazingly fresh.
Graham’s have made a charming little film
about the timeless ethos of Ne Oublie which does give you a sense of place, the family and the wine.
This was a very special tasting with every wine a treat. It is encouraging to see how port is regaining its rightful place in the pantheon of great wines.
Our hosts Jorge Nunes, left, and Andy Reid of NZ agent, Eurovintage
Port Wine Geek