Spotlight on… Graham's Port
W & J Graham's are one of the most well-known and revered producers of Port wine. The house style is one built to last, characterised by a remarkable richness, with an unctuous depth of concentration and tight, yet plump, tannins, which evolves and develops over the years (and decades). At their best Graham’s Vintage Ports are opulent, regal and complex. When young they are purple-black with expressive floral aromas as well as eucalyptus and mint fragrance. On the palate, Graham's Vintage Ports are seductive and hedonistic displaying an array of black fruit and liquorice, underscored by polished, weighty tannins coated in focused, lithe fruit.
Graham's was established in 1820 by brothers William and John. Hailing from Scotland the brothers already ran a successful firm in Porto trading in textiles. The firm was so prosperous that the brothers were considered ‘amongst the merchant Princes of Great Britain’. No surprise then, that their decision to enter the Port trade, which began when they accepted a payment of twenty-seven bottles of Port in settlement of a debt, has proved to be a triumph. Their mission, to set about producing Port of the highest possible quality, still holds good today and has ensured the firm an impeccable reputation amongst Port aficionados.
It was this rigorous approach to quality that led to the firm acquiring the Quinta dos Malvedos vineyards and farmhouse in 1890. Previously, the accepted practice in the Douro was to source grapes from Quintas that were independently owned by local farmers. The Graham's brothers had used their knowledge of the area and of the local grape-growers to source the best fruit, however by 1890 the large Port houses were starting to buy their own farms. Graham's were one of the very first Port houses to pioneer this approach, which allowed the firm to monitor much closer the transition of the grape from the vine to the Quinta where the wine-making process would begin. To this day the second wine of Graham's is named after the Quinta ‘Los Malvedos’ and punches above it’s often very reasonable price tag.
In the same year they acquired Quinta dos Malvedos Graham’s also began construction of their Port Lodge, Vila Nova de Gaia, situated on a hill overlooking Porto a short-distance from the Duoro River. The temperate maritime climate where Porto sits near the estuary of the river is perfect for ageing port and the proximity to the sea allowed for easy access to trade routes back to England. In the early 20th century Port was still shipped from the Upper Douro to the Vila Nova Gaia in containers known as ‘Pipes’ (approximately 720 bottles) on boats called barcos rabelos. It was a difficult, dangerous journey, due to the many rapids that are a feature of the Douro, and the name ‘Malvedos’ is a reference to this, the literal translation meaning ‘the hard ways’.
The investment in quality control was rewarded almost immediately with a series of legendary port vintages over the next two decades and the 1908, 1912, 1924 and 1927 are regarded as some of the finest Vintages ever produced, the best examples will still provide an unforgettable drinking experience to this day.
Which are the best vintages of Graham’s Vintage Port?
1908, 1912, 1924, 1927, 1935, 1945,
1948, 1955, 1963, 1966, 1970, 1977,
1994, 1997, 2000, 2007, 2011.