Revisiting an old love – Graham’s Port

big_15_15.jpgOh how I love Grahams. It has been the port house I’ve always had a massive soft spot for, and have (probably) tasted more of than any other port house. I hunted for nearly a decade to find a bottle of 1948 vintage, to complete my collection of every vintage since the Second World War, and (one day) I will do a tasting.

But while I have tried their vintage ports many times, I realised that I’d not tried the core products in Graham’s range for a good number of years and I was fortunate to be given the opportunity recently.

So first up, the 2011 LBV. Now this is a wine I’ve never particularly cared about. Not because I ever thought it was a bad wine, just because it was everywhere and, like its rival Taylor’s, I view it more of a single harvest ruby than a proper traditional style LBV. You can’t go into a supermarket at Christmas without Graham’s LBV being on some sort of promotion on it. My fondest memory of this wine was the fact that my friend Richard made a fabulous gravy out of it for roast Roe Deer, reducing three bottles of it into the most glorious syrupy sauce.

So what was it like?  It was bright and juicy, savoury cigar elements coming through on the nose, with some sweet menthol and cloves and a hint of smoke. The soft, fruit forward, approachable palate is very tasty, nicely balanced with some spice on the mid palate and a jammy flavor on the earthy finish. A nice port you wouldn’t object to being given a glass of, but only buy it when the price is hacked down at Christmas (84pts)

Next along was the Six Grapes Reserve Port. This is Graham’s oldest marque, a blend of wines from five different Quintas – Malvedos, Tua, Lages, Vila Velha and Vale de Malhadas. Situated above the LBV in quality, it is billed as ‘the everyday port for the vintage port drinker’ – ironically, the whole purpose of the LBV classification! It is a really classy wine, cherry liqueur aromas coming off, smoke punching through, but shrouded in a silky chocolate aroma. The palate is balanced, with fresh berries, more chocolate, thyme and cherry stone flavours emerging. Very silky tannins and a lovely, long finish. (88pts)

Moving on, I tried the Crusted Port, bottled in 2011. Crusted ports are a blend of various vintages, blended, bottled and then do the majority of their maturation in bottle. Until recently, the bottling date was over a decade old, but this wine with only five years of maturing was a bit young. It was very fruity, loads of raspberries and sweet cherries, and then a candied peel aroma coming off. The palate had loads of chocolate, but the alcohol and firm tannins dominate a bit. It is a good wine, but so so so young and not ready yet. It needs a good half decade to get into its stride, so currently it scores low, but it will improve. (84pts)

Something that isn’t too young, in fact, something that is slap bang ready to go is the Quinta dos Malvedos 2004 Vintage Port. A delicious sweet, jammy aroma with warm compote coming off. The palate is sweet and spicy, plums, cocoa nibs, black olives, blueberries, prunes and an earthy note on the finish. Superb, very well balanced and good value. (92pts).

The final red port was the Vintage 2011. Now this was a big beast, meaty and jammy with lots of gutsy, burnt beef, Bovril, leather and jam coming off. There is stewed brambles on the palate, tar, leather, liquorice… it was really just a big, powerful bruiser that will mature into a super wine. The only problem is, I’m going to be eighty when its ready.

Now I’ve never tried a tawny from Graham’s before, and although I knew they existed, I have always opted for producers that are tawny specialists. Not a mistake I’m going to make again, the 10 year old Tawny Port is fabulous. A very savoury aroma, polished wood, cinnamon, clove and some dried orange peel followed by a a palate of dark dried fruit, spice and wood. Wonderful acidity, balance and, if I’m honest, a bit more mature than a 10 year old is normally. Not that that’s a bad thing, the exact opposite in fact.

Now I’ve reacquainted myself with the core Graham’s range, does this producer still hold a soft spot in my heart? Of course it does. Their LBV may be a bit on the generic, if decently made, but when you look at wines like their Malvedos, the Crusted (with another half decade ageing) and the lovely Tawny it reminds me of the reasons I fell in love in the first place.

Graham’s Crusted Port, bottled 2011

Wow – very fruity – loads of raspberries and sweet cherry. A little bit of sweet candied peel coming off. The palate is really unctuous, a little bit of chocolate and then some firmer tannin coming. This will need more time to hit its stride.  Alcohol is at the fore and then some darker liquorice flavours come out. Just far too young. 84pts (with potential) (Dec 2016)

Graham’s Quinta do Malvedos Vintage Port, 2004

A lovely rich sweet jammy aroma with some lovely bright warm compote coming out.  A delicious sweet and spicy nose, plums and cocoa nibs. There is a black olive palate – tapenade and then some dark berries, some lovely earthy notes and a good, tobacco and twig flavour. Really lovely, really well balanced and really delicious. 92pts. (Dec 2012)