Archive for January, 2010

The hype:Six Grapes is one of Graham’s original Port marques. It is a big-hearted wine, sourced from the same vineyards (essentially Quinta dos Malvedos and Quinta das Lages) that contribute to Graham’s famed Vintage Ports in ‘declared’ years. As such, it closely resembles Graham’s Vintage Port style: full-bodied, with rich opulent black fruit on the palate and fragrant brambly aromas. We think of it as the ‘everyday Port for the Vintage Port drinker.’ Six Grapes is bottled relatively young (between 3 and 4 years) in order to retain the freshness and vigour comparable to a young Vintage Port.

The distinctive depiction of grape bunches on the bottle is taken from the identification symbols long used in the Graham’s lodge to identify the wines destined to make up the Six Grapes blend.

Six Grapes has won a remarkable 3 gold medals at the International Wine Challenge, most recently, in the 2006 edition of this, the world’s biggest and most prestigious wine competition.

The Symington Family are descended from Andrew James Symington and Beatrice Atkinson who were married in Oporto in 1891. Andrew James arrived as a young man from Scotland in 1882. Beatrice Atkinson was descended from John Atkinson who had lived in Oporto since 1814, and both her father and uncle were Port producers. On her mother’s side, Beatrice Atkinson was a direct descendent of the 17th century Port merchant, Walter Maynard, English Consul in Oporto in 1659. He is recorded in the official archives of the city of Oporto as shipping 39 Pipes of Port in 1652. This is the second oldest shipment of Port (by one year) ever made by a British merchant and pre-dates the foundation date of any British Port company.

Thus the Symington family’s ancestry in the Port trade spans a period of over 350 years, through 13 generations, from Walter Maynard to the present generation of Symingtons, who are owners and managers of Graham’s and the family’s other Port companies. With their roots long established in northern Portugal, the Symingtons have gained a wealth of experience as producers of Port and have shown the resilience to withstand the upheavals of history, from revolutions and world wars to difficult trading conditions which drove numerous families out of the Port business altogether. No other family involved in Port production today possesses such an unbroken lineage, stretching right back to the very beginnings of Port.

Currently five members of the Symington family (from the 13th generation in the Port trade) are actively involved in Graham’s day to day management, with the dedication and long-term commitment that are unique to a family-run business. From the vineyards through the winemaking, ageing and blending, a member of the family is directly responsible for every bottle of Graham’s Port produced. The family’s commitment to its wines is stronger than ever after 350 years, an unparalleled tradition in the Port trade.

Besides Quinta dos Malvedos, Grahams flagship vineyard, held by the company itself, the Symingtons are individually significant owners of vineyards in the Douro Valley. Each member of the family has vineyards that he or she owns privately and manages. The grapes from these vineyards are supplied to Graham’s. This extent of private family vineyard ownership is unique to the Symingtons in the Port trade. In none of the other principal Port companies do the partners or owners possess vineyards directly as is the case with the Symingtons. This reflects the family’s centuries-long dedication to the Douro and to its wines.

During the vintage, family members spend most of their time in the Douro Quintas, determining when to pick the grapes, supervising vinification, while at the same time often hosting visitors from all around the world. Members of the next generation of the family have already spent time during their school and university holidays working both in the Malvedos winery and in the lodge in Gaia.

The Symingtons’ unmatched experience acquired over the centuries affords a special understanding of the Upper Douro vineyards as well as an unrivalled expertise, which they apply to the production of consistently outstanding wines. W & J Graham & Co. is 100% owned by the Symingtons and along with the family’s other firms it is the only remaining Port producer of British origin in the hands of a single family.

The Symingtons are members of the exclusive Primum Familiae Vini, a grouping of eleven leading wine families in the world. Fellow members are Antinori, Joseph Drouhin, Egon Muller Scharzhof, Hugel, the Perrins of Beaucastel, Mouton Rothschild, Pol Roger, Sassicaia, Torres, and Vega Sicilia. The criteria for membership of this highly prestigious association is simple; all members have to be entirely family owned and they must have been for many years amongst the finest producers of their respective wine regions, with an outstanding international reputation. Very few can achieve these qualifications.

The review: Well to say that I am biased to Grahams is certainly an understatement; I love Graham’s entire stable of fine fortified wines, from the their while all the way through their rubies, LBV’s, select vintages and Colheitas.This bottle is beautiful, it just exudes the charm and personality that once has come to expect from high quality port like this.

Opening this bottle produces a heady aroma of plum and grape that is sweet, but not cloying. I enjoyed this in a large snifter to maximize the aroma and I was not disappointed; along with grape overtones, there are hints of melon, nutmeg and tobacco.

First sip has a markedly tannic backbone with acidic mouth-feel that enlivens the palate. This port is 20% ABV so it has enough bite without being overpowering. Savoring each sip allows more flavors to be unmasked; plum, slight citrus and a hint of aniseed in the aftertaste.

I particularly enjoy the lingering aftertaste of this port, since it doesn’t taste musty, it is uniformly pleasant. Licking one’s lips while imbibing further enhances the experience, since cherry flavor seems to linger on the lips and rim of the glass. My only critique of this fine port is that the bottles are never quite big enough. Kudos to the Symingtons!

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