Crafting one of life’s great traditions - In its continued pursuit of excellence, Graham’s combines the best of tradition with innovation. Cutting-edge methods of viticulture and vinification are continually being developed by the Graham’s team, improving the quality of the wines and the sustainable, minimal interventionist management of the vineyards.

    VITICULTURE: The Symington family is firmly committed to innovation, and over the last decade Graham’s has conducted substantial viticultural research to optimise fruit quality, minimise intervention in the vineyards and reduce erosion (a perennial concern in these mountain vineyards).

    Graham’s has also, over the last few decades, been investigating a plethora of other factors, amongst them the relationship between grape varieties and rootstocks; the effects of pruning; clonal evaluation; organic winemaking; and minimal interventionist agriculture.

    Graham’s has seven hectares of organic vineyard at Quinta das Lages, in which only natural weed control and soil management techniques are used. Over the next few years, another vineyard plot at Quinta dos Malvedos will also achieve organic certification.

    VINIFICATION: Graham’s continues to make some of its Ports by traditional treading in stone lagares (shallow treading tanks). But with manpower becoming an increasingly scarce resource in the Douro, the winemaking team has pioneered a groundbreaking method for treading the grapes. At Quinta dos Malvedos the world’s first modern lagares operate alongside the traditional ones.

    The wines produced over the last few years using this innovative process have performed at least as well as, and often better than, traditionally-made wines in the most prestigious international tasting competitions. These modern lagares have thus proved a landmark in winemaking in the Douro valley and have advanced Graham’s mission of making wines of the highest possible quality.



      For generations Graham’s has been selecting young wines that show exceptional quality for setting aside for ageing in the cellars. The Master Blender works with wines put into barrels by his ancestors, some of which have been ageing in the Graham’s Lodge for over a century, while simultaneously selecting wines for future generations.

      During harvest, lotes (parcels) of wine are made from the grapes picked each day. After a period of maturation in the Douro, these lotes are sent to Graham’s Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, located close to the Atlantic Ocean, where they age slowly in the temperate maritime climate.

      Few, if any, Port companies have the breadth and depth of Ports in their cellars that Graham’s does. Many decades of work and investment have created a stock of over 3,500 pipes of maturing wines in seasoned oak casks (each pipe is approximately 550 litres). This wide selection of maturing wines is crucial for the creation of the highest quality Ports.

      Following the harvest and over the course of the following years, the Master Blender personally tastes and evaluates each lote. He then begins to make trial blends and sketch out plans for each individual barrel. There is no chemical analysis or recipe that can determine the future of the lotes, only the combined skill and instinct of an experienced winemaker and taster. This is a position of enormous responsibility.




        Graham’s is the only Port company that still employs its own team of coopers. As they pass through the lodge each day they give each barrel a light touch with a wooden hammer. Their ears are finely tuned to pick up the sound of a cask that has developed even the smallest leak, which is not an infrequent occurrence: the vast majority of barrels being between 75 and 100 years old.

        Graham’s team of seven coopers is led by Master Cooper Sr. Emílio Oliveira who has over 50 years of experience working in the Symington family’s cooperage. It is the responsibility of his team to maintain and repair every cask throughout the lodge. Their expertise in the art of cooperage is fundamental to the production of the best Aged Tawny Ports.

        When restoring a cask each stave is numbered so that the cask can be re-assembled in the original order. No nails are used: only the exterior metal hoops keep the cask together. Once repaired, the seasoned cask is returned to the lodge to hold the next lote of Ageing Tawny Port.



          All of Graham’s wines are aged beneath the riga pine beams of the earth-floored Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, which has stored Graham’s wines since it was built in 1890. Located at the estuary of the Douro River and cooled by the influence of the Atlantic Ocean Graham’s 1890 Lodge is crucial to the slow and balanced evolution of Graham’s wines.

          The character of any glass of Port is in large part determined by the way in which it has been aged. Port styles can be divided between those aged in bottle and those aged in wood, whether small oak casks or large vats. Port is always aged in seasoned casks, unlike dry wine, which uses new wood.

          Vintage Ports spend only about 18 months in wooden vats before they are bottled. Once bottled, they have no further contact with air and therefore there is only slow change in the colour of the wine: the structure, complexity and character of the wine changes slowly with time.

          In contrast, Tawny Ports are aged in contact with oxygen, which permeates the oak of the barrels. The colour thus changes, from the original deep purple-red of the young wine to lovely tawny shades. Depending on the length of time spent in barrel, Aged Tawny Port ranges in colour from the cedar-red of a 10 Years Old, to the deeper amber of the 40 Years Old.

          The Master Blender and Cellar Master must begin to craft blends up to 50 years into the future and lay down wines for subsequent generations to use. Every month, a sample is drawn off from eachloteof wine and tasted, to assess its natural evolution and to interpret its future.



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