The Douro: a terroir like no other - The Douro is perhaps the most challenging wine-growing region on earth. Its mountainous terrain and steep, winding valleys create a kaleidoscope of microclimates, each producing unique wines. The result is great complexity and balance.

    Graham’s owns five mountainous vineyards, which are located in different parts of the best wine-growing areas of the Douro region. Each property has the maximum ‘A’ grade classification. Much of the original wild flora has been left deliberately undisturbed amongst the vines on these estates to preserve the indigenous biodiversity, which Graham’s believes contributes to making wines with a more unique and powerful expression of this terroir.

    As you leave Porto, heading east up the River Douro you pass through the Marão range, which rises to 1,400 metres from the coastal plains. On the other side of these mountains you enter a different climate. Protected from the influence of the Atlantic Ocean this region (known as Trás-os-Montes, or ‘Behind the Mountains’) becomes increasingly Mediterranean. The temperatures in the Douro valley fall below freezing in winter and consistently climb above 35°C in summer.

    These harsh conditions are in fact ideal for making wines of great power and concentration. Each year the vines face a struggle against the elements and competing vegetation. Most years they triumph, producing tight bunches of small, thick-skinned grapes, packed with flavour and ripened to perfection.

    The Douro is divided into three sub-regions, different in terms of their rainfall, soil composition and general topography. These are the Baixo Corgo, the Cima Corgo and the Douro Superior: the latter two being the most important for the production of the finest quality Ports. The Douro is also home to indigenous grape varieties, whose characteristic intensity and resilience make them integral to the production of Port. There are 116 varieties (49 white and 67 red) officially permitted by the Douro and Port Wine Institute (Instituto do Vinho do Porto e do Douro, IVDP), although in fact only a small proportion of these are widely cultivated.

    Much of the Douro is extremely inaccessible and vineyards have to be carved out of the steep mountainsides. For centuries, dry-stone walled-terraces have been constructed by hand: some of these mountain vineyards are so steep that each terraceholds just one row of vines. These ancient terraces remain a dramatic and beautiful feature of the Douro landscape and contributed to its designation as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.

      Quinta dos Malvedos

      As you approach Malvedos, either by road or river, the ancient Stone Terraces, known as Port Arthur, rise majestically above you like sentinels standing over the valley. This is the original Graham’s Quinta and is recognized as one of the finest estates in the Douro.

      The house at Malvedos is situated on a spectacular ridge surveying the river and the terraced vineyards that surround it. The entire property's 89.2 hectares of vineyards hold the maximum ‘A’ grade classification. Situated on the North bank of the Douro River, the vineyards are predominantly South-facing, which makes for rich and ripe wines.

      Touriga Franca is the principle grape variety planted at Malvedos. Its thick-skinned berries thrive in the hot, dry conditions of the Upper Douro Valley. A year when the Touriga Franca ripens perfectly is almost always a year when exceptional Vintage Ports are made.

      The iconic Touriga Nacional is the second most prevalent variety at Malvedos. This is a low-yielding variety, whose grapes are, as a result, small, dark-blue and intensely aromatic. The story of the Touriga Nacional grape variety is perhaps the greatest success story of the Douro Valley and it began largely in the neighbouring vineyards, Graham's own Quinta do Tua.

      The wines from Malvedos form the backbone of Graham’s renowned Vintage Ports, while in most interim years they are bottled as the Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port.


        Quinta das Lages

        Lages is located in the heart of the Rio Torto Valley, an area renowned for producing some of the finest Ports ever recorded.

        This valley is so named because of the steep, contorted course that the river runs. This is an independent property whose relationship with Graham’s goes back almost an hundred years, which has been directly managed by Graham’s viticulturists for the last few decades.

        Graham’s has been gradually replanting the old mixed vines on this 71 hectare property, which is predominantly North-facing, a distinct advantage in this hot, sheltered valley. Lages also has 3.7 hectares of organically certified vineyard, which produces Graham’s Natura Organic Reserve Port.

          Quinta do Vale de Malhadas

          Malhadas is a wild, remote and beautiful estate far up in the Douro Superior. A high mountain ridge surrounds the Quinta and the vineyards stretch down to the riverside, interspersed with olive and almond groves.

          Over 100 hectares of the original wild scrub on the estate has been preserved and designated as a conservation area by the Symington family.

          This vineyard was acquired in 1999 by three of the younger Symington partners, since then it has become a very significant source of high quality grapes for Graham’s Ports. Vale de Malhadas dates from the end of the 19th Century and boasts a fine old house, ancient lagares, and a fully equipped olive oil press.

          The entire 32 hectare vineyard has the maximum ‘A’ classification. A small proportion of the vines are mixed plantings over 50 years old; whilst the remainder is planted in varietal batches of the Douro’s classic grape varieties. This vineyard produces exceptionally powerful, rich and intense wines.

            Quinta da Vila Velha

            Vila Velha is another spectacular Quinta with ancient terraced vineyards, located just across and down river from Quinta dos Malvedos.

            Its predominantly westerly aspect gives it a later and cooler maturation cycle than Malvedos and its wines are therefore the perfect complement to the latter’s.

            This vineyard is owned privately by a member of the Symington family. The total area of this estate is 145 hectares, of which only 56 ha is under vine. Much of the estate has been left wild in order to preserve the indigenous flora and fauna. The vineyard is partly comprised of old, mixed plantings and there are also some small parcels of rarer, aromatic varieties such as Alicante Bouschet and Tinta Amarela, which have been very successful.

            The property also boasts a large, organically certified olive grove planted on the post-phylloxera terraces.



              Quinta do Tua

              Behind the 1834 estate house are the Quinta’s monumental stone terraces, which, at 1.5 metres wide, are the widest in the Douro Valley. On these impressive structures grow vines that are mostly over 60 years old. As a result the wines from Tua have concentrated and intense qualities, ideal for producing outstanding Vintage Port.

              The Tua house was the indomitable Dona Antonia Adelaide Ferreira's base during much of the nineteenth-century from which she pioneered the development of the Upper Douro Valley. It was also in the vineyards at Tua in the late 1970s that the now-emblematic Portuguese grape variety, Touriga Nacional, was rescued from close to extinction

              Touriga Nacional is now the most widely planted variety at Tua. Cuttings were selected from these very same vines and replanted in the Vilariça Valley, the resulting vineyards at Quinta de Ataide now produce the Symington family's range of dry red Douro DOC Altano wines. Many of the Touriga Nacional vineyards planted throughout Portugal are the result of work done in these Tua vineyards. Portugal's now-famous grape variety is to a great extent the progeny of Quinta do Tua's very special Touriga Nacional vines.

              The Quinta house is located on the other side of the Tua River, a tributary of the Douro, from Malvedos. It shares the best characteristics of Malvedos’ exceptional terroir. It is the smallest of Graham’s vineyards at 60 hectares, only 28.2 ha of which are under vine. It also has a high proportion of old and mixed vines.


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