Graham's Six Grapes Old Vines NV port


From £14.99, $48

Graham’s have been busy looking backwards over their shoulder (see Ne Oublie, for example). To celebrate ‘over 100 years’ of their Six Grapes symbols used on their Six Grapes ruby port, they have produced just 500 cases of this special bottling based on old vines, some more than 50 years old, and grown on the five quintas in the Douro owned by the Symingtons for this particular port brand: Quinta do Tua and Quinta da Vila Velha in the Cima Corgo; Quinta do Vale de Malhadas in the Douro Superior; Quinta das Lages in the famous Rio Torto Valley; and the home farm Quinta dos Malvedos opposite Tua in the heart of the Douro Valley.

This vigorous young blend is based on the superlative 2011 and extremely good 2012 vintages (see my enthusiastic tasting note on one of the highest-profile 2012 vintage ports, Quinta do Noval 2012 port, in today’s Portuguese assortment) and is made from the fruit of vines that typically yielded less than 500 g of very small, thick-skinned grapes per vine. Some of these really old vines in the harsh baked schists of the Douro have incredibly deep roots, and into this wine has gone the produce of some of the old field-blend parcels in which a mixture of different grape varieties are planted.The grapes were fermented in the Symingtons' famous shallow 'robotic lagares'.

While tasting ports for today’s Portuguese assortment, I found they were just the thing I sought to soothe my throat and cheer me as I recover from pneumonia. There was at least one wonderful young vintage port, many hugely impressive tawny ports and some beautifully made single quinta wines, but I found this exuberantly fruit-packed blended ruby was just the ticket for immediate drinking without busting the bank.

It’s a robustly healthy deep blueish crimson reminiscent of a young vintage port. It has massively concentrated fruit topped with something rather wild and herbal on the nose – essence of untrammelled Douro! There is a mass of fine tannin on the finish – real chew – but a welter of ripe black fruits such as black cherries and mulberries on the front palate. It’s sweet but not too sweet and wonderfully persistent. This is not a port to decant, and nor is it one to keep. The Symingtons suggest drinking it in its first two years of life and I would do my best to drink it up within a few days of opening it – just the thing for a family Christmas? It would be stunning with Stichelton, the creamy, top-quality unpasteurised true Stilton made by Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy. Pure pleasure even if not particularly complex.

And if you want a story to tell your fellow Christmas celebrants, apparently Six Grapes is the only port that is mentioned in Sir Winston Churchill’s wine accounts in both London and Chartwell. (Though it could be that he was too busy drinking Pol Roger and brandy to take much notice of port.)

A grand total of 100 cases of this relative rarity have been shipped to the UK and it is currently on offer at Cambridge Wine Merchants: £14.99 or £13.37 with their case discount), Soho Wines (£13 but only a few bottles were left on Wednesday), Vagabond (£15.95) and Vineyards of Sherborne (£17.99).

The other 400 cases should be found in the US, both in restaurants and at such outlets as Arrowine in Virginia, Binnie’s in Illinois, K & L in California, Spec’s in Texas and Union Square Wines & Spirits in New York. The recommended retail price is $48.

I am not including a Find this wine link to for once as you would have to wade through 20 pages of listings for the regular Six Grapes bottling. Do be sure you have the one illustrated here with the words Special Old Vines Edition on the label.