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Enjoying Wine and Beer in the Augusta GA area

Graham’s Six Grapes Port Is Great Any Time Of Year

Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port, Portugal

Cost: $23-25

OK, so you didn’t get an invitation to the royal wedding but you watched every minute of it on television. Now you can drink like a royal and pretend you were there.

The Symington family, which owns Graham’s, selected a rare Graham’s 1982 Single Harvest Tawny Port to celebrate the wedding. Both Prince Harry and his bride, Meghan Markle, were born in the early 1980s. The 1982 tawny port has been maturing in oak barrels for more than three decades, so it was deemed a fitting commemorative wine.

You probably won’t find any of that exact wine here, but you can drink a close cousin, the Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port. It is such a rich, delicious wine you will feel like a royal as you sip it.

Port is a fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley, running from near the Spanish border in northeast Portugal to Porto, the coastal city which gives the wine its name.

Many people think you should only drink port in the cooler months, but it is wonderful any time. Some people like it so much they even put it in cocktails during the steamy summer. But I like it just the way it is, straight from the bottle to my glass.

The port was great with strawberry shortcake and whipped cream.

Graham’s Six Grapes is full-bodied with rich, opulent black fruits on the palate and fragrant, brambly aromas. It is sweet, bright and fruity and very robust, with a lingering finish.

Port is one of those things like sparkling wine that I tell people they should drink more of. I love vintage port, but I can’t afford to drink it very often, so this wine makes a great substitute. The grapes come from the same five vineyards that contribute to Graham’s vintage ports in years when a vintage is declared. So this is all top-quality fruit.

Unlike vintage port, it does not need to be decanted and can be poured straight from the bottle. Because of the 20 percent alcohol content it will last for weeks after you open it, as long as you recork the bottle.

The wine is barrel aged for three years before its release. Once it is bottled, it will not improve, unlike Vintage Port, which continues to evolve in the bottle.

This wine has had many admirers for decades. Graham’s ‘Vintage Character’ Port, the blend today known as Six Grapes, was the port of choice of British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. It was the only port he was known to have bought throughout his life.

Port is produced by intentionally interrupting the fermentation of the grape juice by the addition of a clear grape spirit called aguardente, generally referred to as ‘brandy’. This preserves a large amount of the grapes’ natural sugars, thereby giving port its characteristic sweetness and richness.

Winery: W. & J. Graham’s Port was established by brothers William and John Graham, who had begun a firm in Oporto to trade in textiles. In 1820 they accepted 27 barrels of port to pay off a debt. After that they decided to dedicate their lives to produce the finest port wines.

Early successes led them to become one of the first port producers to own their own vineyards when in 1890 they bought the famous Quinta dos Malvedos vineyards. They are ideally situated with a south-facing hillside and an exceptional terroir. The Grahams later purchased several other Quinta vineyards, all of which yielded first-rate grapes.

The family also established ties with quality growers throughout the region.
In 1882 a young Scottish businessman, Andrew James Symington, began to work for Graham’s in Oporto. In 1891 he married a woman whose ancestors were among those who began the port trade, and his ties to the region deepened. In 1970 the Symington family bought Graham’s and still owns it today.

The company built a lodge in Oporto, called Villa Nova de Gaia, where the wines could age. Cooled by the nearby Atlantic Ocean, the earth-floored lodge is still used today and is considered crucial to the slow, careful development of Graham’s wines.

Years ago the wine in large barrels was brought down the Douro River by small boats, the traditional barcos rabelos. The Douro was a wild river and the trip could be dangerous. The Quinta dos Malvedos vineyard translates to “the bad ways,” referring to the treacherous rapids below the estate.

The river was dammed in the 1960s and 1970s to generate hydroelectric power, and that ended the use of the barcos. The wine now travels to Oporto by rail, truck and oxcart.

The Symington family has remained committed to tradition while investing heavily in the vineyards and the winery at Quinta dos Malvedos. They also have invested in research about improving vines and vineyards.

Graham’s can control all phases of the winemaking process from the vine to the bottle because it is a family-owned, independent company. Each generation hands down its knowledge and tradition to the next.

The company is one of the few port producers to have its own team of coopers, or barrel makers, who fine tune barrels that can be 75 or 100 years old.

The Symington family has lead a recent revival in dry red wines produced in Portugal. In the late 1970s the Touriga Nacional grape variety was rescued from near extinction at their vineyards at Tua. Cuttings were made from these vines and planted elsewhere.
Touriga Nacional wines are thriving now and often are wines of distinction. I have had several that are outstanding.

Besides the Six Grapes and Vintage Port, Graham’s also produces a variety of Ruby and Tawny Ports. Tawny Ports are aged in contact with oxygen in oak barrels, so the color changes to tawny shades ranging from cedar red to deep amber.

Teri, John, Edith, John and Dorothy loved the food and Graham’s Six Grapes Port.

Goes with: We had this wonderful wine on a trip to the North Carolina mountains with some special friends, a group we immodestly call the Magnificent Eight. One of the four couples, Edith and John, owns a home in Maggie Valley, high up the mountainside. They are generous enough to invite us to their aerie once or twice a year.

We also meet in Edisto Beach every year and get together elsewhere whenever we can. We met on a trip to Napa several years ago, so every meeting seems to involve some wine drinking, even though we don’t drink nearly as much as we used to.

The Six Grapes came out after a fun dinner where we cooked our own meat, shrimp, vegetables and cheese at the table. The process involves a smokeless grill that also melts cheese in little trays below the grill. Sandy and Steve discovered the grills when eating with other friends and then Dorothy and John bought one, too.

So we had two grills for eight people and it worked perfectly. It’s sort of like the fondue we used to make in the 1970s, except you don’t have the oil to mess with. Like fondue, you sit around and talk while your food cooks, and you keep putting more food on the grill until you get stuffed.

We had beef, chicken, shrimp, peppers, onions, squash, broccoli, onions, potatoes and who knows what else. What a feast.

Then after dinner when we had some home made strawberry shortcake and whipped cream, out came the port. We all love this port, and Miss Edith especially puts it among her favorites. Most of the time when we’re together for four days or more a bottle of port will appear, and several times it has been the Six Grapes.

This port will pair well with cheese, nuts, fruit and all kinds of dessert.

One of our favorite activities in Maggie Valley.

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