Graham’s Six Grapes Old Vines Special Edition Port NV, Portugal
A s we hit the holiday season and cold weather, my wine thoughts turn to hardier wines. One of the best wines to keep on hand during the holidays is Port.
Some people are intimidated by the traditions and mystique of port, but there is no need for that. New techniques and marketing have given Port a new life as a fun, exciting wine.
There is no better wine for sipping in front of a crackling fireplace on a frosty evening, or drinking with cheese and nuts after a special dinner. Port makes special occasions even more special.
Some Ports are even being used for cocktails, but I wouldn’t recommend that with the Six Grapes. It is too good on its own. This limited edition of the popular Graham’s Six Grapes is particularly suited for holiday celebrations. It is rich, deep and complex, flooding the senses with pleasure.
It starts out a deep purple in the glass with complex floral aromas. Black plum, licorice and mineral tastes are balanced by a fresh acidity. It all comes together with a long, velvety finish. The wine is young and fresh, with a subtle complexity usually found only in Vintage Ports.
Six Grapes often is called the non-vintage Port for Vintage Port lovers because it is made from the same grapes that go into Graham’s Vintage Ports. At harvest, the company identifies its best wines that might go into a Vintage Port. Only a handful of barrels ultimately become Vintage Port, and the rest go into the Six Grapes blend.
The Special Edition takes it one step further by taking grapes from old vines in the five vineyards used for Vintage Port. Some of these vines are 50 years old, and produce a small amount of fruit. The youngest vines were planted in the 1980s. The yield may be low, but the character of old vines grapes goes up dramatically. Some of the oldest vines produce as little as three ounces of juice per plant.
Six Grapes is made primarily of the four stars grapes of the Port region, the violety and aromatic Touriga Franca; the rich, tannic and well structured Touriga Nacional; the raspberry tinged Tinta Roriz and the sweet chocolatey Tinta Barroca. In addition there are components of Tinta Amarela, Tinta Cão, Souzão and Tinta Francisca as well as grapes from some older mixed plantings.
The grapes come from the 2011 and 2012 vintages, which were particularly good in the Douro region of Portugal. In fact, the 2011 Vintage Port from another Port house, Dow, was named Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year just a few weeks ago.
As with the regular Six Grapes, the wine spends 30-36 months in casks. The results are wonderful. As this extra attention adds to the price, the Special Edition costs about double the regular Six Grapes.
The label of the Special Edition is slightly different, paying homage to the original Six Grapes label that helped make the wine famous more than 100 years ago.
Unlike Vintage Port, Six Grapes will not get better in the bottle. It is ready to drink when you buy it. Because it has 20 per cent alcohol, it will keep in the bottle for 4-6 weeks after you open it. Serve it slightly chilled. There is no need to decant it.
When the luxury liner Queen Mary was launched in 1936, wine pairings on the first class menu included Ch. Mouton Rothschild 1918, Heidsieck Champagne 1928 and Six Grapes. The Special Edition was released this year to honor the spirit of luxury and elegance.
If you can find a bottle of the Special Edition, it’s worth it. If not, the regular Six Grapes still makes a splendid winter companion.
Winery: W. & J. Graham’s Port dates back to 1820 when brothers William and John accepted 27 barrels of Port to settle a debt. They enjoyed the experience so much they decided to dedicate their lives to producing the finest Port wines.
They bought the famous Quinta dos Malvedos vineyards when few Port producers owned their own vineyards. They later bought other vineyards and 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 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.
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 be used for 75-100 years.
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.
Goes with: We enjoyed this wine with good friends after dinner at Calvert’s and a Symphony Orchestra Augusta performance. Our group of four couples enjoys getting together for various adventures and for good wine.
We brought the Port to the home of John and Dorothy, drinking it with nuts, chocolate and fruit. Every person loved it.
We had tried the regular Six Grapes on an earlier trip to Edisto Beach, and we all enjoyed that. Some of them have even tracked down that wine to buy it when they find it.
Getting together with John and Dorothy, John and Edith and Steve and Sandy always kicks my spirit up a couple of notches, but the Special Edition Port put the evening over the top. Teri and I had a grand time talking and drinking with our friends well into the night.
Because of its sweetness and high alcohol content Port is not a dinner wine. But it is perfect for sipping by itself, or with dessert.
Author Dennis Sodomka