Graham's 90: The three wines
Three exceptional and rare wines were chosen for the final Graham’s 90 blend described by the Symington family thus:
The 1935 Tawny Port is a wine of remarkable elegance and beauty with fine acidity which is key to the balance of a wine of this age. This was a year of low yields in the Douro but of great quality, and classic Vintage Ports were made under perfect harvest conditions. Some Port companies declared the 1934 and some the 1935. Both years have proved to have aged superbly well.
The 1935 Vintage is considered by some to be amongst the greatest Ports of the first half of the 20th century. Andrew James Symington wrote at Quinta do Bomfim in the Alto Douro on 14th October 1935: “I am inclined to think that the quality and good colour inspires hope that the 1935 may prove good enough to make a Jubilee vintage – quantity is less than last year – but quality appears to be better.”
The three Symington brothers then working in the family business; Maurice, John and Ronald and their father Andrew James, did not declare this year, but they set aside a small quantity of 1935 Port to age in cask in view of the excellent quality of the best wines and to mark the Jubilee of King George V.
Charles has selected a small parcel of this extraordinary wine for the Graham’s 90.
The 1924 Vintage was widely declared by the leading Port houses and the wines have aged exceptionally well over the decades. An unusually cool summer resulted in wines with very good acidity, a hallmark of the year.
Gordon Cosens wrote at Quinta do Bomfim in the Alto Douro on the 10th October 1924: “Weather being fine throughout the gathering. The mostos showed good colour and life. That the '24s will turn out to be better than an ordinary vintage seems to be the general opinion.”
This 1924 Tawny Port originates from Quinta do Bom Retiro Pequeno, a very fine vineyard in the Rio Torto valley that is owned by the Symington family. Matured in cask at the estate until the mid-1960s, this Port was transported down to the Lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia where it has been kept for the last 50 years.
This wine has all the characteristics of Douro ageing, the result of very cold winters and intensely hot summers, with a powerful concentration of richness, honey and toasted coffee and is a perfect foil for the elegant 1935.
A great classic year in the Douro that followed two legendary vintages, the 1904 and the immortal 1908. Widely declared by the best Port houses, the 1912 vintage Ports were bottled in the spring of 1914, just a few months before the outbreak of hostilities in August of that year. Although it’s early life was marked by the devastation of The Great War, this wine reached maturity in the late 1920s when it came to be recognised as one of the greatest ever Vintage Ports and was often served at fine dinners in the exuberant Roaring Twenties.
Amyas Warre (son of George Warre) wrote at Quinta do Bomfim in the Alto Douro on 23rd September 1912: “The grapes in all the fine vineyards were uniformly ripe and had all been gradually brought to this state of perfection.” This was an historic year for the Symington family as George Warre, whose family had been Port producers since 1729, decided to retire to England in 1912 and proposed a merger of Dow’s with the smaller Port company of Warre’s, the latter being then owned by Andrew James Symington.
Andrew accepted the proposal, initiating a partnership between the two families that was to last until the 1950s when the Warre family sold their remaining shares to the Symingtons. To mark the start of the partnership a small parcel of the 1912 Port was set aside in cask and it is a little of this wine that has been used by Charles in the Graham’s 90 Port.
The 1912 Tawny has extraordinary intensity having passed its centenary a few years ago and Charles Symington felt that this essence of well-aged Port would complement the elegant freshness of the 1935 Tawny.