For generations mankind has searched for something as refreshingly satisfying as a G&T. Now, thanks to a new release from Graham’s, the quest might just be over.
White Port and tonic is the drink of Oporto. The Portuguese take it as seriously as the Spanish take their Gin Tonicas. Nothing tastes better on a hot September evening in a bar overlooking the Douro river. It hasn’t quite caught on in Britain (though we did used to drink something similar, Port and lemonade, which functioned as sort of proto-alcopop in the 1950s and ‘60s). So I’ve been on a mission to convert people. I made some the other day for my parents with an old bottle of Royal Oporto White Port I found under the stairs. Judging by the bottle size, 700ml, my parents must have brought it back from holiday some time before Portugal joined the EU (1986). I’m not sure what it tasted like when it was young, but after 30 years in the cupboard it reminded me a little of Noilly Prat, ie. delicious with tonic, ice and a slice of orange.
White Port is made in a similar way to the better known red stuff. The grapes are allowed to ferment a little and then brandy is added which kills the yeast and preserves sugar. The resulting wine is usually kept in wood for at least a couple of years and sometimes for much longer. White Port usually has an oxidative edge (even before ageing in a warm Buckinghamshire drinks cupboard).
Graham’s, however, has done something a little different for this new release. Rather than the cocktail of grape varieties normally used, only two go into Graham’s Blend No. 5, Malvasia Fina and Moscatel Gallega. The latter is intensely aromatic, as anyone who has drunk Moscato d’Asti will know. The grapes are cold-fermented and the resulting wine is released young so rather than the savoury woody notes you normally find in white Port, it’s all about floral, honey and citrus flavours. In fact, it is so intense that it tastes rather like a botanically-flavoured wine.
We think those bold flavours will appeal to gin drinkers. Just in case there’s any doubt who this is aimed at, take a look at the packaging. Looks rather like a craft gin, doesn’t it? No surprise then that it tastes great with a plain tonic water, though very different to a standard white Port. But with it’s natural sweetness and bold aromatics, I thought Graham’s Blend No. 5 tasted even better just with fizzy water and a slice of pink grapefruit. And at only 19% ABV it makes a great lighter alternative to gin.
But instead of drinking it as an alternative to gin, why not have it with? I’m thinking of a Martini made with a heavy juniper-led gin like Tanqueray No. Ten freshened up with a bit of Graham’s No. 5 instead of vermouth. As we said back in January, fortified wines should be the secret weapon in your cocktail arsenal.