We’ve got a bumper New Arrival blog this week celebrating the landing of Graham’s 1997 and 1974 Single Harvest Tawny Ports and looking at the others in the Graham’s Tawny Port range. Basically, if you’re looking for Port for Christmas, then read on.

I was fortunate enough to attend a dinner in October to celebrate 200 years of Graham’s Port. It was meant to take place in 2020 but that global pandemic thing got in the way. The best laid plans and all that. Instead a group of Port enthusiasts met in the labyrinthine cellars beneath the Stafford Hotel in London. We were hosted by multitudes of Symingtons, the family that has owned Graham’s since 1970. I was fortunate enough to be on a table with both Johnny Symington from the youngest generation and Rupert Symington from an elder generation. Both were on sparkling form, as were the wines.

Graham's Port 200 years

Celebrating 200 years of Graham’s Port

The centrepiece of the evening was a beautiful cabinet (above) packed with 12 bottles of the finest Port known to mankind including vintages from 1963, 1994, and 2011. Each wine was chosen by a different generation of the family. If you’re interested, you can buy one for £25,000 – so not cheap but imagine what a similar thing from a well-known Speyside distillery would cost.

We were fortunate to try the legendary 1963 vintage which was indeed superb but I can’t help thinking that it was a mistake serving it after the awe-inspiring 1974 tawny. The former is aged in bottle for almost its entire life whereas the latter is aged in cask with oxygen contact. The ‘63 was mellow, spicy, and amazingly vital and fruity, but the wood-aged Port was bursting with strawberries, furniture polish, and layers and layers of nuts. I could still taste it 20 minutes later.

It’s all about the tawny

Very old tawny Ports, ones from a single vintage are also known as colheitas, have long been enjoyed by the Portuguese but it’s only in recent years that shippers like Graham’s have begun to release these old wines commercially. Previously they would have been used for blending. The amazing thing about them is how long they last. The firm released a special 90-year-old one in 2016 to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. It was made up of a cask each from 1912, 1924, and 1935 (age statements in Porto are averages rather than minimums). 

Tawny Ports age like Cognac, ie. very slowly and for a long time. A good quality cask, topped up occasionally with wine of the same age, will last decades if not centuries. The oldest Port I’ve ever tried was a wood-aged Taylor’s from 1863 which was incredible. 

Grahams 1997_as_001

Masters of the cellar

At Master of Malt, we’re very lucky to have received small quantities of two superb vintage tawnies: Graham’s 1997 Single Harvest Tawny Port and the awesome Graham’s 1974. They are part of the Cellar Masters trilogy, there’s also a 1950, which according to the brand “pay homage to the skills, experience and craftsmanship of those who laboured to produce them”. The 1997 is dubbed ‘The Apprentice’, the 1974 is ‘The Artisan’ and the 1950 is, naturally, ‘The Master’. These are extraordinary rare wines which are worth every penny. Click through for prices.

But what I love most about tawny Port is that you can get some of that magic lower down the price range. The age statement tawnies, we have 20, 30, 40-year-old Graham’s tawny Ports, will contain some incredibly old wines. The youngest will be full of youthful fruit, balanced by more mature wines. As you go up the age statements, the wines become more savoury, intense, and complex.

The perfect Port for Christmas

There’s really no better Port for Christmas day. They’re great all-rounders, going beautifully with Stilton and hard cheeses but also having the sweetness to go with Christmas pudding. While they are sweet, they have a marvellous tangy freshness to them. They’re perfect for people who think they don’t like Port.

Best of all, there’s no fiddling around with decanters, trying to avoid getting sediment in your wine. These are sold clear, bright, and ready to drink. If your house is very warm, I’d just recommend sticking them in the fridge for 30 minutes. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a nice glass Port. 

Click on the link to explore the Graham’s Port range.