As discussed in our recent Quinta do Novel release, 2016 is a seminal year for Vintage Port, a natural successor to the brilliant sell-out 2011, which rejuvenated the market. The growing season in 2016 was exceptional, with all reports brilliantly framing it. However, yields were down 35% on average, meaning supply is a material concern. James Suckling says, ‘The 2016 Vintage may prove to be a modern legend for Vintage Port.’ Neal Martin reiterates this ‘The resulting Vintage Ports are fabulous. I remember tasting the 2011s and speculating whether any vintage would equal them. The answer is: “Yes…the 2016 vintage.’ The 2016’s style is one of incredible depth, focus and concentration, with incredibly fine, integrated tannins, which underpins their class and form. It is never easy to draw comparisons, but the 2016 vintage is overall a cooler vintage compared to 2011 and 2003, perhaps more akin to the 2007s but better, with more intensity and complexity.
Today we release our other two selected great Ports, the stellar Graham’s and Dow’s, the stunning flag bearers of the Symington Family Estate. In 2016 Graham’s has been awarded an incredible 99 points from James Suckling, who says it has the stunning ‘character of black-fruit marmalade and burnt oranges.’ Neal Martin has given it 96 points, a stellar score for a brilliant wine, who says ‘The palate is brilliant, quite brilliant. Supple tannin, a satin-like texture, perfect balance and unerring purity, this is a fabulous Graham’s that effortlessly fans out and caresses the senses on the finish. This Graham’s has huge potential and is going to give a lot of pleasure for many years.’ Priced today at £310 per case of six, James Suckling’s score of 99 points gives it a Price Over Points Score of 32.6, a remarkable score for a world beating wine!
W & J Graham began as a Glasgow based textile firm, founded by two brothers, William and John, who upon having business interests in Scotland and India, became Port shippers at the beginning of the 1800s, directing their significant resources toward the Port industry. They were then joined by Andrew James Symington, who emigrated to work for Graham’s, but was more interested in Port than textiles and became a successful Port shipper. It is his descendants today that own Graham’s, the jewel in the crown of the Symington group. Graham’s was at the crest of the wave of port for 350 years, the first Port company to invest in the Upper Douro, securing Quinta dos Malvedos now recognised as probably the leading river Quinta: these exquisite Quintas now form the backbone of Graham’s great floral, regal and structured port, the quintessence of great Port, renowned for intense opulent aromas, rich flavours of blackberry and intense concentration.
Our final vintage Port release is Dow’s, which in 2016 has received the second highest score from Neal Martin, 98 points, only bettered by Quinta do Noval Nacional, which cost the same per bottle as a case of Dow’s, today it is priced on release at £310 per case of six. Neal Martin pulls no punches saying, ‘Simply one of the best Dow’s ever made.’ James Suckling has awarded the 2016 96 points, the same as the sell-out 2011, however it trades today at £750 per case of six. As such the 2016 offers a stunning 59% discount on release.
Dow’s Vintage Port is known as perhaps the most age worthy all and globally loved. Its story began in 1978 when Bruno Da Silva, a Portuguese merchant from Oporto, journeyed to London in order to establish his business; this ran contra to the norm, of British shippers travelling the other way. He was assimilated into London life, marrying an English woman, and establishing the reputation of his wines. At the outbreak of the Napoleonic wars the wine business came under jeopardy. Da Silva forged ahead, applying for a ‘letter of marque’ which is a Royal Assent to equip a merchant ship with guns. His incredible steal ensured he was the only Port company to transport its wears under armed protection across the Bay of Biscay. This cemented the business a stronghold in London. The business continued to run in the family and merged with Frederick William Cosens under the stewardship of Edward da Silva, Bruno’s grandson, who was a leading member of the UK wine trade and one of the founders of the Wine Trade Benevolent Society. The business was later joined by George Acheson Warre whose family had been another leading light in Port, eventually merging with another powerhouse Dow & Co. The Symington family began their involvement in the company in the 20th century, taking control in 1961.
This long history and prestige has resulted in Dow owning some of the best terroir in Porto, including Quinta do Bomfim where most of the fruit derives in the declared vintages. Five members of the Symington family help run Dow’s today, including Charles Symington, who is considered as of one the finest winemakers and tasters in Port, boasting more than 40 vintages under his belt, now joined by his son Charles. In 1998 Dow’s re-purchased Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira, having sold it in 1954 to secure the company’s financial future. This along with Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira; the Symington’s Quinta do Santinho and Quinta da Cerdeira as well as the aforementioned Qunita do Bomfim form the frontline from which Dow selects its finest grade grapes. It reflects four of the largest premium vineyard holdings of any company, yet only 5,000 cases are made in normal vintages, greatly reduced in 2016.
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