A Photographic Record of My Year in Wine – 2017 – Part Three: July to September

After a very busy year, the Summer always seems a good time to catch ones breath and rest ones palate. Well, that is very much wishful thinking. July kicked off with a bang and the calendar was as fully packed as at any other time of the year. There seems to be no off switch anymore. All the more reason to make sure you enjoy your job, whatever it is that you do.

Part 3: July to September 2017

In July I arranged to join Neal Martin on a fun trip down to Wales to visit Ancre Hill Estates the fabulous high quality organic and biodynamic winery producing some of the best bubbles in the United Kingdom. Neal had received such a good response from his first English wine review in the Wine Advocate that it seemed a jolly good idea to go and visit!

A great picture of David Morris, son of owner and wine maker at Ancre Hill. I was thrilled when “Star & Furrow Magazine – The Journal of the Biodynamic Association” asked to use this picture for their January 2018 Edition profiling this talented young winemaker.

Always fun to catch up with Mike Ratcliffe in London, this time for a pre-release tasting of the Vilafonte Series C 2015 which rightfully made it on to my Top 10 most memorable reds from South Africa in 2017.

Thelema wines remain some of South Africa’s most iconic and it is wonderful to see Thomas Webb doing such a great job promoting them in the UK.

Summer time properly kicked off with another BBQ summer party gathering of the TW Wine Club… open to members of the wine trade (and VIP guests by invitation) who live in the Twickenham TW post code. Anne Burchett volunteered her lovely garden again and the weather obliged. Great to catch up with the whole gang including Jamie Goode, Oddbins MD Ayo Akintola, Telegraph journalist Victoria Moore and many others.

August heralded my first trip back to Tenerife since the mid 1980’s to catch a bit of sunshine and visit some of the wonderful wineries on the island, documented in my Fine Wine Safari series titled “The Tenerife Wine Odyssey”.  Great to visit one of the best, Suertes del Marques near La Orotava and be hosted by owner Jonatan Garcia Lima. Some amazing wines made on the island as confirmed by the high scores of Wine Advocate writer Luis Gutierrez’s recent Spanish Report covering the new releases from Suertes del Marques and Envinate, the islands two best producers.

Another great summer bash, this time generously hosted by David Clawson, owner of the Remedy Wine Bar. Plenty of fine wine enjoyed late into the night.

Never a dull moment when Ian Naude is around. He hosted numerous Masterclasses for us and really opened the eyes of a lot of consumers on the quality of old vine Chenin Blanc and Cinsaut coming out of South Africa.

One of the most highly anticipated Champagne tastings of the year was held in the late summer with the unveiling of the new release Krug 2004 vintage. Amazing wines tasted with Olivier Krug.

Plenty of fine wine drunk with Gary Jordan and Ian Naude on the occasion of their UK importer ABS’s new release portfolio tasting. A few cleansing ales wrapping up a fun day.

It’s not often a tasting of a Chilean producer includes a 100 point wine. Errazuriz’s Vina Chadwick cracked a 100 points last year and this year it was the turn of their Sena Bordeaux blend. Winemaker Francisco Baettig hosted us at 67 Pall Mall to sample the 2015 vintage new release as well as a vertical of several older vintage of both Sena and Vina Chadwick. Such distinguished wines.

With Wines of South Africa’s Intrepid Tasting just around the corner, it was time for the Saffers to decent upon London once again. Lovely to catch up again with Martin Meinert and Gottfried Mocke from Boekenhoutskloof.

The Intrepid Tasting was a great success despite the slight scheduling disconnect with The New Wave South Africa Tasting happening one month later. All the top journalists were there in force and the Tim Atkin MW 95+ Point table was a great draw card. Always fun to taste with Joe Wadsack, Neal Martin, Jo Wehring, Victoria Moore, Rosie Davenport etc.

In the gap between the Intrepid Tasting and the South African New Wave Tasting, there were a few moments to concentrate on “other” wines from around the world. Mark Savage MW, who has been importing Tertre Roteboeuf from St Emilion since the late 1970s, was on hand to present a fascinating vertical of wines from the current release all the way back to the late 1980s. A truly rare and fascinating occasion.

Another incredible vertical, written up on the Fine Wine Safari, was Luis Pato’s amazing Bairrada Baga vertical featuring some very rare single vineyard wines back to the mid 1980s.

The late summer was commandeered by Wines of California again starting with an amazing tasting tour of Sonoma wineries around London’s top steak houses organised by The Buyer’s Richard Siddle (above) and Peter Dean. A really innovative event and also very successful as well as enjoyable. Below, with my wing man for the day, Roger Jones.

Part of the entourage for the Sonoma Vintners Tasting was Joe Fattorini, presenter of The Wine Show, which is due to screen its second season soon.

The excellent Wines of California Tasting in Westminster allowed for a little reunion of our group that visited California in March. Above picture, myself with organiser Justin Knock MW and merchant Noel Young from Cambridge. Below, Noel Young, Amelia Singer and Peter Ranscombe.

Always lovely to have big Schalk Burger Senior visit when he is over in London, on this occasion for the Dunhill Invitational Pro/Am Golf Tournament at St Andrews … as well as several obligatory wine merchant visits with new Welbedacht vintages.

To end the third instalment of my year in wine through photographs, here’s a corker of our ex-manager Mick O’Connell MW over from Dublin to give us a preview of his super second vintage of Garnacha not Guerra 2016, which he produces in small quantities (1000 bottles) with his wife in Sardinia. 🍷

Quinta do Vale Meao – Stealing the Barca Velha Crown As the Most Sought After Premium Producer in the Douro…

You know a producer is an iconic winery when they have pulling power. Ok, so what exactly is “pulling power” you might ask? Well, quite simply, pulling power is getting a call on a Thursday afternoon asking if you would like to host Xito Olazabal, the winemaker from Quinta do Vale Meao, at short notice for a small impromptu private client tasting in the cellar the following Monday… then sending out one short email… and filling an entire cellar with 20 blue chip clients. Now that’s what you call pulling power!

Of course I realised Xito was passing through town for the New Douro Tasting and I just thought it would be a crying shame to give a knee jerk trade reaction and say sorry, can’t do an event at such short notice in November, one of the busiest times of year for punters and trade alike. But the speed at which customers replied to the tasting invitation even surprised me.

Enjoying Eben Sadie’s Treinspoor Old Vine Series Tinta Barocca 2015 with Xito at dinner after the tasting.

On the Monday, Xito presented a superb masterclass showing 4 vintages of white and red Meandro do Vale Meao as well as a tantalising mini Quinta do Vale Meao first wine vertical featuring 2000, 2007, 2012 and the pre-release 2015, followed by their single vineyard Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional expressions. But it’s the amazing benchmark 2015 Quinta do Vale Meao I want to highlight here and that’s due to arrive in the UK shortly.

Quinta do Vale Meao 2015, Douro Tinto, 14 Abv.

This imposing wine shows impressive mineral aromatics mixing with perfumed cassis leaf, mulberry, blue berry and fragrant black cherry. There are hints of creamy blue berry muffin opulence together with very impressive fruit purity. The palate is fresh, cool and focused with impressive textural polish. The tannins are very sleek and graphitey, balancing a saline liquorice complexity that finishes with great intensity, yet pure harmony. Perhaps an element of slightly earlier picking, this wine is vibrant and intense, showing off the very best the Douro has to offer with its still wines. Not a wine you want to miss out on. Drink this comfortably from 2018 to 2035+

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Fine Wine Friday at Chez Bruce With Some Iconic Wines…

Well, it’s that time of year when we gather to bid farewell to fine wine friend Keith Prothero before he decamps to the Cape for the summer / UK Winter. I volunteered to organise the lunch finale with Bruce Poole, co-owner of Chez Bruce, Keith’s favourite restaurant in London and below is a little snap shot of the epic wines consumed. All wines were tasted blind before they were revealed.

Wine Advocate reviewer Neal Martin (left) with Bruce Poole, co-owner of Chez Bruce

First up, a vibrant, tantalising Clos des Goisses 1996 Champagne from Philipponnat with a fine leesy biscuit lift and a pronounced, creamy citrus note. Beautiful definition, purity, and a salty briney undertone that melts away into dusty lemon, buttered toast and a crisp, vibrant finish with great structure. A good bottle drinking at its peak. (96/100 GS)



The first flight of five whites started with an impressive Niepoort Coche White Blend 2011, briming with creamy peachy yellow fruits, lovely struck match reduction, ample minerality, woodsmoke, cassis leaf, wet slate, and wonderfully fine depth. I loved the tension and profound, subtle, buttery depth. Truly one of Portugal’s finest still white wines. Malcolm Thwaites, who has just recently visited Dirk Niepoort during harvest, actually called the wine amazingly! (95+/100 GS)


Next up, Keith’s Sandhi Sanford & Benedict 2011 Chardonnay. Initially smokey and seductive, with intense saline notes, lemon and lime cordial richness, huge concentration, this was a complete ringer for an old world Burgundian grand vin. Only after it had sat in the glass for a while, did it finally start to reveal some exotic new world fruit notes. A monumental effort from California and the ultimate ringer capable of fooling even the most talented tasters. (96/100 GS)


The Sandhi was followed by one of the truly great white wines of Burgundy, a superb bottle of J-F Coche Dury Meursault 2013. Wow, tasted blind, this was intensely taught, pin point, and precise showing lime, stoney liquid minerals, crushed limestone tension and focus. Very intense with seamless texture, regal mineral complexity, subtle passion fruit hints and great rigour on the finish. “Wines like this should challenge the senses, not entertain them!” was a very poignant comment from Nigel Platts Martin. (96/100 GS)


At these lunches, we always seem to open our “back up bottles” even when not required, and here again, my Didier Dagueneau Buisson Menard Pouilly Fume 1997 was added to the first flight. An interesting bottle, it had tasters scratching their heads endlessly as the wine unfurled in the glass. Plenty of white peach, passion fruit, pineapple and stoney minerality were in evidence. Beautifully exotic with a mercurial dry finish. “A bit of an upstart”… but certainly showed its class in my mind. (93/100 GS)



Just as we were about to move on to the reds, we were treated to another late addition and definite rarity. A fine bottle of Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2002. The initial nose was quite lactic, with hints of cottage cheese and cream, yet also full of oyster shell, fennel, pineapple and aniseed. There was a touch of wet dog to the wine combined with great minerality which led many of us to the Loire. But this was classic, elegant, fresh, super fine Grand Cru Chablis at its best and developed wonderfully in the glass. (94/100 GS)



The first three reds revealed a Rhoney theme but with a few twists. First up was Neal Martin’s amazing Jaboulet Cornas 1972 that showed a bouquet of rich brûlée oranges, savoury cured meats, and cherry confit. Rich and textural, this beautifully lifted wine sang a wonderful melody, and while mature, was thoroughly enchanting. So typical of the Northern Rhone, almost all at the table plumped for Hermitage or even perhaps a great vintage of Crozes-Hermitage. La Chapelle was even mentioned. But Cornas it was. I would have expected a little more blood and iron for a Cornas but perhaps the Jaboulet personality was shinning through more than the appellation’s terroir. A real treat. (93+/100 GS)



The wine that followed was younger and required a bit more thought. Beaucastel Chateauneuf du Pape Hommage a Jacques Perrin 2000. Very complex Mourvèdre dominated wine (60%) loaded with black berry and bramble fruits with saddle leather, cured meats, liquorice, tar and sweet earthy black fruit notes. Dense and concentrated, this was a delicious grand vin wine almost certainly drunk too young. Give this classic another decade at least. (96+/100 GS)


So we were well and truly treading a Rhone path, when the next red from Alex Lake had us all a bit fooled. A Giaconda Warner Vineyard Shiraz 2002 was not to my memory picked out as New World by anyone. Smoky lifted nose with granite dust, aniseed root, and earthy black berries, this was a very compact, focused wine with plenty of tension, crisp acids, and a subtle, restrained, savoury boxwood and pepper corn spice finish. A very smart wine that along with the Mullineux reds, is one of the few new world Syrahs / Shirazes Keith openly admits to drinking! Nice to taste this wine again with more age, but still a long life ahead of it. (95/100 GS)


The next pair of reds charmed some more than others, but as a devout Italian fine wine lover, the next two reds had me weak at the knees, (or was that the previous 10 bottles?). An utterly sublime Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino 1999 was bursting with sweet cherry blossom perfume, savoury earthy notes, saddle leather and wet tobacco, gun smoke, and graphite. Plenty of energy, this really was a superb, seductive hedonistic red full of character. (96+/100 GS)


To partner the Soldera was another real rarity ~ a Valdicava Madonna Del Piano Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1990. Not a wine you come across very often anymore, this wine had all the archetypal power and prowess Valdicava’s Riserva’s are so famous for, except this one was finally giving an impression that despite being beautifully fresh and vital, it was approaching peek drinkability after 27 years! Dark and smoky, dense and dusty, it was quite saline, tight and precise, with pithy caramelised cherry fruits, grilled herbs, leather, graphite, aniseed and meaty savoury bramble berry depth. Very fine acids and also a touch of VA just to add more lift and complexity. The Riserva can be a hard wine to understand in its youth, or when James Suckling scores them 100 points, like with the 2010. But after tasting a maturing vintage like this, a lot of puzzle pieces fall into place. (96+/100 GS)


At this point, we were all amazed that no Burgundy or Bordeaux had featured in the flights yet! But the next wine broke the drought. A most majestic Chateau Cheval Blanc 1985 from St Emilion. This was a real treat and must be one of my favourite vintages of Cheval Blanc. Loaded with black berry fruits, gun powder, briary, and aniseed notes, it was also so vibrant, energetic and packed full of saline cassis, a touch of ink, leafy spice, sandalwood and buttered brown toast. Drinking in the perfect harmonious mid point between youth and maturity. For me, a top right bank Bordeaux ready to drink does not get much better than this. (98/100 GS) 


The last red was possibly another late addition, hence it was not included in the Rhone flight. But in many ways, it received more deserving attention being served in isolation. A contender for wine of the lunch, the Les Cailloux Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvée Centenaire 1990 from Lucien & Andre Brunel was indeed profound. A solid 100 pointer on the Wine Advocate scale, Robert Parker once described this wine as one of the greatest vintages ever made at the estate. This bottle was deliciously saline, rich, intense and dense but never tipping over to heavy in anyway. Sleek, crystalline, and supremely elegantly textured, this wine is still so youthful, fresh and perfumed, showing its true class. A really profound wine. (98/100 GS)



To accompany a most delicious cheese dessert course, two sublime sweet wines were served. The iconic Mullineux Olerasay No.1 Chenin Blanc NV made from a Solera system. The word that encapsulates this wine is effortless harmony. It is neither too sweet nor too unctuous, merely finely balanced and beautifully intense. A lot of effort goes into making straw wines of this quality, and this blend deserves a big score if for no other reason, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Amazing wine. (98/100 GS)



Before we could cross our T’s and dot our I’s, we were treated to another profound dessert wine ~ the Reinhold Heart Ohligsberger 2010 Mosel Eiswein. After a long afternoon of intense, thought provoking fine wines, nothing could possibly refresh the senses better than a delicious, vibrant glass of rapier fresh Eiswein. Packed full of lemon and lime cordial notes, white peaches, and sweet yellow grapefruit, the acidity balanced the sugar brilliantly and was the perfect ending to a fascinating afternoon of fine wine and of course exceptional Michelin starred food.



Bon voyage Keith, I am sure most of us will still be talking about many of these wines by the time you return in 6 months time. 

Luis Pato Masterclass – Tasting the Rebel Winemaker’s Iconic Wines from Bairrada…

A great privilege today attending a fascinating masterclass tasting with the great Bairrada master, and original rebel, Luis Pato. The wines have come a long way since his first hobby winemaking  vintage in 1980, before releasing his first official vintage in 1984. 


But Luis Pato is certainly a pioneer in the true sense of the word, who has single handedly put Bairrada and its indigenous Baga varietal on the global fine wine map. Known as the Baga rebel, Luis has relished his freedom as a wine making maverick, making and breaking many rules over the past 35 years in the quest to produce the very best wines the Bairrada terroirs can deliver. 


Luis is also one of the founding members of Baga Friends, a small quality-led group formed to promote Baga more widely, a grape which has been established in Bairrada for more than 800 years. 


Tasting Notes from the Masterclass:


Vinha Pan 2013, Bairrada, 13 Abv.

Powerful aromatics that bust forth with roses, parma violets, cherry blossom and exotic pot pourri spice nuances. A really deep core of red cherries, red plum confit, sweet bramble berries and delicious wild strawberries. Delicate mineralite of dusty granite and graphite complexity. Palate is beautifully textured, fruit forward and plush, with vibrant tart acids, cherry sherbet, sweet red currant and tart red plums. Impressive intensity, focus and length. A really delicious expression. 

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Vinha Pan 2015, Bairrada (Barrel Sample)

Dusty mineral spicy nose with plenty of red and black cherry fruits, foresty spice, bramble berry and hedge row complexity. Real power and intensity, layers of graphite and wood spice spar with sweet, tart red fruits and beautifully lifted violet perfume notes. Palate shows massive concentration and a more taught linear character, with slightly youthful angular acids and greater mid-palate powdery tannin tension than the 2013. Going to need time in bottle, but should blossom into one of the great Vinha Pan expressions.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Vinha Barrosa 2013, Bairrada, 13 Abv.

Made from grapes from multiple ripeness pickings, using 3 to 4 bunches per vine, the 2013 has its archetypal eucalyptus, spearmint leaf and sweet cassis nose reminiscent of a cool vintage Australian red. Beautiful layers of bramble berry, frais de bois and stalk spice abound. The palate is vibrant, intense, with wonderful sweet / sour plum notes, boiled cassis bon bons, maritime salinity, black forest berries and chalky mineral tannins. So suave, accessible and deliciously vibrant and fresh, this is drinkable now but will certainly develop additional foresty complexity over the next decade. 

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Vinha Barrosa 2015, Bairrada (Barrel Sample)

Another big bold wine from a superb vintage in the Bairrada. Rich, opulent depth of fruit resonates from the glass, showing a slightly more oldy worldy, black fruited expression with more graphite minerality, stalky spice, and cassis salinity, while never losing the underlying spearmint, eucalyptus, boiled cassis bon bon notes. The palate decouples slightly from the nose, delivering a delicious, opulent, fleshy mouthful of cherry cola and exotic fruit perfection. Hard to see how this wine can be more complete and harmonious. Give this 5 years and drink over the next 20+. True class.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Vinha Pan 2011, Bairrada, 13 Abv.

Lovely complex aromatics with lifted exotic notes of boot polish, polished mahogany, and sweet earthy brambley forest berry fruit nuances. Developing earthy, savoury, stewed red fruit compote notes, touch of earth and tannery leather and dusty, stalky spice. Palate is fresh, taught, and structured with more masculine tannins, cherry sherbet bon bon notes and a drying, spicy, graphite grip on the finish. A more severe, classic vintage as Luis says, that he feels can age for up to 30 years plus. Nevertheless, beautiful balance, intensity and great potential for the future.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Vinha Barrosa 2009, Bairrada, 13 Abv.

A dark, rich, broody nose with dense, dark back fruits, raisined black currant, savoury black berry and raisined red cherries. The wine suggests a lot on the nose, but reveals little. The palate too shows great restraint, dusty chalky minerality, dense, sleek ripe tannins with great textural power. The wine has delicious acidity, ripe sweet fleshy tannins and a mouth filing, power packed, well honed masculine physique. A thoroughly beguiling wine with plenty of intrigue but also great development potential.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Vinha Pan 1998, Bairrada, 13.5 Abv.

A more difficult year in Portugal, with cool weather until September, with the grapes limping to ripeness. The nose does show the cool, herbaceous, dusty minerality more reminiscent of Pinot Noir from Burgundy or cool climate Willamette Valley, Oregon. So youthful, the wine shows wonderful ageworthy notes of paprika, camphor, sappy spice, black berry, and chalky minerality. Delicious subtle savoury hints more evident on the palate, dampened by fresh herbaceous notes, subtle tea leaf and sweet red current fruits on the finish. A vibrant, youthful wine that is masterfully complex and balanced from a challenging vintage. No rush to drink this up.

(Wine Safari Score: 92/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Vinha Pan 1996 En Magnum, Bairrada, 13.5 Abv.

Beautifully plush, deep, broody nose with earthy cassis, black plum, garrigue, dried pot pourri, sour plum and bramble berry hints. Beautifully lifted, sweet fruited, fleshy, with a multitude of youthful black fruit flavours from a vintage supposed to be much more difficult than even 1998 due to intermittent rains. This is a very accomplished wine that transcends vintage conditions and serves to elevate the winemaking greatness of Luis Pato himself. The finish is fleshy, cool, suave and so elegant, with ample freshness, sweet tannins, and fine powdery grip. So youthful, thoroughly delicious now.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Vinha Barrosa 1998, Bairrada, 13.5 Abv.

Darker fruited, more savoury expression evident in this 1998 expression. There are hints of savoury red berry confit, diesel rag, tart cherry, sappy black berry and developing sweet tannery leather hints. More developed aromatically, the palate is fleshy and savoury, with stewed strawberries, garrigue, vermouth botanical notes and subtle sappy spicy tannins on the finish. Quite picante and chalky, this is ready to drink now.

(Wine Safari Score: 91/100 Greg Sherwood MW)


Vinha Barrosa 1996 En Magnum, Bairrada, 13.5 Abv.

The 1996 differential with the 1998, are less pronounced than with the Vinha Pan cuvée. Served from magnum, this wine certainly shows fine herbal lift, medicinal notes, sweet tobacco, and earthy complex forest berries. The palate is sweet fruited, fleshy and broad, dense and slightly exotic, with mint, cassis boiled sweets, strawberry and sweet earthy leather notes with sappy, mineral complexity. Drinking well now, there is a real sweet pocket on the finish. Another accomplished wine from a challenging vintage.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)



Tasting Another Epic 2015 Vintage Port Release…

It’s vintage Port time again and while I  have already done extensive commentary on the Niepoort 2015s, there have of course been some epic declarations from both the Symingtons (Warres, Dows, Graham, Cockburn) and the Fladgate Partnership (Taylor’s and Fonseca).


An agreed vintage year normally requires a certain degree of homogeneous grape quality across the lower, middle, and upper Douro. In 2015, it’s safe to say that the the upper Douro was in a league of its own, producing some of the best Ports since 2011.


One of these wines, the Stone Terraces vineyard, which is comprised of three parcels in a narrow curving valley, all of which are immediately adjacent; one faces north, known as “Cardenhos”, whilst the other two, face each other across the Sibio brook. Most of the southerly facing Malvedos vineyard were subjected to trying conditions in 2015, and it was the Old Vine Stone Terraces portion that were shielded from excessive heat, thus producing exceptional fruit.


The schist soils on the cooler exposures ensured that the Stone Terraces Cuvee performed yet again, as it did in its maiden 2011 vintage. Fruit was picked at an ideal maturity of 13.75 baume, and trodden for four hours in the new Symington lagares at Malvedos. The wine was then fermented at low temperatures to enhance the warm climate aromatics.

The Stone Terraces 2015 has subsequently emerged as one of the very best Ports of the vintage along with Niepoort, Noval, and Vesuvio. Seek it out and buy with confidence. 

The Symingtons explaining the complicated 2015 vintage.

Graham’s The Stone Terraces Viintage Port 2015, 20% Abv., Douro

Only the second time produced, the anticipation waiting to taste this wine was intense. But this warm dry vintage in the upper Douro delivers yet again. There is a sweet opulent nose of raspberries and cream, bramble berry, strawberry confit, and mocha wood spice nuances. Beautifully rich and concentrated, this wine offers up damson plum, liquorice, salty cassis and the most seductive creamy sweet mineral tannins in a pristine, textural, harmonious package. Finely integrated acids with high quality spirit, seamless fruit concentration and a very long, lingering, pin point finish make for a very smart vintage port indeed. 

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The Splendour of Port ~ Tasting the New Limited Release Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port Special River Quintas Edition… 

Founded in 1820 by William and John Graham in Portugal’s Douro Valley, for nearly two centuries Graham’s has cultivated its reputation as one of the greatest names in Port. The quality of Graham’s Port relies on the finest grapes from their five iconic quintas in the Douro Valley: Quinta dos Malvedos, Quinta do Tua, Quinta das Lages, and two others, Quinta da Vila Velha and Quinta do Vale de Malhadas, which are privately owned by a member of the Symington family. 


Located in the heart of the Upper Douro Valley, all of these quintas enjoy the hot and dry microclimate and unique schist soil only found in this region. Together these two factors provide perfect conditions for both the growth and optimum ripening of the various Port grape varieties.


It has been over a hundred years since the famous Six Grapes motif was first used on a bottle of fine Port, and the winemakers at W & J Graham, Charles Symington and Henry Shotton, recently decided to bottle a small quantity of a special wine made exclusively from the oldest vines on Graham’s five Quintas.


The presentation of this special edition Six Grapes Old Vines Port pays homage to the original Six Grapes label that helped make the wine famous so many years ago and will only be available in very limited quantities.

Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port Special River Quintas Edition, 19.5 Abv.

Fabulously rich, dark opaque black plum colour, this is a wine instantaneously recognisable as a serious Port offering. Dark fruited and broody, made very much in a vintage port style but with a little more early accessibility. The nose is full of Christmas pudding, creamy creme de cassis, black plums and a complex undertone of dusty granitic minerality and dried herb nuances. The palate is tight knit, deep, dense and wonderfully fleshy and opulent, with seductive bitter black chocolate, black cherry confit, kirsch liquor, liquorice, and a black bramble berry fruit finish. Very classy and well constructed, this is a finely crafted Port from one of the greatest houses in the Douro that is structured, vibrantly fresh, but succulently fruit forward. Attractively priced at around £20 per bottle, this beautifully balanced, intense, Port delivers on so many levels. Drink now to 2030+.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Niepoort Port Masterclass with Dirk Niepoort to Celebrate the 2015 Vintage Declaration in London…

Few tastings are more fascinating than listening to and tasting with master wine maker Dirk Niepoort. It’s as much fun listening to his philosophy on winemaking and the world of wine as it is tasting his superb wines. Last week, Dirk and his importer Raymond Reynolds hosted an excellent Masterclass to celebrate the declaration of Dirk’s 2015 vintage Ports.


The 2015 viticultural year was the hottest and driest growing season of the last three decades, but abundant late autumn rain in 2014 and crucial spring rain in the Douro Superior, most unusually more than in the Alto Douro, produced exceptional conditions for ripening. 


Niepoort 2015 Vintage Port, Douro

Brilliant purple colour, this vintage is so exceptionally lush and fragrantly expressive. Layer upon layer of ripe plums, mulberries, sweet bramble berries and sweet raisined cranberry aromatics waft out the glass combining with an alluring dusty minerality, smoked spices and primary grapey notes. The palate is very finely knit together showing super elegance. The complete wine is so light on its feet, so focused, so precise with salty liquorice, damson plums, black berry and sweet creamy tannins. The freshness really defines this wine and helps elevate the perfume, fruit and the overall concentration. Real power with sublime harmony. This really is an impressive, very vinous Port, that Dirk considers to be one of his best creations yet. 

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 


After tasting the beautiful 2015, Dirk ran through another two famous recent vintages to add extra context. The Niepoort 2011 Vintage Port is a beast of a wine, dense, dark, brooding, almost monolithic. It is a hedonistic journey into one of the most powerful, turbo charged, and structured vintages of recent times. This is one for the long haul. (98/100 GS)

Then, we tasted the Niepoort 2005. A bit of a sleeper, this vintage has a nose full of dark, earthy, bramble berry fruits, prunes, dried leather, raisined cranberries, and chocolate with a tight, dominating mineral finish. Slightly more rustic in style than either the 2011 or 2015. (95+/100 GS)


The Bioma Pisca Single Vineyard Ports

A few years ago, Dirk identified the Pisca Vineyard that continuously produced a unique expression from 80 to 100 year old vines. These 5 hectares of South facing vineyards are certified organic and yield around 12 HL/HA before being aged at Quinta do Napoles in 550 litre Port pipes.


Niepoort Bioma Vinhas Velhas Vintage Port 2015, Douro

Bioma Vinha Velha is a super rich, fleshy wine with an exotic, lifted nose showing savoury black fruits, sake nuances, rice wine, black brambly fruit and forest berries. Palate is massively dense, concentrated and powerful. Very intense black berry, kirsch, and cassis intensity is impressive. Tannins are ripe and sweet and superbly balanced with fresh acids and a creamy, textured minerality. Sweet and intense but finishes dry and long. 

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

The 2015 was certainly head and shoulders ahead in quality, precision and focus when we compared it to both the powerful, mineral Bioma 2013 (95+/100 GS) and the slightly reductive, saline, more rustic Bioma Pisca 2007 (94+/100 GS). But the true highlight of the Masterclass had to be the historic final pair of Ports – the Vintage Port 1970 and the Garrafeira Port 1952.


Niepoort Vintage Port 1970, Douro

Now I’ve tasted the Niepoort Vintage Port 1970 several times with Dirk over the years and every time we’ve drunk it, it has delivered sheer hedonistic pleasure, being a wine embroidered with such complexity and vinous interest. This time was no different and all the hallmark notes were there… sweet stewed red fruit aromatics, hedgerow spice, diesel rag, chocolate and earthy root notes, salty caramel and hints of fungal lift with shiitake mushroom nuances and a long finish of stewed black berries balanced with fresh acids and sweet, soft tannins. A beguiling wine that grows in the glass and unfurls into a multi-layered Port experience. 

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 


Then, as if the famed 1970 wasn’t enough, Dirk treated us to a true rarity… the 1952 Garrafeira Port which was bottled into demijohns in 1955 and then re-bottled into 75cl bottles in 1987. Beautifully foresty and earthy, the ’52 has plenty of complex tertiary aromas of mushrooms, damp earth, oil rag, burnt oranges, cognac wood spice and an unctuous, nutty intrigue. Caramelised bruleed notes develop as the wine opens up, finishing with a grippy, mineral, almond skin, picante length. Tantalising! 

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 


All that can be said after this amazing tasting is that it is abundantly clear that Vintage Port is undoubtedly one of the world’s truly great fine wines and also currently one of the most affordable. But how much longer will this be the case? Now is certainly a good time to buy!