A chilly day is followed by an even colder evening. You sit fireside wanting just a little taste of something to accompany a good movie after dinner. You’re not craving dessert exactly, just a little something sweet and warming; a glass of Port might be just the thing to satisfy. Port is made in a range of styles with flavors that will please many wine lovers. Because Port is a fortified wine with relatively high alcohol content, just a small glass is all you need to feel satisfied and toasty warm. The three Ports in this tasting, which we received as tasting samples, are part of the Symington Family Estates’ portfolio of wines.
The Symington family has a long connection to the people and wines of Portugal. Andrew James Symington came to Portugal from Glasgow in 1882 and worked for Graham’s Port before establishing himself in the business. He married Beatrice Leitão de Carvalhosa Atkinson, whose family made and shipped Port for generations.
Today Symington Family Estates, led by the fourth and fifth generation of the Symington family, owns four leading Port houses: Graham’s, Dow’s, Warre’s, and Cockburn’s. They also own an impressive list of Douro Valley wineries including Quinta do Vesuvio, Quinta do Ataíde, Altano, and Prats & Symington (a joint venture that produces Chryseia and Post Scriptum). They farm over 5500 acres in the Douro Valley, half of which is planted to vines. And the family has recently expanded into the Alto Alentejo sub-region of Portalegre with Quinta da Fonte Souto.
Symington Family Estates takes sustainability and climate change seriously. Their Mission 2025 sustainability initiative employs working groups within the company to address four key areas: viticulture & biodiversity; energy, water & buildings; packaging and waste; team & local community. The company was one of the first members of the International Wineries for Climate Change and are taking serious steps to reduce their carbon footprint through the UN’s Race-To-Zero campaign.
And, if all of these commitments weren’t enough, the Symington Family Estates recently earned Certified B Corp status. These are serious steps toward sustainability, mitigating climate change and social accountability. I can’t help but feel that Andrew James Symington would be very proud of his family’s accomplishments over the past several generations.
W. & J. Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port — dense ruby with aromas of dried plums and figs supported by spicy earth. Layered flavors of sweet red and dark fruit, dried figs and cedar are supported by drying, well integrated tannins. Good acidity balances the sweetness of the wine, which has a medium, round body and a very long, warming finish. 19.5% abv. SRP $27
This youthful wine is aged only two years in seasoned casks before bottling. The blend includes Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca.
Dow’s 2016 Late Bottled Vintage Port — dense ruby with aromas of dark fruit, cedar and hints of dried dill. Generous flavors of dark fruit, cigar box, earth and slate minerality are supported by drying tannins. Excellent acidity balances the sweetness of the wine, which has a very long, warming finish. The flavors and textures and well integrated and balanced. 19.5% abv. SRP $26
Dow’s LBV Port is sourced from the same vineyards as Dow’s Vintage Ports: Quinta do Bomfim and Quinta Senhora da Ribeira. The wine is aged in seasoned oak vats for four to six years before bottling and is meant to be enjoyed on release. The blend is Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Sousão, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz.
W. & J. Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port — dark, translucent amber with generous aromas of caramel, blackstrap molasses and walnuts. Complex, oxidative flavors include dried figs, caramel, walnuts and iron with ample sweetness and excellent acidity. The body is very round and viscous with smooth tannins and a very long finish. 20% abv. SRP $65
There is nothing like Tawny Port for complexity of aromas and flavors. The aromas almost always lead to exactly the same flavors. Tawny Port highlights the winemaker’s blending skills as Ports from several vintages are blended and aged for years in small barrels. Tawnys are then tasted and labeled according to how they taste (not their age), as Reserve, 10, 20, 30, 40, Colheita. Because they are aged in smaller barrels for an extended period of time, Tawny Ports have more oxidative flavors. Tawny Ports should be served chilled so they are as delicious in front of a roaring fire as on a warm summer evening.
And, because Ports are fortified wines they last well once opened. A bottle will remain good for a month or more, which is helpful because a little bit goes a long way with a wine so high in alcohol.
Thanks to Calhoun & Company Communications for the warming winter tasting.