Day 4 – 12 days of Wine – Port from Portugal
Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port, Douro Valley, Portugal
Spain primarily covers the Iberian Penisula, but the Southwest coast belongs to Portugal. This coastline made the country a primary stop on shipping routes. In the late 1300s, a marriage sealed an alliance between Portugal and England, opening trade between the two. In the 1700s, a treaty between the two gave the wines of Portugal a leg up over French wines in England. The British like their Port, and the bonds between the two countries are still apparent today.
Portugal is a country with a wide variety of soil types and climates. The country boasts 350 varieties of grapes, many of which are not found anywhere else in the world. But Port is the most widely known wine from the country.
Port is by far the best-known wine made in Portugal. Coming from the Douro Valley in the Northern part of the country, this is one of the oldest demarcated wine regions in the world.
The grapes grow along the Duoro River on terraced vineyards, beginning 40 miles east of Porto and continuing to the border with Spain.
Port is typically made from a blend of 5 grapes; Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca, and Tinto Cão.
Traditionally the grapes were foot trodden in low troughs called ‘lagares.’ Groups of men in a line would arm in arm trod back and forth through the trough to crush the grapes. Today, most of this is done mechanically.
The best views of the vineyards come from the river, and there are beautiful cruises on the upper Douro. Some of these are in the traditional “barcos rabelos” flat-bottom boats that were used to transport the wine.
Port is a fortified wine, which means the wine has added spirits. That makes it a bit more potent than a typical wine, boasting alcohol levels of 19 to 22%.
So what should you expect to smell and taste in a glass of Port? There will be fruit notes, plum, blackberry, dried cherries, cassis (black currant), licorice, chocolate, and spice notes like cinnamon.
W.J. Graham’s was established in 1820 by William and John Graham. They began in textiles and, in 1820, had a debt paid to them in barrels of Port. They turned their energies from textiles to Port; the rest is history.
In 1970 the Symington family purchased Graham’s. There is a bit of history here. AJ Symington had worked for Graham’s almost 100 years ago before leaving to begin his own port company. Now they had come full circle.
4th and 5th-generation family members run Symington today. They own more vineyards in the Douro Valley than any other winery and run four port houses, including Dow’s, Warre’s, Cockburn’s, and Graham’s.
Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port, Douro Valley, Portugal
The bunches of grapes on this label are a historical indication of quality. In the 1800s, the winemakers at Graham’s would rate the Ports from 1 to 6, with 6 having the most complexity and balance.
In the 1900s, they used their 6 grape Ports to create a reserve Port that became their signature.
It ages for two years in cask before bottling.
This wine is sweet, with blackberries, licorice, and cassis on the nose. The dark fruit on the palate makes it perfect to pair with chocolate.
19.5 abv $16.99 (375 ml) Total Wine $13.99 Wine.com
Why we picked this wine
We have tasted wine from Symington before, but it was a white wine from Alentejo in South East Portugal. I knew that sustainability was important to them. They see the future and the challenges of climate change. They see it as their responsibility to adapt.
They are a Certified B Corp, a global movement of companies with rigorous social and environmental accountability standards.
They are committed to Biodiversity protection with Sustainable Viticulture, Organic Vineyard Practices, Terrace preservation, cover cropping, protection of endangered species, wildlife sanctuaries, forest regeneration, and support of a wildlife recovery center.
Chocolate brownie, blue cheese cheesecake bites with berries
Port is well known for going well with chocolate and with blue cheese. Yes, I decided to put these things together. I find it delicious!
This spoon combines brownies, cheesecake, and blue cheese with cherry pie filling and fresh berries bringing the fruit notes. It is brilliant with Port.
Okay, picture this, you, a fireplace, fuzzy slippers, a glass of Port, and a spoonful of this bite. Maybe, just maybe, you will want to share this with someone, but they will have to get their own spoon.
Check out our book series “Tempting Spoonfuls” available through Amazon!
Inspired by the flavors and aromas in wines, this book creates “tempting spoonfuls” of flavors to pair with wines.
Robin has always had a love for spoons, with a drawer full of them in all different shapes and sizes. There is comfort in eating something from a spoon and something very sensual also.
Creating a spoon filled with flavors and aromas that will be eaten in a single bite, allowing the flavors to meld and pop in your mouth, is a joyful endeavor, and you are encouraged to make these your own.
The spoons range from savory to sweet, with something for everyone, and while they are paired with wines, they are delicious on their own.
These recipes are wonderful for appetizers and hors d’oeuvres or simple to create something delicious to spoil yourself, much like a pint of ice cream.
Each of these spoons is paired with a specific wine, and you get a bit of background on the wine, its flavors, aromas, and a bit of its story. She also includes other suggestions for wines to pair with the spoon.
The book is a feast for your eyes, with photos of each layered spoonful.
There are also photos of the wines with the elements of their flavor profile surrounding them. Those elements often inspire the pairing.
The goal is to make your mouth water and encourage you to create your own “Tempting Spoonfuls.”
“Tempting Spoonfuls – Pairing single bites with glorious wines” – Our first book paired wines from boutique wineries on the west coast, in California, Oregon, and Washington, with delicious spoonfuls.
This book is 60 pages, 18 recipes, lots of beautiful photos, and insights into some wonderful small wineries!
“Tempting Spoonfuls – small bites paired with wines from around the Globe” – This book takes us around the globe to explore 12 wine regions, a wine from the region, and then gives you a recipe for a pairing!
A slightly larger book at 104 pages, this time you learn about pairing with a type of wine from a region. Rather than a specific bottle, you can look for a style of wine from a region and feel confident that it will go well with the recipe pairing we provide. We give you 12 recipes, each to pair with a wine.
Either of these books gives you wonderful recipes to create appetizer spoons to pair with wines for a party!
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.