Graham’s launches tawny Port from 188219th June, 2014 by Patrick Schmitt
Symington Family Estates has launched a single harvest tawny from 1882 under the Graham’s label, using Port bought by Andrew James Symington, great-grandfather of current company chairman, Paul Symington.
1882 was the year when Andrew James Symington arrived in the Douro, where he started working for Graham’s, beginning within the company’s textile business which it ran at the time alongside Port production.
Speaking yesterday at the launch of the Port, which has been named Ne Oublie after the original Graham’s family motto, Paul Symington said his grandfather had bought four barrels of the 1822 tawny from a Douro farmer in the 1920s, before shipping it down to Gaia, where it has aged in the relative cool and humidity of this town close to the Atlantic ocean.
After unveiling the Port at Christie’s in London yesterday, Paul Symington said that the fact the Port was brought down to Gaia from the Douro, where summertime temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius in the shade, was crucial to the longevity and “freshness” of this historic tawny.
“AJ [Andrew Symington] brought the Port to Gaia because he wanted it in his cellar, and that’s why it has kept so well… otherwise, these very old Ports can become like molasses,” he said.
Symington also told db that the Port “was not for everyone, but should appeal to collectors”.
This, he said, was due to its age, as well as rarity – just 656 decanters have been released – and price: Ne Oublie will retail for £4,510 (€5,500) through selected fine wine merchants, at the Graham’s Port Lodge and via an application list on http://www.neoublie.grahams-port.com
Acknowledging the recent launch of very old tawnies from The Fladgate Partnership, including Taylor’s Scion – a tawny Port dating back to 1855, which was launched in 2010 – and Taylor’s 1863, unveiled earlier this month, Symington said he had been inspired by the success of Scion.
He also said that it was important “for a region like the Douro to do stuff at the top end”.
Although Andrew Symington had bought four casks of the 1882 Port, just three remain. This is because some of the Port has been used for blending into Graham’s rare tawny Ports, as well as replenish three of the casks due to volume losses from evaporation over the long period this liquid has spent ageing in a porous container.
Yesterday’s release means that only two casks are now left, which Paul Symington said had been “entrusted to the next generation”, while ensuring attendees of the launch that there would be “nothing” from these remaining two casks before 2025.
Ne Oublie has been bottled in individually numbered, hand-made crystal decanters designed by Portugal’s glass manufacturer Atlantis. The packaging incorporates sterling silver bands moulded and engraved by Scottish silversmiths Hayward & Stott, and the container comes in a box handcrafted by Britain’s Smythson of Bond Street.
The use of Portuguese, Scottish and English companies for the packaging of the Port was deliberately done to reflect the Symington family’s origins, with Paul Symington stressing that Andrew’s mother was “a remarkable Shetlander”, while noting that they were a “mongrel family”.
Talking more generally about the Symington’s strong presence in the Douro today, Paul stressed that his company’s survival should be credited to family ownership and management.
“I believe there is a strong affinity between wine, vineyards and families,” he said.
Continuing, he commented, “There is no room for quarterly reports in a wine business because you have to think long term… there are exceptions of course, but the love of the soil and the vineyards from a family brings something special to the glass.”
He also announced that his daughter, who has just started working for the Symington UK agency business, John E Fells, was the first of the fifth generation to join the family business.
Looking back to the company’s origins, he said, “We owe a lot to Andrew, his mother, and his wife.”
Paul Symington also showed attendees of the launch a video produced to mark the creation of Ne Oublie, which can be viewed below.
Having shown the short film, he commented, “When the marketing department showed us the film I thought they’d gone completely crazy.”