‘Port needs to come out of the dinosaur age’

Paul Symington of Symington Family Estates has said that Port needs to shake off its “private men’s club” image to attract a younger audience of drinkers.

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Paul Symington

At the first tasting of Graham’s Single Harvest Tawny Ports in Hong Kong, Paul Symington described Port as being at a “crossroads.”

“We’ve been around since the time of the dinosaurs and we will stay in this dinosaur age until we reinvent ourselves and shake off this image of Port only being drunk at London’s city clubs with old men quaffing it by the gallon. The world is calling out for something different.”

Symington Family Estates has launched its Single Harvest Tawny range – colheita – with the idea of shaking up the market and engaging the on-premise where half of aged Tawny Ports are sold.

Encompassing the years of 1982, 1972, 1969, 1961 and 1952 plus a 90-year-old and the extremely rare Ne Oublie 1882, the tasting highlighted the potential of undeclared years which would normally have been set aside for blending into Vintage Ports.

“Single Harvest is at the top of the tree, the cherry on the cake,” said Euan Mackay, sales director of Symington Family Estates.

“Now we’re in a position to deliver and we’ve really seen traction everywhere. The UK is very strong, the US is getting there.  Hong Kong is obviously at the start, but we’re moving into Korea, Taiwan and China and people love it.

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The Single Harvest line up included: 1982, 1972, 1969, 1961, 1952 plus a 90-year-old and the extremely rare Ne Oublie 1882

“Single Harvest Tawnies don’t require decanting or complicated storage and lasts for six weeks in the fridge when opened for informal drinking occasions – this is what we’re driving at.”

2011 was the last declared vintage but Mackay revealed that 2015 or 2016 “looked good.”

“The decision will be made in February or March next year, we’re not saying anything yet and we don’t have to. But I can say we have two very good wines in the cellars and 2015 was just fantastic for still wines in any case, the quality of the fruit was phenomenal.”

The Symington Family acquired Graham’s in 1970 though they themselves had been Port producers since 1882 – with Ne Oublie 1882 commemorating the arrival of Andrew James Symington to Portugal to work for W. & J. Graham’s before it was bought by his grandsons when the property was put up for sale.

“Families and wine have an affinity,” said Paul Symington.

“People and vineyards have time on their side. With wine you start off with a vineyard and you make nothing special for at least five to six years and there are absolutely not short cuts.

“With Port you’ve just got to leave it to get on with itself and age in the casks or bottle with no meddling. Families are also trained to think long term – weddings, births, anniversaries and so on, so there a lot of similarities.

“We’re just going to carry on making wine that we like.”

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