This past month we celebrated a huge holiday: September 10th 2014 was the first ever Port Wine Day. The date celebrates the establishment of the Companhia Geral da Agricultura das Vinhas do Alto Douro (which has since evolved into Royal Oporto) which was founded in 1756, and the creation of the first demarcated and regulated wine region of the World. Since this was the first year for this holiday, you might not have heard about it. In fact, we only found out about it a few days before, but immediately decided we had to do something special to commemorate it.
Before deciding on Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage, we considered several others, including: Royal Oporto’s “Fundador” (Founder) Tawny, Offley’s “Baron Forrester” Tawny or Ferreira’s “Dona Antónia”. All of these were dedicated to influential and iconic figures in the history of the Douro, which would have made them a perfect choice for celebrating the holiday that salutes Port wine. But we were going to pair this wine with a special homemade dessert, so we decided to go with a wine that would make the most sense for the pairing.
Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage 2008 has a wonderful aroma of red fruit and a sort of minty freshness that really caught us by surprise, so much that it took us a while to figure out what it was. But it was the taste that really brought this Port home for us. You always expect a ruby Port to have prominent cherry notes, and an LBV to have more nods to the cask where it was aged, and often these flavor profiles are very pronounced from the start. This was not the case with this particular bottle. The first impression you get is of an incredibly rich and lush red fruit, with a sort of a chocolate undertone. That initial red fruit starts to fade into strong chocolate notes, which then makes way for a little spice contrasted by the minty, floral freshness from the aroma. These flavors definitely linger, as the finish is very long and very smooth, and there was relatively no tartness or aggressive acidity, which is what you would expect from a Port: a rich, regal experience.
As far as pairing goes, most Ports are very easily enjoyed on their own, and this wine is no exception. Though, it was a special occasion so we decided to bake something to go with it. Graham’s suggests chocolate desserts or hard cheeses (such as cheddar or goat cheese). We went for a chocolate brownie with walnuts and a fresh raspberry compote, which was a great fit, as long as you don’t mind the richness of the combo. The desert mirrored all of the flavors in the Port very well, which we enjoyed. The raspberry compote is easy to make and really brings out the forest fruit flavors in the Port. If you prefer more of a contrast in your pairings, cheese would be perfect.
A great alternative to the Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage is their Six Grapes Port wine, which has the tamer flavor profile of a young red wine. Graham’s is owned by the Symington Family, who have several wineries and Quintas making Port, Douro DOC and Madeira wines. They’re the only Portuguese wine producers to be a part of Primum Familiae Vini.