Graham’s 1935: Vintage and Not Vintage

When is a Vintage Port not a Vintage Port?  When some of it was never bottled, but kept in cask in the Graham’s Lodge for 75 years.

Despite a difficult season with a drought that wasn’t broken until September by “a little rain,” harvest began 23 September and continued in perfect conditions.  Andrew James Symington’s notes, dated 14 October 1935 state:

I am inclined to think that the quality and good colour inspires hopes that the 1935 may prove good enough to make a Jubilee Vintage – quantity is less than last year – but quality appears to be better.

In the private cellar at the Lodge we still have three bottles of 1935 Vintage Graham’s on the shelf.

But if you visit the Sala do Baptismo, pay your respects to The Governor – that small oval tonel at the back of the room still contains 1100 litres of the 1935 wine, never bottled.

The oldest wines still in commerical use for tawny blends might be around 50 years old, but we still have wines in cask of all ages, including some from the nineteenth century.  Charles Symington, our winemaker, explained that we do like to keep a small stock of exceptionally interesting wines as an in-house reference library from which we continue to learn about the ageing process.  Rather like vintage cars, they are fun to have and to bring out for special occasions, but not meant for every day.

The Vintage 1935, bottled after only two years in wood, is described as “Good fruit and tannin integration with lovely balance and elegance.”

What does the 1935 look and taste like after 75 years in cask?  The wine still has a deep tawny core, with a broad dark lemon rim that ends in a classic glinting green edge.  The nose is surprisingly intense, first raisin, then lovely aromas of nuts and cigar box wafting up.  On the palate, the wine is extremely elegant and balanced, it has almost a feminine character, unusual in ports.  There is still a good acidity and a clean palate.  Some very old wines can become a bit sticky and heavy in age, this one has not, the 1935 has maintained its elegance and aged exceptionally well.

Or, more succinctly, “It’s nice” – but you have to have seen the smile on Charles’s face when he said that, to understand just how nice this wine still is.