Malvedos Then and Now

Many of our readers will know that Graham’s was founded in 1820 by the brothers William and John Graham, and that the firm has only ever been owned by the Graham family and since 1970, by the Symington family.  What readers may not know is that when we bought the firm and Quinta dos Malvedos, it was all handed over utterly intact, together with an incredible wealth of family and business archival material.

Among other things, we have photo albums with wonderful old views of the quinta and the Douro.  When the Graham family acquired Malvedos in 1890 it was already established as a source of some of the best ports in then-recent years, and the Graham family maintained that excellence and the mature vineyards whilst beginning to establish new plantings – a policy which they, and we, have pursued ever since by the way.

This is a view taken from high on a hill at the western end of the quinta, circa 1895:

Now look again, photo taken this morning.  The biggest change of course is the level of the river; in the 1960s and 70s a series of dams were constructed on the Douro, and water levels rose, making the river more safely navigable.  However, in years of low rainfall, or if the dam below us has been opened and the water level drops, all those rocks you see near the far shore become visible again, if not above, then just below the surface of the water – that side of the river remains unsafe for boats.

The bare terraces to the left above and beyond the house are still there, though the view of them is obscured now by the growth of trees on the nearer left hillside.  Similarly, the terraces below the house in the original photo are still there, and the Touriga Nacional from those vineyards has already been harvested.  The near right vines in the modern photo are Tinta Roriz, and were picked in the first few days of this year’s vintage.

And of course, the magnificent view upriver, and the countours of the hills opposite, is unchanged and timeless.