Port from Port to Port

Henry Shotton is accustomed to serving Graham’s ports in all kinds of venues, but one recent opportunity was a bit different.  The brief was not unusual:  please present tutored tastings to guests and host a dinner featuring Graham’s Ports and Symington Family Estates DOC wines.

Henry in front of the ocean liner / residence The World, docked in the Azores

But for the first time ever, Henry was asked to make these presentations at sea, aboard The World, a cruise ship which has been designed as a luxury residential community which just happens to be afloat and pursues a continuous worldwide itinerary, completing a circumnavigation every two to three years.

Henry flew out to join the ship in Ponta Delgada, on the island of São Miguel in the Azores.  The dinner and two tastings, one of Graham’s Ports and the other of Symington Family Estates’ Douro DOC wines, were part of an ongoing program of cultural and educational events offered on board during the cruises between ports, to orient passengers to the delights that await them on shore at the next destination.

Lining up wines to show at the Graham's tasting

One afternoon Henry offered a tutored tasting of Graham’s Ports, including Six Grapes, 20 and 40 Year Old Tawnies, Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage 1999 and two Graham’s Vintages, 1994 and 1980.  The 30 guests were quite knowledgeable about wine generally, and were familiar with Port to some degree, but clearly enjoyed and took advantage of the opportunity to learn more – they kept Henry for an hour and a half!

Another tasting featured SFE’s Douro DOC wines, including two vintages of Prats & Symington’s Chryseia (2003 and 2008) as well as a range of the Altano wines and the Quinta do Vesuvio Douro DOC 2008.  Again, the audience, though knowledgeable, were not familiar with many Portuguese wines and found the quality of our Douro wines very impressive, and particularly enjoyed the elegance of the aged Chryseia, which Henry said was showing just magnificently.

The dinner featured two dessert courses to close the meal, both of which sound fabulous with the ports:  a Blue Cheese Brulée with Graham’s 40 Year Old Tawny, and a Bolivia Dark Chocolate Mousse with Jellied Raspberries, which was served with Warre’s Vintage 1963.

The Blue Cheese Brulée was, according to Henry, “a match made in heaven.”  The complex and elegant 40 Year Old Tawny is a wine which can slightly defy food pairing efforts, and is usually enjoyed in solitary splendour, but Henry said the combination of the creamy Brulée and its accompaniments of caramelised walnuts and figs, worked beautifull to call forth and enhance all the flavour notes of the wine.

One more surprise was in store for Henry:  “I‘ve played a lot of Cricket but never thought I would get a game in the middle of the Atlantic between the Azores and Lisbon!”   It seems the ship has a deck laid out for tennis and other sports in the open air, and Henry was very pleased with his own performance, both bowling and batting.  Since “out” at sea means the ball went overboard, which is frowned upon, when Henry did finally go out, his team were penalised 10 runs.  Oh well.

As good as it gets, indeed: Port on the verandah at Malvedos, overlooking the Douro in May

The boat docked in Lisbon and the residents had several days to explore Portugal.  Clearly, the Port tasting was a hit – many of them took up an offer to visit the Douro, and met Henry again at Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos, where he showed them over the winery and hosted another tasting and lunch.  The tasting was a mini-vertical of some recent Malvedos Vintages, not yet released, including 2001, 2004, and 2009, and the after-lunch port was the Quinta dos Malvedos 1999 (which is currently available).

Standing on the verandah, overlooking the Douro, one of the guests commented, “I’ve been everywhere in the world, and this is about as good as it gets.”

The group’s next stop, in Bordeaux, is sure to seem a bit flat after the spectacular mountain vineyards of the Douro and all our Portuguese hospitality and wines.