At Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos, we make port only from the red grapes grown at Malvedos and nearby Quinta do Tua.
Our White Ports, both dry and sweet, are made at Quinta do Sol. White grapes are the first to be harvested each year, and have been coming into Sol since the 1st September. The classic varieties are Códega, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato and Viosinho. As each lot of grapes is delivered, we assess the quality and take a baumé reading – a measure of the sweetness of the grapes – and decide for each lot individually whether it will be used to make Port or Altano Douro DOC wine. For White Port we expect the grapes to have a baumé between 12º and 13.5º.
The grapes are sourced from one privately owned Symington family quinta and top local growers, and are delivered in large bins, which are lifted and tipped into hoppers. At the bottom of the hopper is an archimedes screw which moves the grapes into a de-stemmer and crusher, from which the grapes are pumped up into an inox (stainless steel) vat. From that vat, the free run juice is moved into another inox vat, and the remaining solids will be moved into a press. The musts from the press will be assessed, and may or may not be added back into the main lot of juice, according to the judgment of the winemaker.
The juice is held in the second tank at a temperature around 10ºC – too cool for fermentation – for three days, to allow the juice to fall bright. The clear juice is then run off, leaving any sediment behind, and moved into another inox vat where the fermentation will be allowed to begin.
At this point, the winemaker has to decide whether this lote will become sweet or dry White Port. If it will be sweet, then the must is maintained at around 18ºC and the fermentation will take two to three days, just a little bit cooler and longer than for a red port fermenting in a lagar. If we want a dry White Port, the fermentation tank is maintained at a cooler 15ºC and the fermentation will take up to a week to reach the desired stage.
In either case, when fermentation has reached the desired stage, the wine will be shifted into another inox vat where it will be blended with the aguardente to arrest the fermentation.
Like red ports, the White Port will stay up in the Douro over the winter. Samples will be sent down to Gaia in the late winter, and Charles and his team in the tasting room will make decisions about possibly combining lots of wine. In addition, they will decide how each lot will continue to age in Gaia – whether in inox, to preserve the fresh crisp character of the wine, or in wood, to develop a more concentrated and mature flavour profile. Both styles bring their special qualities to our blends.