Last week Paul Symington was in London together with his colleagues from the Primum Familiae Vini to show Graham’s wines to the top UK wine writers and food and beverage professionals. It was quite a show.
Primum Familiae Vini (PFV) is an association of eleven of the most prestigious family owned and run wineries from around the world. They came together to create a forum in which to share literally hundreds of years of experience and exchange ideas about their unique challenges. Both formally as a group and more informally between individual members, they have shared information about everything from viticultural techniques and bottling line innovations to marketing and distribution contacts around the world. On the marketing side particularly they have created a formidable presence in the wine world, working together to show their wines globally.
After Shanghai in 2009 and Brazil in 2010, this year London was the focus of the PFV’s activities. Events included a luncheon for the press, a dinner and charity auction, and a tasting for the the UK’s top wine trade professionals and wine writers.
The press lunch on Thursday 9 February was held at the 2 Michelin starred The Square Restaurant in Mayfair, and the menu and wine list are amazing. Prior to the lunch, each producer showed a young wine – in our case, the Graham’s Vintage Port 2007 – and then an older wine was served with the meal. Paul said it was an honour to show Graham’s Vintage Ports in such august company, citing the Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1961 as possibly the greatest Bordeaux of all time.
Pol Roger Blanc de Blanc 1988
Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche 1990
Lasagne of Dorset Crab with a Cappuccino of Shellfish and Champagne Foam
Château de Beaucastel 1990
Loin of Monkfish with Glazed Trotter, Savoy Cabbage, Lentils and Red Wine
Mas La Plana 1982
Vega Sicilia Unico 1953
Château Mouton Rothschild 1961
Venison Wellington with Baked Celeriac and Beetroot Purée
Gewurztraminer Sélection de Grains Nobles 1976
Scharzhofberger Trockenbeerenauslese 1990
Bitter Chocolate Pavé with a Seville Orange Soufflé
The Graham’s 1963 is a landmark wine for several reasons. First and foremost, of course, for its extraordinary quality – as Paul said, “This is the kind of wine we want to make.” The 1963 Vintage was also a distinct turning point for the Port trade, bringing Port back to the attention of the wine trade and consumers after the difficult years of World War II and its aftermath.
UK wine writer Jamie Goode described the succession of wines at lunch as “Peaks and no valleys”. We were pleased to see that Iberian wines dominated his top points, with Graham’s 1963 rated 97/100 together with Torres Mas La Plana Gran Coronas Gran Reserva 1982 Penedes, Spain; Vega Sicilia Unico 1953 Ribera del Duero, Spain; and Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Trockenbeerenauslese 1990 Mosel, Germany.
Thursday evening PFV members and their guests enjoyed a gala dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant Galvin at Windows, at the London Hilton Hotel. Graham’s Vintage 1970 was served with another stunning dessert, a Palet d`or of Valrhona Araguani Chocolate, Quince and Blood Orange. Following the dinner a charity auction featured a special case containing one wine from each of the PFV members, which raised £19,000.
On Friday, the PFV had the opportunity to show a broad range of their wines to over 200 sommeliers, restaurateurs and wine market professionals – including 30 Masters of Wine and six MW students. Graham’s showed Six Grapes, Late Bottled Vintage 2006, 20 Year Old and 40 Year Old Tawnies, the Quinta dos Malvedos 1999 Vintage and the Graham’s 1980 Vintage Port.
At each of the events, in speaking with press and wine professionals, the wine makers emphasised the unique compatability of wine production with a family owned business structure. Planting a vineyard and maturing a wine to perfection are long term endeavours, which corporations, with their need for short term performance to satisfy shareholder demands, are ill suited to manage. Paul has frequently spoken of the new plantations in our Douro vineyards as something we do for future generations, not for a return in the next few years.
One of the avowed goals of the PFV is to assist in bringing the next generation into the business – and Robert Symington, who currently has his own London-based business, joined his father Paul at Thursday’s lunch. Rob grew up in Porto and the Douro and has worked harvests at Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos and at Prats & Symington’s Quinta de Roriz, just downriver, where we make Douro DOC wines. He is looking forward to joining Graham’s in a few years when his own business is more well established.