The Graham’s Lodge is beautiful and it has great views to Oporto.
Alas, the photos are all gone with my iPhone that was probably stolen (read pick-pocketed) later that evening as I crossed the Ponte Luís I bridge to go back to Oporto. The ones I have here are what the husband clicked.
My notes from the evening were gone too because that phone wasn’t connected to Internet – it didn’t have a SIM card. What we have here is from my recollections.
They say no visit to Porto is complete without visiting a wine lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, across Porto. So after briefly looking up online, I shortlisted a couple of the lodges, got in touch with them and finally finalized a tour with the Graham’s.
My tour was in the afternoon at 4 PM last Sunday, November 15. It began with a little movie about them, the wines, the Douro valley and the family history followed by a tour of the cellar and their history.
The five Symington family cousins constitute the various aspects of running the company.
Bruna was our friendly guide for the evening. She spoke over five different languages and the lodge conducts tours in over seven languages including Portugese, Spanish, English, French, Japanese, Italian and more.
I learnt a bunch of things about port wine, the whats and hows and whys and the port wine association is and how they have vintage years declared by them, based on natural conditions. And yes, my birth year – 1983 was a vintage year 🙂
The grapes that are used to make Port must be grown in the mountainous Upper Douro region of Northern Portugal, the world’s first officially demarcated wine region in 1756. This protected region is the only place in the world that can produce authentic Port. Courtesy: Graham’s
The Graham’s get their wines/grapes from five different vineyards in the Douro valley. The Douro valley is one of the more challenging wine growing regions, I understood from them. With different altitudes and directions, you get different varieties and complexities.
In addition to the traditional treading in stone lagares, they also have modern lagares that replicate the traditional treading, they mentioned.
The kind of ageing imparts a character to the port – with the vintage ones being bottled after about 18 months and the tawny ports being aged in oak barrels, and hence oxygen that contacts the top layers.
They told us how they maintained the temperature and humidity in there. The little sprinklers and the water fountain were pretty cool, I thought.
The average tours are 25 minutes, I was told. This included their barrel storage areas and the locked wine cellars for the vintage ones.
After the tour, we had a tasting – two rubies and one tawny. All great. The natural sugars that are preserved by interrupting the fermenting process by adding aguardente or brandy make it much easier to drink, for me 🙂
Bruna also showed me their private tasting room that was gorgeous. Simple and classic – with some fancies like illuminating tables to tell the colors of the ports and all.
The staff was very friendly too. It seemed like we were one of the last tours for the day, and they brought us my baby’s stroller to the tasting room as they were closing there.
I took a photo of them too, but it’s gone – with my mobile.
The bigger regret than losing the phone is losing the photographs. The memories will stay with me 🙂
If you plan to go to Porto and if you like wines, certainly visit one of the lodges. I only visited this one, so don’t have anything to compare it against, but this place was very good. The whole estate of theirs was very beautiful and it would’ve been great if you could’ve seen it through the bunch of photos that I took.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they get booked for weddings and such, with how beautiful the place was.
They also have a restaurant that requires prior reservations. I was on a tight schedule, else, would’ve loved to dine there as well.
They’re open every day of the year except on Christmas, New Year’s, and a couple of days when they go to the Douro valley for training, in Februrary. The hours are from 9:30 AM to 5:30/ 6 PM and while reservations are recommended, they’d accommodate you even otherwise.
You can get more details on the Graham’s website.