India's First Wine, Food and Hospitality Website, INDIAN WINE ACADEMY, Specialists in Food & Wine Programmes. Food Importers in Ten Cities Across India. Publishers of delWine, India’s First Wine.
Skip Navigation Links
About Us
Indian Market
Wine & Health
Wine Events
Retail News
Contact Us
Skip Navigation Links
Wine Tourism
Book Review
Photo Gallery
Readers' Comments
Video Wall
Media Partners
Ask Wineguyindia
Wine & Food
Wine Guru
Gerry Dawes
Harvest Reports
Mumbai Reports
Advertise With Us
US Report on Indian Market Released
Top Ten Importers List 2015-16
On Facebook
On Twitter
Delhi Wine Club
Porto: Enjoying Port in the Cellars

Posted: Friday, 29 July 2011 12:08

Porto: Enjoying Port in the Cellars

July 29: Port is a fortified wine which is interesting in that the vinification is done in Douro Valley, a couple of hours from O Porto (city of Porto) after which traditionally it has been brought to Gaia on the other side of River Douro where underground cellars have existed for even three hundred or more years, where they are matured in casks and were earlier shipped on boats. Most Ports can be tasted in the cellars located in Gaia, writes Subhash Arora who visited a few and is convinced that this is a great destination for wine lovers.

Douro Valley is divided into 3 parts as one leaves Porto and goes from West to East towards Spain along river Douro originating in Spain. On the extreme West is Baixa Corgo with too much rainfall, followed by Cima Corgo in the central part with a balanced rainfall, making it the best region. To the East lies Douro Superior which is quite arid but of late many producers have bought land and are successful in growing  quality grapes. Here are some of the cellars I visited to taste a variety of Ports.:

Churchill Graham
Contact: Mrs. Emilia Campos
Chairman and Winemaker: Johnny Graham

Wines of Churchill with interesting labels
Producing Churchill’s Port, the company is a baby as compared to many known names which have been present for centuries. But the Graham family that founded this company only 30 years ago, had been Port shippers for a century under the Graham’s label in J W Graham which was sold by Graham to the Symington family in 1970. One of the sons, Johnny worked with Cockburn until he started his own business with his brother in 1981. Since he could not use Graham label anymore, he used his wife Caroline Churchill’s maiden name and introduced Churchill’s- initially buying Port from outside,  

Grapes from only the highest quality A grade vineyards are used from Quinta da Gricha, a 100 hA estate situated on the south bank of River Douro about 8 kms from the village of Pinhao in Douro Valley and 20 hA farm, Quinta do Rio situated in Rio Torto valley. They grow the local varieties –mostly Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional.

A third of the company is owned by Grahams, and another third by an English investor. Interestingly, the balance third is dispersed among smaller investors in different countries which helps to promote their products and brand, says Emilia as we taste different ports and still wines which the company has started making recently with interesting, contemporary labels which are graphics of the vineyards they own.

Although essentially a Port maker with a sale of 20,000 cases, Churchill’s has also introduced Douro DOC wines in the recent years.

J W Graham

Owned by the well-known Symington family (Paul is the cousin who is their face in India as he comes frequently for various tastings with the importer in India, Sonarys), the company is one of the oldest and most well known Port companies with a history going back three centuries. Founded by William and John Graham in 1820, it was bought over by the Symingtons in 1970 from the father of Johnny Graham  of Churchill Graham and has a share of  40% of premium Vintage Port (over €15) exported . It also owns Dow and Warre (pronounced as war)-both well-known for premium vintage Ports (a 3-pack of Dow 2007, Graham 1996 and Warre 1995 sells for € 288 at the immaculate and opulent looking visitor and tasting center which ferries tourists free of charge from different parts of town and offers several tasting flights). The center attracts around 80,000 visitors.

Busy Tasting Room at J W Graham
In an expansion mode, it acquired Cockburn (pronounced ‘co-burn’) last year. Tasting a range of Ports starting from the fastest moving Late Bottle Vintage 2006, followed by 10,20,30 and 40 year old tawnies would convince money- watching  Port connoisseurs that that the 20-year old tawny gives the best value. The 10-year old sells for €23 and as expected the 20-year would cost you €45. The 30-year old tawny may be more mellow and complex, it would set you back €85 whereas  the 40-year will put a dent of €130 in your packet.

Some of the other wines tasted were Malvados ’99 Vintage  (kept in the bottle for 6 years, sweet with spicy end), Dow Vintage Port 1985, Quinta do Vesuvio 1994  (quite young and fruity with no spiciness), Graham’s 2003 (very ripe fruit and long end). All of them were delicious  though Dow and Graham 2003 were the most impressive.

Real Companhia Velha
President and CEO: Pedro Silva Reis

The company was founded in 1756 and considers itself the oldest Port producer. It was founded by Marques de Pombal, the Prime Minister to the then Monarch Don Jose I.  Although the Port trade had been carried on more than a century earlier, Pombal was instrumental in bring Port production under regulation in 1756. The current building is where all the offices and labs etc are supposed to have been located.

The company had a wide share-holding from the very beginning. In the 1950s, father of the current majority shareholder Pedro Reis started collecting the shares in the stock market and by early 1960s he was the majority owner. Although a relatively big port producer, he also started production of still wine in Douro and also buying from other regions.  A steel tank of a million and fifty nine thousand liters, equivalent to 2000 pipas (pipes- each being 550 liters) was built in 1970. Later 21 tanks were built with even slightly higher capacities, making the company a producer with the highest storage capacity in the region, though the 4000 casks with them for aging Port may not be the highest number.

Reis claims to be the number one producer in Douro for still wines of which he makes about 4.2 million bottles annually, including the inexpensive wines that could have great potential for India as I discovered with a delicious Alvarinho which was quite mineral, slightly oaky and a great company for the fried fish lunch.  Additional 4 million Port bottles with total revenue of €24 million makes him one of the biggest producers in the region.

Real specializes in Colheita wines-from a single harvest, stored like Vintage port. Usually from good vintages, oops, the years of harvest, they are kept in the old to very old oak casks up to 30, 40, 50 or even 100 years old. These can be sold as Colheita or blended with those from other years. The company had released a Jubilee Port in 2006 to celebrate its 250th Anniversary. A blend of several Colheitas, the oldest being 1867, it was sold for €227.

Tasting of an 1867 and other Old Ports

I had an opportunity to taste five old Colheitas- 1937, 1927, 1908, 1900 with 1867 being the oldest. If I had any doubts about the condition of the oldest bottles in their cellar-1765 harvest, I became certain of their drinkability after tasting these wines, especially 1867 which was rich and opulent on the palate with distinct aromas of alcohol and intense flavours of crushed blackberries and dry fruits backed by a distinct flavour of orange peel that was common in all the five wines, making them all feel very fresh on the palate. All of them were extremely long- one wanted to wait for more than a minute before taking the next small sip.

Taylor Fladgate Partnership

Taylor’s may be known as the company which introduced Late Bottled Vintage, as a marketing strategy to create a market for its single harvest vintages that would not otherwise stand the test of a Vintage Port, but it also has a reputation for making consistently good quality Port which brings out highest prices in auctions after a couple of decades even though they drink well within a few years of release without achieving the complexity and finesse. It is also one of the oldest Port companies, the only one that has never been bought, sold or taken over.

The Partnership also owns Fonseca, Croft (which also makes a delicious pink Port)and Delaforce. In fact, if one goes by the critics’ ratings Fonseca is accepted as a better port than Taylor. Taylor’s has been managed by the families and descendents of Taylor, Fladgate and Yeatman (the original partners). The current Chairman Alistair Robertson is a descendent of Yeatman.

Special Bottle of Very Old Port-Scion- you can buy a glass at 100 Euro at their shop or 2300 Euros a bottle
A tasting in the beautiful Tasting Room built in their office in Gaia on the banks of  Douro river included a Select, Late Bottled Vintage 2005, four tawny Ports- a staple with most of the top and quality  Port producers -10,20,30 and 40 year olds this is the average age of the blend since different harvests are blended). The iconic Quinta de Vargellas 2001 (one of the high quality vineyards owned by Taylor’s; when the Vintage Port is made from several vineyard grapes, it is labeled as ‘Taylor Vintage Port’. Taylor Vintage Port 2009 was the most recent Vintage year announced by the company.

Taylor’s Pot is imported by Dhall Foods in India while Fonseca by Brindco. Warre was imported by Ace Beverages which has not been successful in selling it due to the market being laggard for this type of wine as the custom of after dinner chats over Port is not evolved in India yet.

The Yeatman Hotel

Room with a View- Yeatman Hotel
If one were to ask five reasons to visit Porto, staying or visiting the new Yeatman Hotel owned by Taylor’s and named after the present Chairman’s uncle, would be definitely on the list. The biggest, newest and a luxury wine hotel it is a highly recommended destination hotel for port or wine lovers or even those on a vacation without counting their Euros. It has the biggest cellar for Portuguese wines in the country, according to the hotel, not only Port or Douro wines, but several other wines from the country as well. Each room has a different décor and interiors by a winery which sponsors it and also keeps their wines in the hotel cellar for sale.

The view of River Douro and Porto across the river from each room or its balcony is breathtaking. The spacious Spa run by the French company Caudalie with vinotherapie spa treatments, Dick’s bar where even the local tourists can go for a drink and have a great view of the old town across the river, delicious food by the award winning chef, would make you want to come back again. It is enjoyable  for your first honeymoon or the second or the third and the Spa will always help you rejuvenate. When you stay there, do try the Taylor’s winery restaurant also for delicious food at reasonable price and the view is excellent too.


With Antonio Saraiva, GM
Going East towards Spain towards Pinhao, one passes the town of Vila Real (near Régua) where Rozés winery is located.  If you are welcome by French speaking staff, it is the first sign that it is not owned by the British names like Taylor, Graham, Cockburn or Warre. The French roots go back to 1855 (coincidentally the year of the famous Bordeaux classification) when Ostende Rozés, a Bordeaux négociant set up the winery. It was sold to LVMH which further sold it to Vranken Pommery (makers of Pommery and Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Champagnes) in1999. Vranken had also introduced a brand in the mid 80s, labeled as San Pedro, which is still popular.

The winery owns 4.2 hA in Douro Superiore. The low-yielding grapes are transported in a refrigerated truck that takes three and a half hours through the winding roads from Douro Superior, explains Antonio Saraiva, General Manager while taking us through the winery which impresses you with the mirror finished stainless steel tanks ‘that have no functional significance but indicate our passion for details and aesthetics as well,’ says Antonio.

Mirrored finish tanks
French producers have been quite fascinated by Porto which has its biggest market in France-mostly cheap varieties as it is used extensively for cooking. The biggest known brand in France is Cruz, owned by Gran Cruz, not heard of even in Portugal and may not be of interest in India, the low cost of their Ports and simple tawnies notwithstanding.

Rozés Ports include the White, Ruby  (both aged for 3 years) and Tawny (aged for 4 years). The Ruby tasted was quite fruity and vibrant though would have been nicer chilled. There was not enough time to taste their Late Bottled Vintages (LBV) or the 10,20,30 or 40 year old Infanta Isabel tawnies.

Rozés could export to India through their parent connection with Brindco which imports Pommery, but already imports Fonseca and may not be able to absorb another label at this stage of the market.

Quinta de Seixo

Lagars for robotic grape crushing
The beautifully located property near Pinhao-the heart of Douro Valley belongs to the company George Sandeman that owns the Sherry company as well. In 2002 the company was bought over by Sogrape from Seagram which had it for a few years. Sogrape is the biggest wine producer of Portugal known for its multi-million bottle-Mateus Rosés and Ferreira Port. They have an excellent wine making facility with lagars (where traditionally the grapes were stomped with feet for making Port) where robots designed exclusively in-house crush the grapes , explains George Sandeman, one of the descendents who worked earlier for Seagram and now on the board of Sogrape and also manages this Quinta.

George Sandeman talking to the group
The winery is a visitor’s delight with a hill-top restaurant from where the view of the winding Douro and valley with the town in the backdrop and the multiple terraced vineyards all around, is breathtaking. Tasting of a range of LBV, Tawny Ports and a Vintage wine that we had, would convince any Port aficionado about the impressive quality of Sandeman Port and make you want to return soon; although you could also taste the wines in Gaia.

The visit and tasting of such fine taste reminds one that though the taste may need to be acquired and the culture of Port may not be existent yet, it is a unique product to store and serve.

For earlier articles, pl. visit:

IVDP: Multi-faceted Regulator of Port and Douro

Primer: Port not Only for Portly

Subhash Arora

Quinta do Portal, and Niepoort and Quinta do Crasto- two members of the Douro Boys will be covered in another issue. Visits were organised by IVDP, Porto and the organizers of OIV Annual conference.


Want to Comment ?
Please enter your comments in the space provided below. If there is a problem, please write directly to Thank you.

Generate a new image

Type letters from the image:

Please note that it may take some time to get your comment published...Editor

Wine In India, Indian Wine, International Wine, Asian Wine Academy, Beer, Champagne, World Wine Academy, World Wine, World Wines, Retail, Hotel


Copyright©indianwineacademy, 2003-2020 |All Rights Reserved
Developed & Designed by Sadilak SoftNet