The sun was shining brightly as we loaded our cases into the coach and departed, with regret, from Vila Real. Through the stunning landscape for a last time, then the outskirts of Porto, and we arrived in Vila Nova de Gaia, and Graham’s.
After a few minutes admiring the huge table in which were displayed memorabilia of Symington wines being drunk (and even bought) by the great and the good, we started our tour. Our guide was Nuno, who was from a winemaking family in the valley. He bore his knowledge lightly and gave us a concise summary of the region and port wines, with a particular perspective on the Symington estates. In the barrel cellar we stopped by the barrel of 1935 Colheita and two barrels that Anthony James Symington had been given as his first payment back in 1882 – when it is occasionally bottled, a snip at £12,500/bottle.
We sat in a smaller barrel cellar for our tasting, of the 2017 lbv, the 1990 ‘Lodge edition’ tawny and the Single Quinta dos Malvedos 2010 vintage. The progression through the wines was so interesting, and Tim took a quick check on who in the room preferred tawny to ruby, in general – tawny won hands down, though the Malvedos was very persuasive in favour of ruby.
On to our final destination, Taylor’s lodge, which was about 15 minutes on foot, and the same by coach, thanks to a long reverse. We enjoyed the sunshine and shade on the terrace with some port tonic, and then transferred into the restaurant for a fine final meal – a truffle potato soup, pork with bulgar wheat, and a delicious chocolate dessert, accompanied by the Quinta Vale do Bragão white and Crasto red, and their 2017 lbv. And just when we thought we’d done everything, a couple of bottles of Taylor’s 2009 vintage were (literally) wheeled out, and we were given a demonstration of opening with port tongs. A highly suitable end to our port experience (of course we drank it too).
The coach took us back to the airport and our group, with its old and new friendships, said goodbyes, or rather aux revoirs as we are all keen to return on tour with Tim in 2023.