Over to my friend A's for dinner this week and so I took her a bottle of Tawny Port which has been lurking at the bottom of my wine rack for some years. This was a present from Britain's Honorary Consul in Oporto, who was a senior member of the Symington Port family. Warre's being one of their wines.
A view across the Douro. I took this picture from the terrace of a building where we had a meeting with the mayor
The Legatus has been to Portugal a number of times but always just to Lisbon. However, in 2006 I took the train up to Oporto for the first time. Waiting for me when I arrived at my hotel was this bottle of Warre's Otima Tawny Port; a welcome gift from our Consul General. This was very nice and, fortunately, was just before the ban on liquids in hand luggage was introduced. Later, I was presented with a triple pack of full size bottles of Graham's Port which I got shipped home in the diplomatic bag as it wouldn't fit in my hand luggage. I gave the triple pack away, sadly, as my doctors don't like me drinking Port even though I really, really like it. The oldest wine I have ever had was an 1896 Quinta do Noval, during our final law dinner at college.
A visit to Graham's
I had had quite a busy week in Madrid and Lisbon but the two days in Oporto were just a succession of lunches and dinners accompanied by more and more Port. Lunch at Graham's, outside on their terrace, overlooking the Douro, after a tasting of about twelve Ports was followed by dinner in the Factory House; the posh club which only Port producers are allowed to be members of. They have two identical dining rooms next to each other. After you have finished your main meal you all move from the first room to the one next door so you can have your Port without the scent of the wine being spoiled by food odours. I sat next to a very beautiful lady whose husband was sat at the other end of the table. She flirted outrageously all through the proceedings in both dining rooms. I asked her which Port family her husband was from. "Oh, he isn't from one of the families," she replied, offhandedly,"but I am a Delaforce!" She sent me half a case of her Port when I got home.
Anyway, Otima was something of a new approach to Port marketing when it appeared ten years ago. Designed to be served chilled and aimed, in its trendy minimalist bottle, at women and younger people it was a great success. It is a constant problem for the producers of fortified wines to get them to appeal to the younger market. I remember a sherry called Tico. from Harvey's. some years ago which was designed to be mixed. My mother loved it. Fortunately, this wine didn't compromise on quality, although I admit we didn't drink it chilled. It was dryer than I expected, quite nutty with some orange scent in there. Surprisingly fresh it would have been good chilled, although we drank the whole bottle in short order! It won a silver medal in the 2007 International Wine Challenge.