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Star producer focus: Gonzalez Byass Sherry and Graham’s Tawny Port

Inside the Star Producer Focus sessions with Antonio Flores from González Byass and Paul Symington from Graham's Port at the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter...

The evolution of Sherry 

‘I’m going to fly us from Shanghai to Jerez,’ said Antonio Flores, master blender at González Byass, opening his busy Star Producer Focus class at the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter.

Flores took the class through the ‘five pillars of Jerez’; Albariz soil, grapes, biological ageing, oxidative ageing and the solera system.

The solera system is the blending of younger wines with more mature ones.

‘It is the idea that the younger wines take on some of the character of the older,’ said Flores.

The first five wines, all 2016, went from Tio Pepe, En Rama through to Fino Tres Palmas and the Amontillado Cuatro Palmas. These demonstrated the ageing process of Sherry.

‘We’ve had five wines today, but really we’ve just had one,’ said Flores.

gonzalez byass sherry

Antonio Flores leading his class.

The final wine was the Palo Cortado 1987, which was made not using the solera system, and is more like a traditional vintage wine.

‘This is the traditional way Sherry used to be made, rather than the solera system, in the 19th century.’

Most wineries have now abandoned this system, but Tio Pepe and a few others still carry it on, explained Flores.

This last wine was also a ‘handkerchief wine’, said Flores. He told the class to pour two drops on to a serviette, fold it up and put in their jacket pocket.

‘Then when life is getting a bit stressful, take out the serviette, smell the perfume on it and it will take you back to Jerez.’

The wines were:
Tio Pepe, En Rama 2016; Tio Pepe, Fino Una Palma 2016; Tio Pepe, Fino Dos Palmas 2016; Tio Pepe, Fino Tres Palmas 2016; Tio Pepe, Amontillado Cuatro Palmas 2016; Tio Pepe, Palo Cortado 1987

Sherry report by Ellie Douglas. 

Graham’s Tawny Port

Starting from the ‘delicate’ 10 Year Old Tawny, to the ‘more masculine’ 20 Year Old to the ‘most feminine and soft Graham’s port’—30 Year Old Tawny, Paul Symington, chairman of Symington Family Estates first invited the audience to discover and savour the ‘polished-gold-like’ style of Port.

Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter

The Ne Oublie Very Old Tawny Port 1882.

The 1972 Single Harvest Tawny port was the next one up—‘this wine is made by my father and uncle when I was still at school,’ said Symington, highlighting that continuity of family ownership is key to port production, which, with the top-quality wines, need generations to complete.

Highlight: Graham’s, Ne Oublie Very Old Tawny Port 1882

With a short video, Symington took the audience to a journey back to the Douro Valley in the 19th century, when his great grandfather, then 18-year-old, arrived in Portugal from Scotland.

The arrival symbolises the beginning of a now-five-generation family business.

By 1920s the already well-established port producer decided to buy three barrels of wines made in 1882, the year when he arrived in Portugal.

grahams tawny ports

Graham’s Tawny Ports

It was only until last year did the Symington family decide to bottle one barrel of the three, leaving the rest two for the next generations.

The name ‘Ne Oublie (do not forget)’ is meant to remind the next generation to keep the family winemaking tradition going, which is ‘something we feel very strongly about’, said Symington.

The package of the precious 656 bottles of ‘Ne Oublie’ symbolises three elements of the family history: ‘The glass is from Portugal, the leather is English, and the silver is from Scotland’.

‘A real privilege for me, and I hope for all of you, to taste a wine made in the 19th century, and still alive, living, and giving pleasure in 2016,’ said the fourth-generation leader of Symington Family Estates, whose daughter, the first of the fifth generation, is now working along side him.

‘This is a wine speaking to us from over 100 years ago. It’s just a piece of magic and a piece of history.’

The wines were: Graham’s, 10 Year Old Tawny; Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny; Graham’s 30 Year Old Tawny; Graham’s Single Harvest 1972; Graham’s Ne Oublie Very Old Tawny 1882.

Graham’s report by Sylvia Wu, editor of DecanterChina.com

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