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November 11, 2022

Graham’s Bicentenary Collection: Delayed gratification

By David Williams

Graham’s has released the Bicentenary Collection, a set of 12 Vintage and Single Harvest Tawny Ports in a specially produced cabinet to mark the 200th anniversary of the shipper’s foundation.

The year 2020 should have been a time of celebration for Graham’s. The shipper had lined up a number of events and releases to mark the bicentenary of its founding as W&J Graham in Porto in 1820. Inevitably, the festivities were, like so much else in that benighted year, overshadowed by global events. Happily, in the case of its celebratory special release, the first edition of which will be auctioned at Christie’s in London in December, 2022, it’s been a matter of postponement rather than cancellation.

The release in question is certainly worthy of a special occasion. The Bicentenary Collection features a dozen bottles of Graham’s Port, six Single Harvest Tawny Ports and six Vintage Ports, with each wine representing a significant occasion or simply a very fine vintage in the Douro, and with each chosen by a member of the third, fourth, and fifth generation of the Symington family, who have overseen Graham’s since they purchased the shipper in 1970.

The Single Harvest Tawny Ports, which were all selected and bottled specifically for the Bicentenary Collection, are the 1961, 1976, 1982, 1995, 2000, and 2006, with the latter pair making their debuts as Graham’s single-harvest bottlings. The 1982 was first bottled to mark the birth of the HRH Prince George of Cambridge, while the 2000 was the first Port made with the Symington family’s “modern treading lagares.”

The Vintage Ports meanwhile, all of which have been aged in the Graham’s cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, comprise three of Port’s finest vintages in the shape of the 1963, 1994, and 2011, alongside Symington milestone bottlings from 1970, 1985, and 1997.

Graham’s Bicentenary Collection: Special Presentation

As ever with fine and rare Port launches, the wines are only part of the story. Great care has been taken over the presentation, with, in the words of the pre-sale release, “a cabinet made from extremely rare santos rosewood by Portuguese master-joiners WeWood”; “a hand-blown decanter and set of wine glasses produced by Jancis Robinson MW in partnership with celebrated British product designer Richard Brendon”; “an expert two-part Durand corkscrew designed for removing corks from mature and valuable fine wines”; and “a specially commissioned decanting funnel from family-run, Porto-based silversmiths Ourivesaria Coutinho.”

“The release of the Bicentenary Collection has huge significance for us as a family business, marking not only the illustrious history of Graham’s and the unparalleled excellence of the wines, but our commitment to continuing to build on these foundations for many years to come,” said Johnny Symington, chairman of Symington Family Estates.

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“Each wine in the cabinet bears personal significance to a member of the third, fourth or fifth generation of our family, representing as they do the past, present, and future of our business.”

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