The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

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Chris Doty
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The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by Chris Doty » 01:35 Mon 15 Nov 2010

Many thanks to RAYC for his extra ticket to this Decanter 'Master Class!'

An interesting contrast to the Noval/Nacional event at BBR the other month (w/ the honorable Christian Seely presiding), Johnny and Paul were on hand in front of ~50 or so port-o-philes to taste through a variety of Symington wines, from the 100 point (?>?) Dow 2007 to the tragically rare 1955 Grahams (we were told they poured an astonishing 5 of the remaining 17 bottles from their own stocks at this tasting). I say contrast due not only the size of the tasting, but also how different the story is when listening to two gentlemen who were raised within the world of port, and for whom every vintage is inextricably linked to their personal growth and development.

Really a delightful event - though as I mentioned to Johnny afterwards, the presentation/story they shared during the tasting, so full of detail, intricacy, care, history, and nuance, is actually a large factor in why port isn't popular at all (at least in the States) among my peers. Even just within the much smaller world of oenophiles, regions like California or Bordeaux, and even perhaps Burgundy (!gasp!) seem much more straightforward, easier to understand, and therefore easier to enjoy from the perspective of knowledge and feeling a sense of direction/comprehension.

In port, that level of accessibly is vastly diminished (IMHO) due at least in part to:

1.) Tons of obscure grapes that make up port
2.) tons of little parcels of land that make up each house
3.) many different houses actually owned by just a few companies/families
4.) lots of bottlings (vintage, ruby, tawny, single quinta, etc)
5.) partially estate grown wines (e.g., the symingtons said they buy grapes from ~2 THOUSAND farmers?!)
6.) long aging time needed
7.) Need to decant/sediment!?
8.) Only drink with chocolate/cheese?
9.) Only drink in winter?!
10.) Different shippers/botttlers (and their histories)
11.) The vintages and house profiles themselves
12.) how the wines are blended, trodden, etc etc

and on and on and on. *edit - i've tried to leave the original post in tact, but I could add so much here it is hard to restrain myself, e.g., vintage declarations?, 'fortified!? wtf?,' "is this a wine for guys or girls?" (i know this sounds ludicrious to you, but young american men dismiss all sweet alcohol as being femine, the result of new drinks like Tartfuel, etc) and on and on and on and on*

I asked Johnny if he was planning to be more active marketing my generation (as someone will need to take up the mantle as more seasoned port vets decide they'd prefer to drink with God) or if he just had faith that in time, even my generation will learn patience and curiosity, and ultimately make its way to the Douro. It is rather interesting, that while the US has seen alcohol consumption amongst the 25-35 crowd skyrocket in recent years, port does not seemed to have benefited/been affected one bit.

Anyway - lovely evening. My WOTN was the '80 Dow, but that is because I have a fairly recent sentimental attachment to that particular bottle. On a more objective basis, I thought the '63 and the '94 showed especially well. The '94 vintage in general is an absolute no-brainer. The '55, curiously, I thought showed less well than the bottle we had at the 55@55 event (though this was still quite enjoyable, and by no means flawed). I must confess I found their 2007s a bit disappointing (though in fairness, the combination of the 100 point scores, and the number of truly exceptional wines from this vintage I have already enjoyed made disappointment almost inevitable absent divine intervention). I must say that I would be very happy for Johnny et al. to prove me wrong in the fullness of time, but so far, my wine of 2007 is the Noval (hat tip to Admiral Seely). As many of you are already aware, the Quevedo should also not be overlooked as being an exceptional value.

Thanks again Robert! (and sorry to all for a long and tiresome post!)

List of wines (I took rather unusual notes, which I can explain in person if you're interested, but here are a few thoughts)
Dow’s 2007 - Would be nearly impossible NOT to be disappointed by this bottle, given all the hype. Perfectly fine, and actually maybe good, but to me, this is an example of where an unjustifiable score actually *damages* the wine drinking experience. I know it is odd -- and maybe this is just a personal quirk, but I would have enjoyed tasting this bottle more if I was told it was a 92 point wine. (though I'd still only give it an 88 )
Warre’s 2007 - interesting to compare to the Dow. Both have what seems almost like an unbelievable lack of structure for vintage ports this young. Really quite uncanny. Again, this wasn't 'bad' at all, but just lacked some of the stuffing/structure/balance that I've had in other 2007s
Graham's 2007 - NOW we're talking. This is a legitimate bottle, and perhaps only 2nd to the Noval for the vintage so far to my palate. Complete wine in the making.
Dow’s 2000. Wasn't showing its best. I have high hopes for the '00 vintage, but believe they're in a really awkward adolescent phase at the moment. I know something of an awkward adolescence (some would say I haven't yet emerged!), but there is potential here, I swear.
Warre’s 1997 - Again, in a bit of a strange phase, although J+P expressed the view that this is drinkable now (not sure I agree). In general, this is a lighter wine than most I've had from this vintage, not weak, but not really singing. And again, I really like the '97 vintage too (especially pristine bottles of Niepoort, which makes drinking all other bottles of '97 Niepoort so frustrating!)
Graham’s 1994 - Just an excellent wine. Full stop. Obviously a baby, but this beast is strangling snakes. Don't know why I've stopped adding to my allocation...
Dow‘s 1980 - HUGE sentimental attachment to this wine. Details of great memories serve as my tasting note. Will buy in magnum.
Graham’s 1970 - It's funny -- again coming to expectations -- I have some difficulty really appreciating 'top' wines from this vintage, because I keep thinking about all the great wines for 1/3 the cost that I've enjoyed (Gould, Warre, Croft, etc etc). This bottle itself was at least as good as those, but what can I say, value turns me on!
Dow’s 1966 - People really seemed to like this, but I can't say it did much for me. Not enough fruit for starters, but also there was something a bit off-balanced I thought. Not bad -- please no, just not in the running for wine of the evening.
Graham’s 1963 - YES. This is a great wine. There is just a slight lack of purity to the fruit that is difficult to look beyond, but still, we're being AWFULLY nitpicky at this level, and it is best just to savor such a complete and balanced bottle. Excellent work, chaps!
Warre’s 1960 - Was still recovering from the '63. This was nice, but no beasty.
Graham’s 1955 - SUPER sediment in my glass. Like a god's eye view of the universe. ANYWAY - this was very enjoyable, but still not as good as the bottle we had at the 55@55 event. Very generous of the Symington's though, making it an extra special treat.
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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by DRT » 01:55 Mon 15 Nov 2010

Chris Doty wrote:sorry to all for a long and tiresome post
Not in the slightest tiresome.

Thanks for your post, Chris. This is why this site is here :wink:
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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by JacobH » 11:47 Mon 15 Nov 2010

Wow.

This was a fabulous tasting: in effect we had the best Port from each major vintage from the Symingtons' stable and a bargain price which I can't help thinking was mostly achieved by the Symingtons donating several of the wines free.

The wine of the night was the Graham 1955 by miles and miles; it is simply fantastic. The Graham 1970 was the nearest second; lovely and unctuous. That said, drinking the 1955 reminds me how much of a shame it is that the 1958 Malvedos was drunk pretty much to extinction before it came to maturity.

One thing that interested me about tasting an assortment of wines from each shipper was that it was possible to compare the styles over the decades. Graham's, for instant, seemed extremely consistent. It was striking how the 1994 tasted like a young 1955 and the 2007 tasted like a young 1994. Dow's was perhaps less so, and I felt that the Warre's 1960 was markedly different from the 1997 and 2007.

Of the new wines, I enjoyed the Graham's the most. The Dow is, perhaps, more stereotypical of a young Port; deep and tannic whilst the Warre is another 2007 that is striking in having no obvious tannins. I don't think I would characterise any as a disappointment and the Graham's is probably up at the very top of the vintage. The Dow, however, is certainly not worth its current price (last seen for €99 for a half-bottle at Oporto airport :shock:).
Chris Doty wrote:Even just within the much smaller world of oenophiles, regions like California or Bordeaux, and even perhaps Burgundy (!gasp!) seem much more straightforward, easier to understand, and therefore easier to enjoy from the perspective of knowledge and feeling a sense of direction/comprehension.
I'm not sure I buy into the argument that Port is more difficult to understand than Burgundy! Also if ease of understanding is the dominant feature in what makes a wine successful, then I don't think we would have seen such a big resurgence in German wines over the last decade or so...

I used to wonder whether the fact that Port is a blended wine might put hardened oenophiles off since most new wine regions concentrate on single varietal / single vineyard wines (e.g. Carlifornia's Cabernet Sauvignon) but then blending of grape varieties hasn't harmed claret and the blending of both varieties and the use of different vineyards certainly hasn't hurt champagne. I think, therefore, that a bigger problem is simply that flogging non-standard wines is always going to be hard. Unless a concerted effort is made to encourage the public to think of wine as more than a dry table wine then the drinking of Port, tokaji, vin jaune &c. its going to be hard. Even the resurgence of German wines seems mostly to have affected their most "normal" category--the off-dry Rieslings--and not the sweet wines and other oddities.

Anyway, enough rambling.

PS. Quote of the evening: Paul Symington, describing the 1963: "[it helped to] have a little more money coming in; a little bit more money to buy a couple of vineyards"...* :shock: :shock: :lol:

* In fairness to Paul, this only sounds amusing when taken out of context; I think in the late 50s and early 60s the Port producers were in a bad way, financially, and the fact that they could buy a "couple of" vineyards more reflects the cost of them then how wealthy the shippers were...
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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by Chris Doty » 12:02 Mon 15 Nov 2010

JacobH wrote:I'm not sure I buy into the argument that Port is more difficult to understand than Burgundy! Also if ease of understanding is the dominant feature in what makes a wine successful, then I don't think we would have seen such a big resurgence in German wines over the last decade or so...
I mean, I agree that Burgundy is the hardest for me to understand (as I have invested a lot more time into Port, and therefore know much more about it) but Burgundy is one grape! Just ONE grape (two if you want to include ALL of white burgundy)! ANNNND - as many different parcels of land as the producers have, they STILL don't have more different plots than the Symingtons (in fact -- Johnny and Paul shared that each of them have their own PERSONAL vineyards!) Amazing -- but speaks to the crazy level of granularity and detail within Port. Now, is the soil as complex and variable as in Burgundy? Perhaps not. Is the history of Burgundy more complex? Yes, I would certainly say so, and there are certainly a LOT more producers -- but I think at the end of the day the two are actually quite close in terms of complexity (much closer then people tend to realize at any rate).

The other thing to keep in mind -- is that the RELATIVE PRICE DIFFERENCE SHOULD MAKE PORT MUCH, MUCH, MUCH, MUCH more accessible to more casual/beginner drinkers.

You think about the best port ever produced (let's exclude Nacional just for one second) -- and you can get really top flight -- top 0.000001% of all port ever bottled (e.g., 1970 Graham, 1963 Fonseca, etc etc etc) at a MINISCULE FRACTION of what comparably situated red burgundy would cost (ANNNND vintage port is only made once ~3 years). ANNNNDDD for us ‘value oriented’ shoppers ”“ wines like the 1985 Fonseca, the 1994 Vesuvio, the 1970 Warre, the 2007 Noval ”“ wines that are absolutely what vintage port is all about can be readily found for <$100. I know a ‘c-note’ is a lot ”“ but that barely gets you a decent bottle of Premier Cru burgundy these days, and we’re talking about THE VERY BEST that vintage port has to offer. If you want to go to the ~$20 level, you will be hard pressed to get anywhere near the value that a bottle like the Noval Black (sorry J+P, this is my 'go to' cheap port for novices these days!) -- which at least in the States, enjoys a reasonably broad distribution (again, another criteria of accessibility that should favor port!).

Port SHOULD be huge. Obviously, as an individual buyer, part of me is glad it isn't -- but it would be great to have more people to share it with. You know, I have learned a lot since moving back to London, and have been very blessed in what I have been able to experience since moving here (theatre, travel, etc). One thing near the top of my list is TPF. The community, and the passion for port, the camaraderie, etc. NOTHING LIKE THIS EXISTS IN THE STATES, and certainly not targeted to my generation.

This is an interesting problem for the Symingtons, who just need to bank on the fact that when my generation of Americans is ready, they'll still be making wines for us.

Again -- sorry for the long/tiresome post. Thanks for reading.

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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by AHB » 14:40 Mon 15 Nov 2010

Chris

You certainly don't need to apologise for your posts in my mind - I find them extremely interesting. Your view contrasts significantly from my personal experience, and it is thought provoking to see your views expressed in the way you have. Please feel free to continue to post like this.

Perhaps we should split the discussion into a separate thread? I certainly think its worthy of its own debate rather than being buried under a title called a review of a tasting. Could a friendly moderator do this for us?

Then I'll add a post with my expereience so that we can contrast the two.

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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by AHB » 14:48 Mon 15 Nov 2010

The entire Decanter Fine Wine event was a fun day. I arrived at opening time at 11am and too 2 hours to work my way through the 3 port shippers' tables. When I have my notes with me I will post a list of the wines that were shown, but the highlights were the Graham 1980, the Taylor 1985 and Noval's 1995 colheita (which I didn't taste). I also got to remind myself of just how much I enjoy good Tokaji.

The Master Class was a great event. Johnny and Paul were on terrific form and presented some fabulous wines. My wines of the night were the Graham 1955 and the Graham 1994 with the Graham 1963 close behind. I think, like Chris, I must be a Graham fan since I seem to consistently rate Graham and Fonseca as my favourite wines in horizontals and comparative tastings. Roll on October 2011 when the planned post harvest offline will feature wines from Dow, Fonseca, Graham and Taylor from the vintages of 1963, 1966, 1970 and 1977 and we can put the theory to the test.
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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by Chris Doty » 17:26 Mon 15 Nov 2010

Thanks Alex,

Would happily continue on that topic in a separate thread.

T85 as one of the highlights!?! Forgive me for being shocked, but I have that just a hair above the Noval in disapointments for the vintage. Is this a case of your expectations already being so low, or was this a really rocking bottle? If the later, was anyone on hand to explain why more of them don't taste like this (or at least to offer you a few cases at a nice price)?!
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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by AHB » 20:57 Mon 15 Nov 2010

Chris Doty wrote:'85T as one of the highlights!! Forgive me for being shocked, but I have that just a hair above the Noval in disapointments for the vintage. Is this a case of your expectations already being so low, or was this a really rocking bottle? If the later, was anyone on hand to explain why more of them don't taste like this (or at least to offer you a few cases at a nice price)?!
T85 has had a bad rap over the last few years from a number of people on this forum and on FTLOP - and fairly so, in my opinion. However, the bottle I tried on Sunday was mature, sweet and flavoursome. Bear in mind that you and I are pretty much at the opposite ends of the "port liking" spectrum, as far as I can tell. I like my port elegant and ethereal (Derek says "tired and over the hill") and you seem to like your port with bite and pizazz. I really liked the T85 I tasted, but I wouldn't say that it was a rocking bottle, more a refined gentleman of a bottle - perhaps older then its years but with great balance.

Would I recommend everyone to go out and buy some? Absolutely not; but I would suggest it's worth another try if you haven't tried it recently.
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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by AHB » 21:02 Mon 15 Nov 2010

The other wines being shown in the main tasting hall were:
Noval Black
Noval 2004 unfiltered LBV, bottled 2010
Noval 10 year old tawny
Noval 20 year old tawny
Noval 1995 colheita

Taylor 2004 LBV bottled filtered in 2010
Vargellas 2008
Terra Feita 2008
Vargellas 2001
Terra Feita 1999
Taylor 1985

Graham 2005 LBV bottled filtered in 2010
Vesuvio 2008 cask sample
Senhora da Ribeira 2008
Malvedos 1999
Cavadinha 1996
Graham 1980
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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by Chris Doty » 22:09 Mon 15 Nov 2010

AHB wrote: Bear in mind that you and I are pretty much at the opposite ends of the "port liking" spectrum, as far as I can tell. I like my port elegant and ethereal (Derek says "tired and over the hill") and you seem to like your port with bite and pizazz.
Hahah. That's interesting, as I had been of the opinion that you are more likely than any other TPF member to share my opinion on a given bottle of port!

I grant, however, that I do view *primary* fruit as an essential element of any truly exceptional bottle of vintage port, and I accept that the vast majority of port enthusiasts (including not only yourself, but basically every reviewer and ardent fan that I have encountered since joining the TPF) do not share this very restrictive and perhaps narrow-minded view. Basically, my palate tells me that if I want a fully mature wine whose key characteristics are not fruit driven, that I would be better served spending my time and money in Bordeaux, Burgundy, or the Rhone. Again, I understand that this amounts to sacrilege for some of you.
And in fact, my relatively conservative scores for ports also testifies to the fact that I enjoy other regions *more* than I enjoy port. I have never scored ANY wine 100 points (in fact, I'm not sure I'm yet to hit 96...) but if/when I do, it will be unlikely to be a vintage port. Just different strokes for different folks I guess.
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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by JacobH » 18:11 Tue 16 Nov 2010

Tasting Notes:
Graham 1955
Warre 1960
Graham 1963
Dow 1966
Graham 1970
Dow 1980
Graham 1994
Warre 1997
Dow 2000
Graham 2007
Dow 2007
Warre 2007

(Please add, though reviewing mine shows the problem with starting with the younger Ports; the final few notes are just a few words each :? )
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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by Chris Doty » 21:55 Tue 16 Nov 2010

Back to the topic of my generation of wine drinker's perception of vintage port -- I am watching now (I paused to write this) a recent episode of Wine Library TV (for the uninitiated, WLTV is the brain-child of Gary Vaynerchuk, the Director of Operations of Wine Library, America's largest independent wine retailer). Since 2006 he has made a video every monday-friday of 10-20 minutes in which he tastes wines from different regions or on different topics and he scores them. His daily auidence is something like 10K-20K young (22-40) American wine drinkers (65%/35% Male/Female).

In the episode I'm watching now (actually on Beaujolais), his guest (Ray Isle, a senior contributor to 'food and wine' magazine) discusses how he spent ~3 years working for the Symingtons ages ago, trying to educate and sell store owners on port as a 'supplier rep' (this segment starts at 8:40). He discusses how he would go around trying to sell in August (I guess because he didn't have the flexibility to determine his own schedule), trying to tell store owners that they need to start preparing for winter (i.e., implying the wine can only be consumed in December) -- "Port in August?!!" ::all chuckle::

Gary, for those that don't know, prides himself on nothing more than challenging convention (see 14:15), and trying to encourage people to explore and trust their own palate and to be skeptical of wine traditions (in a helpful way), didn't think for one second to encourage his viewers to challenge the well understood rule that port is only to be consumed in winter.

Of course, by sales volumes, port only sells in Christmas. This again is a huge limitation for selling port to my age group (as MY generation doesn't yet host christmas parties, but rather we ATTEND parties held/organized by our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc). *happy edited to now include 'friends and fellow port ethusiasts!'*

Again so so sorry for a long post on an obscure topic. I guess I would just like port to be more popular among young Americans, and I use this forum to vent that frustration. Sigh. Ok -- back to work.
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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by JacobH » 00:28 Wed 17 Nov 2010

Chris Doty wrote:In the episode I'm watching now (actually on Beaujolais), his guest (Ray Isle, a senior contributor to 'food and wine' magazine) discusses how he spent ~3 years working for the Symingtons ages ago, trying to educate and sell store owners on port as a 'supplier rep' (this segment starts at 8:40). He discusses how he would go around trying to sell in August (I guess because he didn't have the flexibility to determine his own schedule), trying to tell store owners that they need to start preparing for winter (i.e., implying the wine can only be consumed in December) -- "Port in August?!!" ::all chuckle::
It seems that he has rather fixed views about Port and when it is appropriate to drink it. I’ve just watched all six episodes (or skimmed through them) when he talks about Port (seem them here) and there are some striking common threads running through them. Apart from the earliest, in each one he talks about drinking Port as a dessert wine which should be drunk with cigars or cheese. In every tasting he talks about the alcohol content of the Port and describes the burning heat (there’s a joke about singed nose-hair in one) he gets on the nose when he smells them. He also seems to enjoy the younger Ports; the 2005 Vargellas comes out best of a mini-vertical of that, a 1994 and a 1970 Taylor and the Dow 1994 of a tasting of that, the Graham 1980 and the Warre 1983, but that is not that uncommon. I suggest watching the Dow 1991 video to get a flavour. You can jump to when they start to talk about the Port (5.44) and then I’d also suggest watching from 9.30 onwards.

What what really strikes me, though, is that there is no discussion of the maturity of the wine. The pleasure, for me, of Vintage Port, is how it mellows from those dark, tannic monsters, laden with fruit, into well-balanced, elegant and poised mature Vintages. But I don’t think I would get a sense of that from watching his videos.

Equally, I get the impression of a rather distant view of the wine. I’m surprised all the tastings are of Vintage Ports from the big houses. It doesn’t look to me like his other tasting is left to these premium brands, and that treatment of Port is likely to alienate normal $20-a-bottle drinkers. Small slips in his commentary, like talking about a Taylor 1991, saying that the shippers declare more frequently now than in the past and that Wikipedia comment that some shippers are declaring all-but-the-worst year again suggest a slight unwillingness to really get into the drink. That is not meant as a criticism. I wouldn’t last 5 episodes of that show before I reached the end of my wine knowledge, but it does give the impression that he regards Port a bit distant and hard to understand.

Overall, it rather reminds me as how some friends of mine who don’t like wine and don’t drink it approach it. Those who don’t really drink it, except when blind-drunk at the end of some huge dinner are likely to make comments relating to its alcohol and the fact that some cigars or cheese should be present but I don’t think, amongst those who like wines, such views are so common. Culturally, the discussion seems miles away from the enthusiasm and knowledge which other wines are drunk with on that site. It also makes me realise why Ports such as the Optima Tawnies and the Pink ones are being pushed so hard; the shippers will have their work cut out if there are so many layers of assumptions to chip away.
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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by Chris Doty » 00:45 Wed 17 Nov 2010

Jacob,

I think that is an exceptionally well crafted post, and entirely encapsulates my opinion of his views on port as well. As best as I can tell, Gary is the single best proxy for the 'wine literate,' American drinker betwen ~21 to ~40 years old. Esentially the view is "if we are really into wine, we'll maybe drink a bottle or two of vintage port a year, generally in December or January, and then forget that they exist as a category for the remaining 10 months of the year." That approach makes the evolution of port impossible to percieve, and inhibits people from breaking down the already high (as I mention in my first post) barriers to accessibly that port simply cannot escape.

I hope/expect that someday, the wineliterate members of my generation will learn to appreciate vintage port...how and when that transformation occurs...that will be very interesting to witness.

You are equally young -- are things different in the UK? Port is general is much more commonly consumed here (for obvious historical reasons) -- do you find port less rare among your friends here?

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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by Andy Velebil » 15:16 Wed 17 Nov 2010

Chris Doty wrote:Jacob,

As best as I can tell, Gary is the single best proxy for the 'wine literate,' American drinker betwen ~21 to ~40 years old.
Actually he is really aiming his videos and sales to the wine illiterate. Well, really those that are just getting into wine and starting to learn, but have nothing more than a very basic limit view of a region. Those who are already knowledgeable in wine no longer need him spewing about the wines he sales. And keep in mind he's a retailer, so he's there to sell the bottles in his videos and make money. He does give some good general advice often times. But when it comes to Port, in the videos I've seen, he doesn't do it justice. The talk of heat, cigars, only drink it once in a while, and never with food, etc., just perpetuates those old out-dated images that we all know are not true.

And look at what glasses he uses for the Dow's :roll:

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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by Chris Doty » 20:21 Wed 17 Nov 2010

Hi Andy,

I guess we define 'wine literate' and 'wine illiterate' differently -- as I believe that just by virtue of someone wanting to spend 20+ minutes watching a movie of some crazy guy drinking and spitting wine, that viewer must have a significantly deeper interest in wines than the vast, vast majority of Americans. These viewers, incidentally, are EXACTLY who the Symingtons need to reach out to (i.e., those just starting to branch out into wine, and possessing a healthy level of curiosity, and perhaps less burdened by limiting traditions). In fact, I would highly encourage Johnny to be a guest on Gary's show -- and have the theme be 'demystifying port & debunking myths.'

You're right that for the truly 'wine literate,' Johnny's work will start and stop with each bottle.

You must also be very eager to help port become more popular with a new generation of wine drinkers, any ideas?

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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by Andy Velebil » 22:07 Wed 17 Nov 2010

Chris Doty wrote:These viewers, incidentally, are EXACTLY who the Symingtons need to reach out to (i.e., those just starting to branch out into wine, and possessing a healthy level of curiosity, and perhaps less burdened by limiting traditions). In fact, I would highly encourage Johnny to be a guest on Gary's show -- and have the theme be 'demystifying port & debunking myths.'

You're right that for the truly 'wine literate,' Johnny's work will start and stop with each bottle.

You must also be very eager to help port become more popular with a new generation of wine drinkers, any ideas?
Yeap, it would be great if he had a dynamic guest speaker to debunk all the old myths about Port and set the record straight.

And yes these are the people to reach out to for sure, but GV doesn't do Port any favors in the way he presents it as.....It's hot, really hot, holy cow look at that alcohol content, smoke a cigar with it, you can't drink it with food, etc. Ok, so not exactly verbatum, but all those types of statements would turn me off from trying Port if I was new to the game and saw that.....wouldn't you?

Got some ideas, but keeping them close for right now :mrgreen:

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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by Chris Doty » 14:28 Thu 18 Nov 2010

Andy Velebil wrote:
Chris Doty wrote: GV doesn't do Port any favors in the way he presents it as.....It's hot, really hot, holy cow look at that alcohol content, smoke a cigar with it, you can't drink it with food, etc. Ok, so not exactly verbatum, but all those types of statements would turn me off from trying Port if I was new to the game and saw that.....wouldn't you?
No question that of all the regions in the wine drinking world, there are few that Gary seems to serve less well than port. I have watched almost every one of his ~1,000 episodes, and have not seen a wider disconnect. I think again, this speaks to my first post about how hard port is for young Americans. If even GARY, a passionate, experienced, open minded SALESMAN (he is also a great guy, but he IS a salesman) cannot help advance the cause...only charismatic and knowledgeable members of the port community (Symmingtons, Seely, etc) can lead the charge (they just need access to the right platform). My two cents anyways

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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by JacobH » 10:35 Sat 20 Nov 2010

Chris Doty wrote:are things different in the UK? Port is general is much more commonly consumed here (for obvious historical reasons) -- do you find port less rare among your friends here?
I think the reason that Port is consumed more here, it may simply be because it is already consumed at such a level that each new generation can be easily drawn into it. It has a critical mass to remain self-perpetuating. I imagine that many people who have an interest in wine in the UK begin to develop that at University (where, of course, drinking is legal in the UK ;-) ) and we used to drink quite large amounts of Port then. Not very seriously; mostly Rubies, but enough to give people and introduction to it. Even amongst friends who aren’t really into wine, let-alone Port, trips to places such as Gordon’s for a few beakers of the stuff are not uncommon and I think that that cultural higher-rates of consumption is enough to interest the new generation of more serious drinkers. That embedding of the wine into the culture just doesn’t seem to have take place in the US.

This is, of course, in addition to Christmas which is probably the largest period of Port concentration. I get the sense that to have a bottle of Port at the end of the Christmas dinner (which is common even amongst those who will not touch the stuff at any other time) is just not as common in the US as it is in the UK. Equally, I am surprised that the shippers aren’t pushing hard at Thanksgiving; if we celebrated that in the UK, I am sure it would be another time of the year when vast quantities of Port would be sold.
Andy Velebil wrote:
Chris Doty wrote:These viewers, incidentally, are EXACTLY who the Symingtons need to reach out to (i.e., those just starting to branch out into wine, and possessing a healthy level of curiosity, and perhaps less burdened by limiting traditions). In fact, I would highly encourage Johnny to be a guest on Gary's show -- and have the theme be 'demystifying port & debunking myths.'
Yeap, it would be great if he had a dynamic guest speaker to debunk all the old myths about Port and set the record straight.
I think, perhaps, the way into the American market would not be so much with one of the Symington directors (who could easily end up reinforcing the stereotypes about Port) but with those who are more obviously Portuguese; such as the independent Quinta owners and producers. They are in much stronger position to say: forget everything you think you know about Port and try a 10-year-old tawny, slightly chilled, as a drink to have when you get home from work or try some Ruby Port, mid-morning, with a Portuguese cake.
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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by Chris Doty » 19:16 Sat 20 Nov 2010

JacobH wrote:I think, perhaps, the way into the American market would not be so much with one of the Symington directors (who could easily end up reinforcing the stereotypes about Port) but with those who are more obviously Portuguese; such as the independent Quinta owners and producers. They are in much stronger position to say: forget everything you think you know about Port and try a 10-year-old tawny, slightly chilled, as a drink to have when you get home from work or try some Ruby Port, mid-morning, with a Portuguese cake.
I think that idea, while obviously sensible, is a 'bridge too far' at the moment. Consider both that virtually no small Portuguese port producer has ANY distribution in the States (I think Oscar, after tireless efforts, was able to send a FEW cases of stuff over, but not nearly as much as would be required to get a 'movement' started) AND that no one in America (including myself, I can confess) knows what a 'Portuguese cake' even is!

I think for the time being, a sophisticated, passionate NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKER would be by far the most effective way to reach this market. Would it be great if that person were to be 25-35 rather than 55-65 years old? Yeah -- that would be great, but the Symingtons and Seely are both so charming and knowledgeable that I think my crew would have little difficulty getting beyond their...bottle age.

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Re: The Symingtons: Half a Century of Superlative Port

Post by JacobH » 11:09 Sun 21 Nov 2010

Chris Doty wrote:I think that idea, while obviously sensible, is a 'bridge too far' at the moment. Consider both that virtually no small Portuguese port producer has ANY distribution in the States (I think Oscar, after tireless efforts, was able to send a FEW cases of stuff over, but not nearly as much as would be required to get a 'movement' started) AND that no one in America (including myself, I can confess) knows what a 'Portuguese cake' even is!
I was wondering whether another strategy would be to tie Port into the sales of Douro DOC wines? Looking at the stats, though, the Amercian market is again surprisingly small, being the third export market after Canada and Brazil. But those figures don’t give the full story. Would the sort of drinkers who you think ought be targeted have an idea of the Douro region? Is much Portuguese table wine consumed in general in the states?

The Portuguese have the most fabulous patisserie which gives the French a run for their money; it’s definitely worth seeking out!
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