Churchill’s was the first new Port shipper to be established in half-a-century when it was founded by Johnny Graham, aged 29, in 1981. He has now been joined in the business by his daughter and son-in-law, Zoe and Ben. They have established the Port Club with the aim of demystifying Port as well as creating a global platform for ‘other inspiring artisans and creatives who are making Porto such an inspiring place for us to call home’.
I was fortunate to be sent their initial membership pack just before Christmas which includes samples (see below), advice on decanting, a cocktail called ‘Mr Darcy’ (not my style I’m afraid) and ‘fun facts’ about Port.
It all comes across very well, especially for a millennial generation not used to the traditions and vagaries of serving and drinking good Port.
The following Ports were included in the ‘Port Pack’, described as ‘just a beginning. Over the coming months we will be building up our digital content offering and launching new innovative ways to have fun with port.’
I have been having fun with Port for years and I enjoyed the comparison that opening a bottle of old vintage Port is like ‘Grandpa Joe from Willy Wonka – 20 years in bed, then suddenly asked to go to an amazing party. It will dance but it needs warm up first’. Having been locked down for much of the last year I know just how this feels! By decanting ‘you look super cool’. So that’s reassuring: I have been super cool for years!
Churchill’s Reserve Port ****
One of few wines in this category to be foot trodden in lagar: good mid-deep ruby with a youthful purple rim; fresh perfumed cherry fruit with fiery spirit underlying on the nose; fresh and fruit driven on the palate, mid weight with a vibrant spicy finish. Attractive and balanced. 17
Club Blend: Quinta da Gricha 2009 Vintage Port ***
Just 500 case produced from a hot year, declared outright by some houes: mid-deep in colour retaining a youthful pale crimson rim; rather odd ‘sweet and sour’ nose, something that I have picked up on Churchill wines before, some floral fruit; ripe bitter-sweet cherry stone fruit, now gentle with age in bottle and a bit hollow mid palate, spicy tannins rising in the mouth leading to a long linear finish. Not big or bold despite this being a hot year. 16
Churchill’s 20 Year Old Tawny ****/*****
It takes time to build up the stocks in order to establish a good and consistent twenty year old tawny. After forty years in the business, Johnny Graham has certainly got it right and he claims that it is one of his favourite styles of Port. It’s mine too! Pale amber pink in hue, seductive fresh summer fruit on the nose with just a touch of savoury complexity, gloriously soft and creamy in texture with a dusting of tannin, freshness and verve playing on a long, lingering finish. Wonderful balance and poise overall. 18.5
19 - 20 An outstanding wine (*****)
17 – 18 An excellent wine in its class, highly recommended (****)
15 - 16 A good wine, with much to recommend it (***)
13 - 14 An enjoyable but simple, straightforward wine (**)
10 – 12 A very ordinary wine without faults but with no great merit (*)
8 - 10 Disagreeable (no stars)
Below 8 Faulty