First port of call

Discover the perfect dish to go with Graham's port at London's finest restaurants with Charles Symington, Graham's master blender

Updated on 07 October 2020

First port of call

My father is a winemaker and I grew up surrounded by the wonderful smells and flavours of traditional Portuguese cuisine. I’ve always loved exploring how best to pair wine with food.

While the tannins in red wines can often leave a bitter taste when matched with rich foods like desserts, port has that perfect balance of acidity and sweetness needed to compliment something like a chocolate cake. Port’s fruit character balances well with a dessert, while the acidity cuts through the richness, leaving your palate refreshed.

One of my favourite matches is a chilled glass of 20-year-old tawny port alongside a chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream. It is absolutely delicious. Port can also pair really well with savoury dishes. Port and Stilton is the obvious example but I’m also keen on Dry White Port with seafood or Tawny Port with foie gras or shellfish.

Port is a food-friendly drink that can add to any culinary experience. Here are some of my favourite port and food matches in London restaurants – but don’t be afraid to experiment at home, too.

Kebab Queen, Covent Garden

Spit Roast Duck ‘Fesenjan’
Matched to: Graham’s Six Grapes reserve ruby port

Duck dishes can be very rich and the sweetness of the ingredients can clash with the tannin in a red wine, making the wine taste bitter. However, the rich fruit characteristics of Six Grapes, along with the port’s sweetness, are a terrific match. The combination of flavours works in the same way with crispy duck in a Chinese restaurant.

Sketch Lecture Room and Library, Mayfair

Pierre Gagnaire’s Grand Dessert
Matched to: 
Graham’s 30 Year Old Tawny poured from jeroboam

Graham’s 30 Year Old Tawny Port balances freshness with rich nutty complexity and pairs beautifully with this multi-faceted dessert, bringing the best out of both. The 30 Year Old Tawny Port is served from a jeroboam, creating a unique experience that is the perfect way to finish your incredible meal at Sketch.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Knightsbridge

Brown bread ice cream with salted butter caramel, pear and malted yeast syrup
Matched to: 
Graham’s 1994 Single Harvest Tawny Port

This is a perfect harmony of flavour. The Tawny has a good level of acidity, which cuts through the richness of the dessert. Tawny ports are one of the most versatile pudding wines. They have lovely caramelly, nutty, honey tones, which complement sweeter foods very well.

Le Gavroche, Mayfair (pictured)

Cheese trolley
Matched to: 
Grahams 1983 Vintage Port

Le Gavroche’s cheese trolley is rightly the envy of all other restaurants, offering an incredible array of fantastic cheeses. Graham’s 1983 is at the perfect point in its maturity to match a range of different styles of cheese – it still retains lovely rich dried fruit flavours that intertwine with beautiful tertiary characteristics and elegant silky-smooth tannins, all held together by an incredible freshness.

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