A dream came true. We tasted Ne Oublie Port, a special edition of Port by Grahams that dates back to 1882. One of the most expensive Ports in the world, Ne Oublie starts with the pressure of a price tag forced to deliver a unique experience. The bottle costs around 7.000€, the glass – rarely available – is around 700€. So, the question is: is it worth it? We didn’t know the answer… until now.
Let’s start by telling you a bit about of the amazing story of this Ne Oublie Port. The Scottish Andrew James Symington arrived to Porto, Portugal, in 1882, when we was just 18 years old. He came to work at Graham’s, a prestigious textile company owned by brothers William and John Graham.
The Graham’s company entered the Port wine business in 1820, after accepting 27 barrels of Port as payment of a debt. The moto of the company was, by then, “Ne Oublie”, a French expression that means “Don’t Forget”.
A worker of Graham’s, Andrew Symington visited the Douro valley and fell in love. He would leave the company two years later to pursue his dream of producing Port wine. In 1891, Andrew got married with Anglo-Portuguese Beatriz Leitão de Carvalhosa Atkinson, whose ancestors had been making Port since the mid-17th Century, and with the help of his father in law, he would build a Port empire and buy the Graham’s company.
In 1920, Andrew decided to buy 4 barrels of Port from the year of his arrival to Porto, 1882. With time, this 4 barrels became 3 due to the effects of the evaporation – around 2% to 3% per year for a 550 liters barrel, sometimes called the Angel’s Share – and, in 2014, the family has decided to bottle one of the barrels. The result is 656 bottles of this Ne Oublie Port. The other two barrels, a treasure, will be kept in the cellars, for the next generations to decide their fate.
Ne Oublie Port: the world was so different
Perhaps the most beautiful things about Port is the fact that, in its essence, it is an altruistic gift to the next generations. We are able to drink this out-of-this-world Port because the producers have decided, in 1882 and in the following years, to resist to the surely intense desire of drinking it and to leave it instead to their children and grandchildren.
I always say that drinking a Port like this is drinking History. So, what is the taste of History? Difficult to say, but whenever I drink an old Port I think of how the world was the year of the harvest. And it was very different from the world we know today. Just to give you an idea, at around the same time they were harvesting the vineyards in the Douro in 1882, Thomas Edison was flipping the switch to the first commercial electrical power plant in the USA, lighting one square mile of Manhattan, in what is considered now the beginnings of the electrical age.
Drinking this Ne Oublie Port is tasting a bit of that year, also the year that writer Virginia Woolf was born or that Jesse James was shot or that composer Richard Wagner presented his opera Parsifal. For me, this Ne Oublie Port tastes to all those things, plus the complexity, intensity and subtlety at the same time, that is almost impossible to describe. Maybe this 1882 should be given to the best poets in the world so they could tell, with their talent, what it is because frankly I don’t even know where to start.
The nose of this Ne Oublie Port warms you up. The most amazing aromas of caramel, honey, nuts, etc. On the mouth, there is still fruit, dates, vanilla, tobacco, orange, chocolate, hazelnuts. The texture intense but smooth, very long finish with an acidity that made my legs tremble. If I had to chose just one word for this Ne Oublie Port, I would definitely go with Elegance. This one is definitely a proof that time brings elegance and I see this almost as a metaphor for a human life: years bring serenity. There is a beautiful serenity in this Port. Don’t get me wrong: it is powerful, but always with the serene elegance of a creature that has been here for a long time. For some reason, this Port reminds me the famous words of Cervantes: “Confía en el tiempo que suele dar dulces salidas a muchas amargas dificultades”.
So the initial question deserves an answer: is it worth it? Obviously, the price includes all the special things that you get, including the luxury leather box, the bottle made specially for this special edition. And obviously you have to pay all of that. But is it worth the price? I can only say that this Port offered me one of the best nights of my life. How much would you pay for happiness?