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Churchill Port Buys Its First Vineyard

Julia Mann
Posted: September 17, 1999

The small Port house of Churchill paid $780,000 early this summer for its first vineyard, Quinta da Gricha. The 495-acre estate, which includes 123 acres of planted vineyards, is located in one of the best areas for producing Port in the upper Douro Valley of Portugal.

Churchill, which was founded in the early 1980s, is one of Portugal's newest Port houses. Up until now, it has purchased all of the grapes for its vintage, single-quinta and other Ports.

"It is fundamental for us to secure the supply, making and planting of vintage Port; the trend is to control and process more and more," said Johnny Graham, part owner of Churchill, who was extremely happy with the purchase. He said he has long been familiar with the Gricha property from when he worked at the Port house of Cockburn's, which made wines at Gricha from 1977 to 1980.

"Gricha is a south bank property in the Roriz area, and it produces extremely aromatic wines that are well structured," said Graham. "This makes for interesting ingredients for vintage Port and possibly for single-quinta port in the future." (Single-quinta Port is a bottle-aged Port made from the unblended grapes of a single estate in a single vintage.)

The quinta currently produces 6,000 cases, but Churchill plans to expand the winery. "There is the potential here to double the case production," said Graham. "The winemaking facilities are excellent, and we have great lagares [tanks in which the grapes are crushed]. The vineyards need a bit of replanting -- 20 percent are old vines over 50 years old -- but we don't want to rip them out, otherwise we will lose some of the characteristics. We expect to plant another 123 acres over the next few years."

Churchill's average annual production has gradually increased over the years from a beginning of 3,000 cases to about 25,000 cases last year. With the help of its new vineyards, "We plan to double ourselves within five years," said Graham.

Even though Churchill now owns Gricha, said Graham, the Port house will continue to make wines from such vineyards as Fojo and Agua Alta, from which it has made single-quinta Ports in various vintages.

For recent ratings of Churchill Ports, check the Wine Search.

To learn more about Port, read senior editor James Suckling's Port Wines.

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