Simply excellent wines with an independent spirit.
Johnny is the fifth generation of his family to make port in the Douro, but Churchill’s is a first-generation company.
Johnny was born and raised in Porto as the youngest son of the Graham port family. After his father sold the family business in 1970, Johnny committed himself to learning the craft of port-making on his own. From age 20, he worked in the terraced vineyards of the Douro Valley, on the rabelo boats bringing barrels of young port down river, and in the cellars and tasting rooms of Vila Nova da Gaia. Apprenticing under the studied eye of port master John Smithe of Cockburn Smithe’s, Johnny quickly learned the art of winemaking and by his late 20s had developed a reputation as one of the trade’s best tasters.
Johnny could have had his pick of winemaking roles at the top vintage houses, but that wasn’t his style. Port was more than a trade to Johnny: it was his passion and art. He was not content to be a steward of a heritage style. He wanted to make his own mark on the 200-year-old Douro D.O.C. and bring a new style to port drinkers around the world.
Thus, at just 29 years old he set out to do something crazy: found an official port shipper in the ancient entrepot of Vila Nova de Gaia, which no one had done in over 50 years.
In a partnership with his wife and two brothers, Churchill’s was born, producing its first vintage in 1982, more than a full year before officially qualifying as a registered port shipper. The company was named after Johnny’s wife, Caroline Churchill.
Over the next several decades, the production grew to include a full range of ruby and tawny ports. But one thing has remained the same – a commitment to vintage quality port with a dry fresh style that is uniquely and classically Johnny Graham’s.
In 1999, Churchill’s acquired Quinta da Gricha, Johnny’s fifth and final child. He had long had his eye on the 50 hectare grade-A vineyard, going back to his days with Cockburn-Smithe’s in the 1970s. Owning and operating its own vineyard was a watershed moment for the start-up Churchill’s, providing control over grape supply for the first time and paving the way for entrance into Douro still wines.
In 2002, Johnny teamed up with young Portuguese wine maker and fellow wine rogue Ricardo Pinto Nunes, and together they have created the Churchill’s Estates and Quinta da Gricha ranges of still Douro wines. Through these wines, Johnny and Ricardo aim to combine the rigor and discipline of vintage port making with the spirit of experimentation at the heart of the new Douro wine movement.