‘We are rather a curious blend of nationalities; a mixture of Scottish rationality and hard work, English common sense and Portuguese flair, emotion and romanticism.’
There is a natural affinity between wine and family. Long-term vision and commitment through many generations are essential for the success of a family wine company. A newly planted vineyard takes time to produce great wines and often requires a lifetime’s work to yield best results.
The Symington family, with Scottish, English and Portuguese ancestry has been present in the Douro for five generations — since 1882 — and through the current generation’s great grandmother, the family’s links to the wines of the Douro span 14 generations, to the mid-17th century and to the very beginnings of the history of Port.
The family has 2,118 hectares of land in the Douro Valley across 27 individual estates. These properties, known as quintas, have just over 1,000 ha of vines, the vast majority of which are planted on terraces, and amount to the most significant vineyard holding in the region. Generations of Symington winemakers have planted and cared for these estates, accumulating knowledge that they have employed in the making of some of the finest Ports and Douro wines. These vineyards are at the heart of the family’s wines.
Symington Family Estates is an entirely family-owned and managed company and is one of the leading quality Port producers, responsible for the making of approximately 32% of all premium Port categories. Five of the family, Paul, Johnny, Rupert, Dominic and Charles work together maintaining the vineyards and making the wines of their four historic Port houses: Graham’s, Cockburn’s, Dow’s and Warre’s. The family also own Quinta do Vesúvio, one of Portugal’s greatest vineyard estates. Paul’s daughter Charlotte and Rupert’s sister Clare also work with the family in the UK.
The Symingtons conduct extensive research into Douro viticulture and winemaking in their experimental vineyards at Quinta da Cavadinha in the Pinhão Valley, at Quinta do Bomfim in the main Douro Valley and at their ‘Vine Library’ at Quinta do Ataíde in the Vilariça Valley. In the past the family developed the modern treading lagares, which became the most significant advance in the production of premium quality Ports for many years.
They have also been amongst the pioneers in the development of Douro DOC wines, producing Chryseia, Post Scriptum and Prazo de Roriz with the Prats family of Bordeaux, as well as other Symington Douro wines from Quinta do Vesúvio, Quinta do Ataíde and the Altano range.
The family are the only Douro producer to have made a Port in the 21st century that merited a perfect 100 points from Wine Spectator; Dow’s 2007 Vintage Port. The family’s dedication to the wines of the Douro was further recognized when Wine Spectator ranked Dow’s 2011 Vintage Port as the Nº 1 Wine of the Year in 2014. Another wine, made in partnership with Bruno Prats, Chryseia Douro DOC 2011, was classified as Nº 3 Wine of the Year in the same year. This international recognition was an important step for the wines of the Douro and has significantly increased their reputation worldwide.