Becca Green speaks to successful port business, Symington Family Estates

Portugal is home to some of the finest port wines the world has to offer and Symington Family Estates is the answer to a lot of that success. With a family history that is at the heart of the vineyards they are here to tell us a bit more about the intricate process behind the port.

Your estates are family run, how important is this to you and your business?

It is absolutely essential that a family member is involved in all key aspects of viticulture (vineyards), wine making, the final preparation of the wines and also in the commercial aspects of sales and marketing. In this way all key aspects of the business are under direct family control.

Can you tell us about your family history?

Our great-grandfather, Andrew James Symington, came to Portugal as an 18 year old and a short while later started to work in the Port trade. He became a partner in Warre’s Port and later became joint partner in Dow’s Port with the Warre family. In 1970 they acquired Graham’s Port and in 2011 Andrew James’ great-grandchildren (the current generation) acquired Cockburn’s Port.

Great wines are born in your vineyards; is there a particular wine that you are particularly proud of?

We are very fortunate that most of our wines are very highly regarded and generally considered as amongst the references against which others are measured. In recent years we have been very proud of our Graham’s 2007 rated 97/100 points and in particular our Dow’s 2007, rated 100/100 points by the prestigious Wine Spectator magazine.

What new vinification techniques have the Symingtons discovered?

We have created a modern lagar system (a lagar is the traditional granite tank that wine was made in, in the Douro Valley) that faithfully replicates the age-old traditional method of foot treading that dates back to the time wine was first produced.

What does the future hold for Symington Family Estates?

The first member of the family’s 5th generation has already started working in the business and a number of others have expressed strong interest in eventually following in their parents’ footsteps. As a family we have a general rule that all members of the following generations must work independently, be it in the wine trade, or in other professions for a number of years before returning to the family business. There is no automatic entry into the business, and all family members must demonstrate a clear ability to contribute to its on-going success.

If you’re interested in visiting Symington Family Estates or would like any more info, visit the website