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Port has always played second-fiddle to investable wines, with collectors preferring Bordeaux and Burgundy over any offering from the Douro Valley. But when it comes to complex flavour and profitable ageability, one of the heaviest heavyweights in the Port wine trade are the Symington Family Estates. And it is all thanks to one person – Scotsman James Symington who sailed to Portugal in 1882 at just 19 with dreams of making it big in the wine business. One fortuitous marriage to a Port wine heiress later, and the rest is history.
A family run estate for over a century
The Symington family is a living legend in Port. Owners of illustrious brands such as Dow, Graham, Warre, Smith Woodhouse, Quarles Harris and Quinta do Vesuvio, the family business is responsible for over 25% of all exported Port wines worldwide (with just 4% sold in the UK). Today, eleven Symingtons (and three generations) are involved in the day-to-day running of the estate, from marketing (Paul) to sales (Johnny) to actual winemaking (Peter and Charles). In fact, so famous is Peter Symington (the oldest member of the clan with 42 impressive winemaking years under his belt) that he was voted “Fortified Wine Maker of the Year” at the International Wine Challenge in London no fewer than six times. Under his helm, the Symington estates have produced some wondrous wines, notably Dow 2011, 2007, 1966, 1908, Warre Otima Tawny, LBV 1992, 1963, Graham 2000, 1970 and Smith Woodhouse 1977. The best vintage ever would be the 1960, the last great wine year for Port. These are blue chip investment wines, the 2011 Dow for example almost doubling in price after it received very high scores from critics. Their Quinta do Noval Nacional has long been an investment wine, easily hitting £1000 per bottle.
Twenty years of table wines
However, with Port wine sales on the decline, the Symington family have had to look elsewhere for expansion. Enter Chryseia, a red table wine created with ex-Cos D’Estournel owner Bruno Prats. The success of Chryseia and its sister second wine Post Scriptum has galvanised the Symington’s confidence in table wine making, and in 2018, plans for a €5m winery were announced.