Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Symingtons, dominant family of port wine shippers for five generations whose group of port companies includes W. & J. Graham, Warre, Dow, Quinta do Vesúvio, Smith Woodhouse and cockburn. They also own Quinta de Roriz. Founder of the family firm was Andrew James Symington, who arrived in Oporto from Glasgow in 1882 at the age of 19 and afterwards married the Anglo-Portuguese Beatriz Leitão de Carvalhosa Atkinson whose ancestors had been in port since the 17th century. Originally he joined the firm of Warre & Co., rising to become a partner. At the time George Warre was senior partner in Dow’s, and in 1912 a swap took place whereby Symington took a share in Dow’s while Warre regained a part of the firm that his family had founded. The Symingtons ran production and the vineyards for the two firms while the Warre family ran sales and marketing in London. The Warre family sold their remaining shareholding to the Symingtons in 1961. W. & J. Graham & Co. was purchased from the Graham family in 1970 along with the smaller sister company of Smith Woodhouse. The family owns Quinta do Bomfim near Pinhão, which provides much of the fruit for Dow’s (along with Quinta da Senhorada Ribeira, acquired in 1998, having originally been sold by the family in 1954 when the fortunes of port were at a particularly low ebb). It also owns Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha in the Pinhão valley and Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos at Tua. The group was instrumental in reviving interest in single-quinta ports in the late 1980s (see port, styles). In 1989 the Symingtons acquired Quinta do Vesúvio, a 400-ha/990-acre estate widely regarded as one of the finest vineyards in the Douro, but in need of restoration (see ferreira). The vineyards have been extended and improved and, from 1991, Quinta do Vesúvio has been marketed as a brand in its own right. The family own substantial additional vineyards whose fruit is sold to their various different port companies. In 1988, the extensive Quinta do Marco plant in vila nova de gaia was opened and it bottles more than 1.5 million cases of port annually. In 1996, a new winery, Quinta do Sol near Regua, was opened with an annual winemaking capacity of 3.2 million litres of port. The Symingtons operate another six small wineries on individual vineyards throughout the Douro, some of them equipped with the robotic lagares that the family pioneered in 1998. In 2006, Symingtons bought the cockburn vineyards, cellars, and stock, and in 2010 acquired the brands. Despite this integration, each company within the group has its own separate stocks and the group maintains a full range of vintage and wood ports for each company.