Graham’s gives new ambulance to Douro Fire Department

The Symington family handed over a fully equipped ambulance to the Fire Department of the historic Douro mountain town of Sao Joao de Pesqueria on Saturday 16th January. The Symingtons have long followed a policy of helping local institutions in the Douro such as hospitals and other charitable bodies. Many of these do not have access to the facilities available in Portugal’s major coastal cities.

Portugal has a remarkable network of volunteer fireman in almost every medium sized town and village and the Douro is no exception. These volunteer units are almost entirely made up of people who have other employment but who react quickly when the siren rings out across the town, dropping whatever they do to hurry to the fire station and answer whatever emergency has caused the alert. In the summer the main challenge is the frequent forest fires, but this winter there have been serious problems with very heavy and continuous rainfall resulting in land slips and treacherous icy and muddy roads. Local farmers use their tractors on the large area of steeply inclined vineyards that drop from Pesqueira all the way down to the Douro River 500 meters below, so sadly accidents happen all too often.

These Fire Brigades depend on the good will of the volunteers and the support of all and the Pesqueira Fire Brigade had approached the Symington family last year to ask for help as their old ambulance did not have the necessary life-support equipment for immediate intervention when rescuing people.

The Symington family own and farm several vineyards in the Pesqueira area including Quinta de Roriz, Quinta de Perdiz, Quinta da Vila Velha, Quinta das Lajes, Quinta do Retiro Antigo and Quinta da Madalena. Furthermore many of the Symington’s co-workers live in and around Pesqueira and Ervedosa. So despite the challenges of a major international recession and a very difficult market, the family, together with all its work force, are proud to have been able to help in this way.

Paul

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December 2009 Douro Insider

Conditions at the very start of the month were what we in the business would describe as ‘bloody awful’. The first of the month, a public holiday, was a complete washout in the city, and sure enough the next day the rain reached the vineyards. Very often the weather in Porto takes somewhere between 12 and 24 hours to move inland to the Douro. There was reasonable rain for the first week which was good for the soil water levels even if not conducive to happy pruning. It seemed pretty cold too, although that turned out to be nothing compared with what was to come in the middle of the month. Full Report

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A harsh Douro winter brings down the walls

Today was another crisp, clear day in the Douro. The extreme cold that brought a rare snowfall to the region just before Christmas is giving us a brief respite, but the heavy rains continue to roll through the valley every few days. At times coming in near solid sheets of water, they are an awesome display of nature’s power, but one that takes a toll on the ancient pathways and terraces in our vineyards.

 

These images show just how damaging the heavy rains can be, bringing down schist stone walls that have stood for many generations with the force of the water they unleash. Although harsh, this is part of the annual cycle of the Douro and we will go on repairing the walls and pathways so that we can tend the vineyards and prepare for harvest again in the fall.

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