Replanting the "Port Arthur" Stone Terraces and the Origin of the Name

Japanese soldiers assaulting the Port Arthur defences, with a detail of the Russian surrender. Kobayashi Kiyochika. Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Japanese soldiers assaulting the Port Arthur defences, with a detail of the Russian surrender. Kobayashi Kiyochika. Boston Museum of Fine Arts

This year the west facing slope of the iconic “Port Arthur” stone terraces of Quinta dos Malvedos has been replanted. It will take some three years until the stone terraces, now planted with Touriga Franca and Alicante Bouschet, will once again produce fruit of sufficient quality to be part of Graham’s Port.

In the meantime, the east facing side of the terraces has been producing excellent grapes and has been the source of some of the best Port ever produced in the quinta.

In the Douro Valley vines were traditionally planted on terraces supported by large dry stone walls known as socalcos. They serve to support the soil and to create a flat place to work, enabling the cultivation of the steep hillsides of the Douro region. It is for these stone walls, which demonstrate the level to which human activity has shaped and sculpted the natural beauty of the area, that the Douro Valley was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

But why are the stone terraces of Quinta dos Malvedos known as the “Port Arthur” terraces?

The hallmark of the iconic quinta, the concentric walls of the stone terraces, particularly evident on the west facing side, tower over the Douro River like a citadel. While these terraces are known as  “Port Arthur”, not everyone knows why.

The most likely answer is that they were named after the heavily fortified Chinese city of Port Arthur (now known as Lüshunkou or Lyushunkou District). Port Arthur was an important deep-water harbour for both military and trade, and from the end of the 19th into the 20th century was leased to Russia by China. As Russia’s only warm water port in the Pacific, control over it was essential, and the cities defences were bolstered by heavy fortifications and the presence of a garrison of 50,000 men and 506 pieces of artillery.

Im 1904 these defences would come under attack as Port Arthur became a fundamental point of contention in the Russo-Japanese War. The brutal Siege of Port Arthur (April 1904-January 1905), and the ensuing battles, saw the Japanese Third Army assault the concentric lines of defensive fortifications built on the three hills that protected the harbour. The siege and the battles that followed ultimately resulted in the the destruction of the Russian Pacific Fleet, the loss of Russian influence in the region, and increasing political unrest in Russia itself. This would have placed Port Arthur, and its colossal fortification very much in the public consciousness, and it is very likely where the stone terraces of Quinta dos Malvedos got their name.



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Graham’s Port and Symington Family Estates in the New Window Display of “Garrafeira Nacional” in Lisbon

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Dow’s 2011 Vintage atop a staircase of Douro vine terraces

Earlier this month Garrafeira Nacional, one of the most renowned wine merchants in Portugal, unveiled a new window display celebrating several of Symington Family Estates Ports, focusing especially on Graham’s and Dow’s. Located in the Baixa Pombalina in downtown Lisbon, Symington Family Estates has been given pride of place in the window of the famous vintner.

Founded in 1927, and currently managed by Jaime Vaz, Garrafeira Nacional is a family run business that prides itself on having one of the finest selections of wine in Portugal. The new display, designed by Will Creative with the help of Symington Family Estates, highlights the quality of the fine Ports that the company is producing, and the reputation they are earning Portuguese wine on the world-stage.

One half of the shop’s facade is taken up by a homage to Dow’s 2011 Vintage Port, the wine named Wine Spectator’s “Number 1” wine of 2014 in their “Top 100” wines of the year. In the display, a 15 litre bottle of Dow’s 2011 Vintage is standing proud atop a staircase of Douro vineyard terraces.

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Graham’s 1969 Aged Tawny Port

Framed in schist, which divides the display and pays tribute to the Douro Valley, is a tribute to the craft of cooperage, and its contribution to fine Port. In it a series of mechanical coopers can be seen carrying out their traditional tasks, and images of several of Graham’s coopers are on display. As the only Port company with a full time team of coopers, Symington Family Estates are particularly proud of the contribution they make to the company’s aged tawny Ports.

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The art of cooperage

To see the company’s wines as the centrepiece of the window display of one of the most well respected wine merchants in the country is to see them on their ideal stage, and is a tribute to the hard work of everyone at Symington Family Estates and the wines they produce.

See the video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hd1w0biFD4

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Memories come in many forms… Graham’s Ne Oublie Very Old Tawny Port

Three generations of the Symington Family (the custodians of Graham’s Port since 1970) have been launching Graham’s rare Ne Oublie Very Old Tawny Port: a wine dating from the time Andrew James Symington arrived in Portugal to work for Graham’s in 1882.

The wine was bought to commemorate the year of AJS’ arrival in Portugal and what would become the beginning of his family’s commitment to Port, the Douro and Portugal. This wine has become symbolic of the family’s legacy.

27 members of the Symingtons gathered at Christie’s in London for the official launch in the UK, followed a week later by the official event in the Graham’s 1890 Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia to reveal the wine in Portugal.

27 members of the Symington family at Christie's, London

Graham’s Ne Oublie has a touching story, which is told in every detail. The blood of three nations flows in the veins of the Symington family; so, it was only fitting that artisans from these three, Portugal, Scotland and England, should craft the packaging for this very rare, very special wine. The wine is bottled in an individually numbered, handmade crystal decanter designed by Portugal’s leading glass manufacturer Atlantis. Three sterling silver bands adorn the glass, moulded and engraved by Scottish silversmiths, Hayward & Stott and carrying the mark of the Edinburgh Assay office.

The leather case has been handmade by Smythson’s of Bond Street, luxury British leather craftsmen. This is a peculiarly apt expression of the family’s history, since Maurice Symington, grandfather of the current generation of directors, recorded his thoughts and experiences in leather diaries handmade by Frank Smythson himself.

When the small bottles of Ne Oublie were opened at Christie’s and at Graham’s Lodge to give journalists and fine wine merchants their first taste of this remarkable wine the whole room was filled with the wine’s complex perfumes.

Victoria Moore at The Telegraph described the experience:

“It’s an incredible piece of history… I could smell it a foot away from the glass, curling, intense, like bitter orange peel and caramelized clementines, then tasting rich with dried fruit and toasted almonds underneath it. Not like wine at all, really, but delicious. I was still enjoying the nose before I washed up this morning, emailed a friend who had poured a tiny glass the night before. That is some wine. And it will go on.”

After enduring over 130 hot summers first in the Douro and then in the cooler maritime climate of Vila Nova de Gaia on Portugal’s Atlantic coast this wine is something special.

Andrew Jefford in his article in World of Fine Wine captures this wine’s story:

“You simply can’t create complexity of this order in under a century or so, I suspect… There was a cleanliness and a precision about the wine, though, that was a testament to 130 years of exemplary stewardship… a synopsis of life and time.”

In their blog, Lea & Sandeman, ruminate on the impact that Ne Oublie might have: “As an exercise in shining a light on Port, Paul hopes this extravagant release will turn heads – and it certainly should, this is a fabulous, fascinating drink which illustrates brilliantly the remarkable potential and fascinating complexity achievable in this historic wine region.”

There is certainly a lot of excitement around this wine. Those present at these two launch events were privileged to witness the preview of a specially commissioned short film, directed by the Portuguese filmmaker Artur Serra Araújo, which you can see here. You can also read more information about the people and the stories behind this remarkable and rare treasure here.

The Symingtons have neatly summarised what this wine means to their family: Memories come in many forms; ours just happen to be in wine.

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Riedel glass tasting at Graham’s Lodge

Georg Riedel, the 10th generation of crystal glass makers in his family, held a unique tasting at Graham’s Lodge last week revealing how the shape of the wineglass influences the flavours and aromas of the wine.

The tasting showcased Riedel’s innovative Grape Varietal Specific range of glasses and was hosted at the Lodge by Portfolio Vinhos, distributors of Graham’s Port and Riedel’s glassware in Portugal.

By guiding participants through a tasting of three grape varieties, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet and Pinot Noir, Georg Riedel illustrated the crucial role that the glass plays in showing the wine at its best.

The reason for this is that the aromas of the wine are conveyed differently depending on the design of the glass and the size of its aperture: different varieties express themselves best in glasses of different shapes. Georg Riedel illustrated this by leading a tasting of the wines first in the same plastic mug, in which their characteristics were dulled and their individual expressiveness reduced. When in the glass specifically designed for them, however, each wine sang strongly and in its own unique way.

Likewise, the size of the aperture determines exactly where on the palate the wine is directed. The human palate has specific areas for sensing each of the principle components of taste. The right glass allows the natural balance of the wine’s flavours to be properly felt.

Georg Riedel held another tasting with us in Portugal a couple of years ago in a quest to discover the perfect glass to drink Vintage Port from.

Do you have any thoughts? Send us a comment.

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Paul Symington named Wine Personality of the Year

Paul Symington was humbled and honoured to receive Wine Magazine’s Wine Personality of the Year award on behalf of the Symington family on Friday night.  This award, from one of Portugal’s leading wine publications, was made in recognition of the continued commitment and investment that the family company, Symington Family Estates, has made in the Douro region and in Port Wine over the last few years.

The awards ceremony was held in the Porto suburb of Foz, where the Douro River flows into the Atlantic Ocean, having run its course through the whole latitude of Portugal and beyond into Spain. It is here that the two places that in Port Wine’s lifecycle converge. Port is born in the Douro Valley, where the grapes are grown, and then in Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from Foz and Porto, the young Port Wine matures and is bottled.

It was therefore fitting that this should be the setting for this event.  The Port Wine man Paul Symington, whose ancestors have been ambassadors for Port and the Douro for over a century, is very much rooted in this place and by this river. And it is always the Douro and the people in the vineyards that he celebrates.

The Symington family has remained unwaveringly committed to the Douro region throughout the difficult economic times in Portugal. 2013 saw the family initiate a number of significant projects to raise the profile of the Douro, a region whose economy is almost completely focused on Port and wine.

The renovation of the Graham’s 1890 Lodge and Vinum Restaurant & Wine Bar in Vila Nova de Gaia at the beginning of the year put Port and of the Douro in the limelight once again, adding to the world class wine and gastronomic experiences on offer in Porto. This was followed by the declaration of the fine 2011 Vintage Ports, which it seems likely will evolve to be monumental wines.

The Symington family is also building a state of the art visitors centre in the Douro town of Pinhão, next to the family’s Quinta do Bomfim. Easily accessible by train and road, this will give visitors the opportunity to visit the beautiful Douro Valley, to taste wines in the family’s vineyards and to understand firsthand what Port is all about. This, along with the family’s other Douro projects, exemplifies unrivalled commitment to the Douro region, its people and its economy.

Paul was described as passionate about the Douro, about Port and about Portugal; both the Portuguese and the British claim him as their own. This is true not just of Paul but of the whole Symington family: a family that has lived and breathed the Douro and Port for many generations.

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The Devastating River Douro Flood of Christmas 1909

Sr. Arlindo, the farm manager at Quinta dos Malvedos points to the 1909 flood mark on the stone terraces.
Sr. Arlindo, the farm manager at Quinta dos Malvedos points to the 1909 flood mark on the stone terraces.

104 years ago, almost to the day, one of the most notorious floods in the recorded history of the Douro Valley wreaked havoc along the River Douro’s course, unleashing its relentless destructive force on countless riverside vineyards, villages and towns. The twin cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, straddling the Douro close to where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean suffered badly, particularly in the days leading up to Christmas. The previous post carried a photograph showing the Malvedos farm manager, Sr. Arlindo pointing to the 1909 flood mark, which is painted on a large slab of schist embedded into one of the stone terrace’s supporting walls currently undergoing restoration at Quinta dos Malvedos. This raised everybody’s curiosity at the Quinta and was quickly followed by some delving into the past to better understand the flood’s scale and how it impacted on Malvedos and the rest of the region.

Quinta dos Malvedos, photographed in early January 1910, a couple of weeks after the epic flood of Decemmber 1909.
Quinta dos Malvedos, photographed in early January 1910, a couple of weeks after the epic flood of December 1909.

First hand evidence of what happened exists in our own archives. In an entry in one of our preserved vineyard records books, dated January 11th 1910 and written at Quinta do Zimbro, just two miles (3.5 km) upstream from Malvedos, the account reads: “December 22/23 will always be remembered in the Douro Valley as being the date of the height of the most destructive flood; it carried away lodges, olive trees and vineyards. The water reached this house [Zimbro] and flowed through the lodge. After continuous rains through the whole month of December, the river Douro rose with extraordinary rapidity until the 23rd when it reached the lodge here, the iron work of the Pinhão bridge and even up to the top of the chapel door of the Quinta do Vesuvio. The destruction of all the lodeiros on the banks of the river being complete.”

The Quinta do Zimbro lodge (building on the right of the photograph, which was reached by the Douro floodwaters in 1909.
The Quinta do Zimbro lodge (building on the right of the photograph), which was reached by the Douro floodwaters in 1909.

Quinta do Zimbro, which was owned by the Symington family until the mid 20th-century, suffered much damage because its cluster of buildings were (are) built relatively close to the Douro’s banks (between 50 and 100 metres above sea level) — hence more vulnerable to the river’s unpredictable moods. In contrast, the house at Malvedos is sited on a commanding ridge at 150 metres altitude and was thus spared the worst effects of the raging torrent. The vineyards planted on the stone terraces built below the house and which descend towards the Síbio stream did sustain some damage, although the sturdy dry stone walls remained largely intact. The archive photo below (taken in the new year of 1910) shows the loamy deposit left behind on the ‘Port Arthur’ vineyard terraces at Malvedos as the floodwaters receded.

The 'Port Arthur' Stone Terraces vineyard at Malvedos in the aftermath of the 1909 flood.
The ‘Port Arthur’ Stone Terraces vineyard at Malvedos in the aftermath of the 1909 flood.

The cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, which face each other close to the Douro’s estuary sustained widespread damage and some loss of life. The force of the torrent took everything in its path including 50 vessels, from fishing boats to steamers, which were washed out to sea and sank. Hundreds more broke their moorings and the force of the current smashed them against the banks and buildings on both the Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia sides. The Port lodges in Gaia built closer to the river’s banks sustained considerable damage. Period accounts tell of hundreds of pipes of Port being washed out to sea.

Buildings alongside the banks of the Douro in Porto suffer from the effects of the flooding during December 1909.
Buildings alongside the banks of the Douro in Porto suffer from the effects of the flooding during December 1909.

Abundant rain had been falling incessantly in the Douro region and in Porto since the beginning of the month of December. Adding to the volume of the Douro’s own waters were the discharges from scores of tributaries, many of them large rivers in their own right. By December 23rd, the rain finally stopped but the level of the river continued to rise remorselessly. It reached a point where its surface was just 50cm below the lower span of the Dom Luis ‘double-decker’ iron bridge (see photo below). It was feared this lower span could be washed away, possibly destroying the whole bridge. Emergency plans were hastily prepared to place explosive charges along the lower span, sacrificing it in order to save the main structure (including the upper span which linked the higher parts of the city of Porto and Gaia). Fortunately, this drastic measure proved unnecessary and one of Porto’s principal landmarks was saved. Inaugurated in 1886, it is still in use today, serving both the lower and higher levels of the twin cities.

The Dom Luis Bridge which narrowly missed being washed away by the destructive force of the 1909 flood.
The Dom Luis Bridge which narrowly missed being washed away by the destructive force of the 1909 flood.

From the early 1960s, hydroelectric dams began to be built along the course of the Douro and they have largely tamed this erstwhile wild and unpredictable river — almost. As recently as March 2001 the force of the Douro’s waters led to the collapse of a bridge at Entre-os-Rios, resulting in the loss of 59 lives.

The Douro floodwaters invade the lower sections of Vila Nova de Gaia, where many Port lodges were seriously damaged.
The Douro floodwaters invade the lower sections of Vila Nova de Gaia, where many Port lodges were seriously damaged.
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Graham’s Prince George charity dinner

The wild Douro Valley, where Graham’s vineyards thrive, is home to thousands of people who eke out a living in this harsh environment. For hundreds of years, the people of the Douro have been integral to the creation of the Port wine that has made this region famous. But life in such a remote environment can also bring with it deprivation and hardship.

The Douro and Trás-os-Montes region is amongst the poorest in Europe. With their roots deeply established in this region, this is a concern that strikes very close to home for the Symington Family.

Vinum

This was the backdrop for the fundraising dinner held by the family company, Symington Family Estates, at Vinum Restaurant & Wine Bar located in the spectacular surroundings of Graham’s 1890 Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia.

From Portugal with love

When the Family bottled the Graham’s 1982 Single Harvest Tawny (‘Colheita’ in Portuguese) in honour of the birth of His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge they pledged to donate a proportion of the sales of this commemorative Port to the Douro charity Associação Bagos d’Ouro. In addition to this the dinner and auction held on the evening of Thursday 21st November raised another significant sum to be donated to this admirable charity.

Bagos d'Ouro

The Symington Family’s pledge to support the work of this charity was given encouragement by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge saying it was “in keeping with Their Royal Highnesses’ wishes”.

Graham's 1982 Dinner in honour of Prince George of Cambridge

The President of Bagos d’Ouro Luísa Amorim made a moving speech during the evening. She drew on the special relationship between The United Kingdom and Portugal, the longest standing alliance in history, as a force for future good in both countries. The dedication of this wine born in the Douro Valley in 1982 to the young Prince born in London this year was felt by all to be a fitting symbol of this ongoing collaboration, following on from the 1952 Tawny Port bottled last year to honour the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

‘Berries of Gold’

“The Douro is a name synonymous with the supreme quality of excellent wines,” said Luísa on Thursday, “but it is also a very poor region.”

Her organization Bagos d’Ouro works with disadvantaged children in the Douro and Trás-os-Montes region to improve the quality of education and in so doing improve the opportunities and prospects of young people growing up there. Their vision, beautifully expressed in a Portuguese proverb, is that “the seeds of today will become the berries of gold of tomorrow”; and the charity’s name translates into English as, ‘Berries of Gold’.

Bagos d’Ouro’s vision is aligned with the Symington Family’s, whose commitment to the Douro region and its people goes back generations. While Port wine is the traditional drink served to toast Royalty and Heads of State, as well as to honour the birth of children.

Lot Nº1: the nº1 Jeroboam of Graham's 1982 Tawny Port.
Lot Nº1: the nº1 Jeroboam of Graham’s 1982 Tawny Port.

Dinner and auction

The wines served at Vinum Restaurant on Thursday were testament to the importance of the Douro region for wine-lovers, all of them coming from the Symington Family’s vineyards in the Douro Valley. Likewise the food highlighted the culinary wealth that the Trás-os-Montes region has to offer the world.

But the highlight of the evening was the result of the fundraising auction. The two lots were a 4.5 litre Jeroboam and three 75cl bottles in a wooden display case of Graham’s 1982 Tawny Port.

Lot Nº2: a three-bottle gift case of Graham's 1982 Tawny Port.
Lot Nº2: a three-bottle gift case of Graham’s 1982 Tawny Port.

The Jeroboam was eventually sold for €2550 and the three-bottle case for €1700, which was significantly more than the family had hoped for. The sale of tickets for the dinner raised an additional €2100. All combined and including the €6350 raised through sales of the 1982 Tawny Port the total donation made by Symington Family Estates to Bagos d’Ouro was €12 700.

The evening concluded by raising a toast of the 1982 Tawny Port as the Jeroboams circulated.
The evening concluded by raising a toast of the 1982 Tawny Port as the Jeroboams circulated.

There was no more fitting way to end the evening than to raise a toast to the President of Portugal, the Queen of The United Kingdom and His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge. And of course, the Vinum staff, whose efforts made the evening so magnificent, circulated in the room to charge the glasses before they were raised from two Jeroboams of this very special 1982 Tawny Port.

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Master of The Vintners' Company Baptizes Cask at Graham's

Michael Cox points to THE MASTER, the large cask he was about to baptize (with a glass of Port) in the Graham's 1890 Lodge on October 24th.
Michael Cox points to the evidence on “THE MASTER”  of the baptismal ceremony he has just carried out in the Graham’s 1890 Lodge, following in the footsteps of many of his predecessors.

Michael Cox, who recently completed his year as The Master of the Worshipful Company of Vintners, followed in the footsteps of previous Master Vintners by baptizing the MASTER’S CASK in the Graham’s 1890 Lodge on Thursday October 24th, whilst on a visit to Oporto and the Douro where he spent some time at Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos. Like his uncle before him, Guy Gordon Clark O.B.E. (Master Vintner in 1989), Michael baptized the Master’s cask by throwing a glass of Graham’s Port against it (only after taking a sip beforehand). The ceremony at Graham’s dates back to 1928, when the visiting Master began this tradition at the Graham’s 1890 Lodge.

The Worshipful Company of Vintners is one of the oldest and most respected of the Great Twelve Livery Companies of the City of London, having received its first charter from Edward III in 1363. In 1928 it became the first of these venerable Guilds to make an overseas visit, namely to Portugal. The visit, which did much to rekindle the interest of the British in Port, also enhanced the prestige of the Vintners, demonstrating how it could further the interests of the United Kingdom Wine Trade. Michael began his term as Master Vintner in the year the Company celebrated 650 years since receiving its first Royal charter.

Michael prepares to hurl a glass of Port against the large cask — "The Master", thus 'baptizing it.
Michael prepares to launch a glass of Port against the large cask — “The Master”, thus ‘baptizing it.

Michael is one of the most well-liked and respected figures in the UK wine trade and comes from a long line of wine professionals; his great-great-great grandfather founded the successful wine importing business of Matthew Clark & Sons in 1810 (long time distributors of Graham’s Ports in the UK). His successful career led to his appointment as Wines of Chile Europe Director, a role in which he has excelled, having firmly established Chilean wines amongst the most popular and admired by the British wine consumer. In 2010 and in recognition for his services, President Piñera of Chile made Michael a Commander of the Order of Merit of Chile, the highest honour that can be bestowed to a non-Chilean.

Paul Symington (left), Graham's Joint Managing Director who hosted his friend, Michael Cox at the Graham's 1890 Lodge for the traditional baptismal ceremony.
Paul Symington (left), Graham’s Joint Managing Director who hosted his friend Michael Cox at the Graham’s 1890 Lodge for the baptismal ceremony, a tradition dating back to 1928 during the Vintners’ Company first overseas visit.
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Graham’s Provides New Ambulance for Douro Fire Service

The Symington family, owners of Graham’s, have the largest vineyard holding in the Douro Valley with a total of 965 hectares (2,385 acres) under vine; the five Graham’s quintas alone comprising 257 hectares (635 acres). These vineyards enable the family to meet most of their requirements (100% for Vintage and other premium Ports), although further grapes are bought in from a large number of small independent growers throughout the region. In this way, Graham’s and the Symington family are major contributors to the economic fabric of the Douro, which is heavily reliant on wine production for its livelihood.

The family’s social responsibility extends beyond this and over the years it has made donations to local fire brigades in the form of new ambulances to help provide adequate medical coverage for local populations. On Saturday, 31st August, on behalf of all Symington family members and their employees, Paul Symington handed over to the Régua Fire Brigade Chief a new ambulance to serve the local community. This is the 6th ambulance donated in as many years by the family to several Douro fire services.

Paul Symington (centre) hands the new ambulance over the the Regua Fire Chief (on his right).
Paul Symington (centre) hands the new ambulance over to the Régua Fire Chief (on his right).

 It is particularly apt that this ceremony took place at this time, as Portugal has suffered one of its worst ever summers of forest fires; large parts of the country have been covered in smoke with as many as 250 fires recorded simultaneously on one occasion. Special fire-fighting planes were flown in from Spain and France and even from as far afield as Croatia to assist in fighting the flames. Sadly though, 5 volunteer firemen, including two young women in their early twenties have lost their lives and over 40,000 hectares of woodland have burnt in the month of August alone (more than in the whole of 2008 which was the worst year in recent history for forest fires). In fact as the ambulance was being handed over, many of the Régua firefighters were out tackling yet another fire.

Paul and Dominic Symington accompanied by several Graham's employees who witnessed the handing over of the new ambulance.
Paul and Dominic Symington accompanied by several Graham’s employees who witnessed the handing over of the new ambulance to the Régua Fire Brigade.

In years to come, it is the Symington family’s intention to continue providing ongoing support to the Douro Fire Services, which contribute so many essential services in the Douro. Living and working in the region ourselves helps us to better understand the needs of the community.

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French Film Partially Filmed at Malvedos Premieres Today in Portugal

CageDoree_poster

The French film, la Cage Dorée (The Gilded Cage), directed by the young Franco-Portuguese director, Ruben Alves and which has a cast of well-known Portuguese and French actors makes its premiere in Portugal today — August 1st. Filmed on location in Paris and at Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos in the Douro Valley, the film has been a box-office hit in France, having been seen by over one million cinema goers since it premiered there on April 24th. The producers of the film are hopeful that this success will be mirrored in Portugal.

Dominic Symington welcomes members of the cast and film director, Ruben Alves to the Museu do Douro.
Dominic Symington welcomes members of the cast and film director, Ruben Alves (centre) to the Museu do Douro.

The charming comedy revolves around the story of a young Portuguese couple who emigrate to France in the early 1970s in search of a better life. Several decades later, they inherit a Douro quinta and this is where Quinta dos Malvedos becomes, itself, one of the stars of the film. Following much exploration in the Douro early in 2012 in search of a suitable location to shoot the Portuguese scenes of the film, the director immediately fell in love with Malvedos (after visiting many other quintas) and was thrilled when the Symington family agreed to his request to film there. During a week in July 2012, Malvedos was a hive of activity as the cast of French and Portuguese actors played out their roles amidst one of the most spectacular settings in the Douro Valley.

Actress Rita Blanco and actor Joaquim de Almeida stake a claim on a large bottle of Six Grapes!
Actress Rita Blanco and actor Joaquim de Almeida stake a claim on a large bottle of Six Grapes!

Leading Portuguese actor, Joaquim de Almeida, who enjoys a successful career in Hollywood, and the popular actress, Rita Blanco, star in the roles of José and Maria (he a builder and she a concierge). They are supported by a varied cast of other Portuguese, as well as French and Franco-Portuguese actors such as Chantal Lauby, Jacqueline Corado and Barbara Cabrita.

Besides Malvedos, Graham’s is also represented in the film by one of its landmark wines — Six Grapes, the Port served by José and Maria when they entertain guests at their Parisian home.

Rita Blanco, in the role of Maria, pours her guest a glass of Graham's Six Grapes.
Rita Blanco, in the role of Maria, pours her guest a glass of Graham’s Six Grapes.

On July 22nd, the film producers organized a first screening in Portugal and naturally they chose a Douro venue in which to do so — the town of Lamego. To give them a fitting welcome on their return to the region, the Symington family organized a reception in the attractive surroundings of the Museu do Douro (the Port Wine Museum) in Régua during which a tutored tasting of Graham’s Ports was provided for the film cast, crew and all assembled guests. Besides Graham’s delicious Six Grapes, the superb Graham’s 2001 Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port was also much appreciated by all.

Jackie Dias, Graham's PR & Events Manager, with actor Joaquim de Almeida and film director, Ruben Alves.
Jackie Thurn-Valsassina, Graham’s PR & Events Manager, with actor Joaquim de Almeida and film director, Ruben Alves.
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