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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.