Charles Metcalfe visits the Symington wineries

Tuesday sept 014As mentioned in my last post yesterday, we had a visit from Charles Metcalfe here at the Malvedos winery. This was part of a comprehensive look at the Symington winemaking operation and included visits to a number of other Symington quintas, hosted by Paul Symington, earlier in the week. I showed him the winery and we tasted the Barroca wine that had just been moved into one of the large wooden barrels in the lower part of the winery.

Tuesday sept 026

Charles very kindly offered to post a blog here that I think is well worth sharing. It is in two parts, so today I will post the first and the second will come tomorrow. I hope you enjoy it.



Just back from two days visiting six of the seven smaller wineries owned by the Symington family, watching the progress of the 2009 Douro vintage, and listening to winemakers telling the story of the 2009 vintage.

If ever a European wine family has put their money where their mouths are it’s the Symingtons. Out of the 950ha of Douro vineyards farmed by the Symingtons and their company, 164 ha are on estates directly owned by members of the Symington family. And as Paul Symington pointed out vineyards up and down the banks of the river, I soon realized that if he told me the name of an owner using only a first name, the default family name was always Symington. ‘That’s Ian’s’, ‘that’s Johnny’s’, and so on.

Seeing these six small wineries working has driven home the message that the ports and wines from the Symington empire aren’t all made in industrially-sized ‘wine facilities’. The wineries at Quinta do Bomfim and Quinta do Sol are large (I’ve visited both in the past). The seven others are medium-sized to frankly small, each with a supervising member of the Symington technical team responsible for all the wines produced at his winery.

And all seem pretty happy about the quality of the vintage, after a cool June and July and a sizzling August. Quantities are down, anywhere between 15 and 30%, but colours are good, even from the hotter vineyards and the normally lighter Barroca grape. The higher, cooler vineyards haven’t been picked yet, but the grapes there look great.

Most importantly, nothing seems rushed. The sun is shining, no rain is threatening the health of the grapes still on the vines, and the reduced quantities means there is no rush to move grapes and ferments on to make way for the next lot. There’s enough space and manpower, and the only cloud on my visits was a misbehaving cooler at Cavadinha.

– end Part 1-

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