When we say the Symingtons are keen on vintage . . . you would naturally complete that sentence with the word “Port.” And they are, of course! But as it happens, several family members are also keen on vintage cars.
Last week James and Dominic Symington hosted a group of Bugatti owners for 2 days in the Douro. After a week at an international touring event based in Burgos, Spain, almost 30 enthusiasts in 15 cars carried on, driving over 350 km (220 miles) southwest into the Douro region to Pinhão.
On Monday, James met the group at Pinhão, to lead them over the winding mountain roads to Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos. James hitched a ride in one of the cars, and at one stop, the owner asked if he would like to drive? “Would I?!” The owner said it was a wonderful car, you just had to point it, and it would go. James said it was like driving on rails, the car held the road just beautifully. As well it should: this Bugatti 1925 Type 39 has a 1500 cc 8-cylinder engine and won the 1925 Monza Grand Prix.
James said the car could do 130 mph (I didn’t ask exactly HOW he knew that… ), and said getting used to the gear shift was a little challenging, as not only is the gear sequence different from modern cars, but the stick is actually mounted on the outside of the car, next to the hand brake. The other surprise was how close together the pedals are: James had to change shoes, his own were so heavy he actually tripped himself up on the pedals!
On arrival at Quinta dos Malvedos, the group enjoyed a tasting of Graham’s wines, including Six Grapes, Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny, a 1995 Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage, and two wonderful Graham’s Vintage Ports: 1994 and 1980. After lunch at the house. the group had a tour of the winery and the vineyards before heading back to Pinhão.
On Tuesday the group drove to Quinta do Vesuvio, first driving north of Malvedos to the village of Alijó, then coming back down to the south east and crossing the Douro over the Valeira dam and stopping to visit Numão Castle before arriving at Vesuvio. Dominic, who received them just before lunch time at Vesuvio, said they loved every minute of the drive, telling him the roads were made for this type of car, with very little traffic, wonderful sweeping curves and unbelievable views. They also apparently enjoyed racing each other up and down the straightaway between the house and the winery at Vesuvio – rather an unusual use for a stretch of road frequented most often by tractors full of grapes!