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Peter Symington retires after 45 vintages in the Douro 08/10/2009


Mr Peter Symington (left) being presented with his Fortified Winemaker of the Year award certification at the International Wine Challenge, one of the world’s premier wine competitions.

Last week was very eventful for Peter Symington, widely recognized as the greatest taster of his generation and a living legend in Port Wine (affectionately known by many as “the nose”).

Days before announcing his retirement, he was busier than ever, receiving yet more trophies for his family’s Port Wines at the Decanter World Wine Awards. These awards were a fitting tribute to a man who has contributed so much to the worldwide prestige that Port enjoys.      

Over his 45 year career working in the family company, he built on the rich legacy passed on by his winemaking forebears, working with his cousins during a period in which the Symington family has become by far the largest owner of vineyards in the Douro Valley with a collection of 25 quintas totaling 1,769 hectares (940 ha under vine). Peter and his family were pioneers in the introduction of advanced winemaking to the Douro. The crowning achievement was the development of the hugely successful robotic treaders which have revolutionised Port winemaking. They have unequivocally proven themselves to surpass the quality obtained by traditional treading, hitherto thought of as the best method of making great Port. These advances are reflected in all Graham’s wines and in particular in their superb, 2000, 2003 and 2007 Vintage Ports.        

In his usual self-effacing style, Peter prefers to highlight the contribution of all those who have worked with him over the years and he is happiest when talking about his beloved Douro and its wines. But credit is owed where credit is due: Peter’s energy and ability have translated into scores of outstanding wines which underpin the Symington family’s ranking as the leading producer of premium quality Ports. His remarkable track record has not gone unnoticed: the International Wine Challenge, one of the world’s premier wine competitions, has made him Fortified Winemaker of the Year a record six times and at home, Portugal’s most influential wine magazine, Revista de Vinhos has named him Fortified Winemaker of the Year three times, as well as granting him a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Peter will be retiring to his own Douro property of Quinta da Fonte Branca from where he will accompany this, his last harvest in the Douro and then his work will be continued by his son Charles who has proven himself a worthy successor. Charles’s first vintage in the Douro was in 1995, giving Peter ample time to pass on all the benefit of his vast knowledge of the Douro with its complex and varied terroirs, as well as the secrets of his unrivalled tasting and blending experience. Besides building on his father’s accomplishments, Charles has led the winemaking of his family’s very successful Douro DOC operation.

Fittingly, on the very same day Peter officially retired, he received a much awaited phone call from Charles and his daughter-in-law Marta, informing him that his first grandson had been born in the afternoon (5th generation of the Symington family in Portugal). In his farewell retirement speech that same evening, Peter was proud to report that the young man appears to have the makings of a future winemaker – a ‘good nose’!

For more information about W & J Graham’s Port Wines please visit: www.grahams-port.com, and www.symington.com for more information about the Symington family.