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Douro's Symington Family Expands to Portugal's Alentejo Region

Largest landholders in the Douro purchase a 500-acre property in the southern wine area
Photo by: António Luís Campos
The Symingtons are known for their Ports and their Douro table wines, but they see potential in Alentejo.

Gillian Sciaretta
Posted: April 14, 2017

The Symington family, Port and Douro table-wine producers for five generations, have made their first purchase of vineyard land outside Portugal's Douro Valley. Their firm has acquired a 500-acre estate in the Alentejo region in southern Portugal, from João Lourenço. The property has 106 acres currently planted to vines. The Symingtons did not disclose the purchase price.

The vines are located at an altitude of 1,600 to 1,800 feet within the Serra de São Mamede National Park. “The important thing about this vineyard is its altitude, which at around [1,600 feet] has the benefit of a unique, cooler microclimate within the typically hot Alentejo region,” Rupert Symington, joint managing director of Symington Family Estates, explained to Wine Spectator. Symington's portfolio of brands includes Graham, Cockburn, Dow and Warre.

The property is part of the Portalegre subregion in the northern part of Alentejo. Lourenço has owned it for 17 years, using it as the prime property behind a brand called Altas Quintas. He retains ownership of the brand. “What is quite unusual in this area is to find such a large estate,” said Symington. "There are very few vineyards of this size, so we feel very lucky.”

Winemaking in the Alentejo is a notable departure from that in the internationally regarded Douro Valley in the northern part of the country. The two regions differ not only in their respective landscapes but also in their indigenous grape varieties. In addition, many vineyards in the Alentejo include international grapes. The Altas Quintas property is primarily planted to the red varieties Trincadeira, Aragonez and Alfrocheiro, with smaller amounts of Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, as well as the white grapes Verdelho and Arinto.

“We intend to make a completely fresh start, with our own winemaking style,” said Symington. “We definitely plan to maintain the existing plantings for the time being. Quite a bit of the vineyard is over 20 years old but in beautiful shape, so our winemakers are really excited about the opportunity. There is a fairly well-equipped winery, which with some modifications should be at full capacity at the coming vintage.”

Symington expects the property to reach production of about 1,250 to 1,650 cases annually, with up to 20 percent of it white wine. But their final strategy for the estate is still being determined.

A name is also in the works. “At this point, we have not yet come up with a name for the wine,” Symington confessed. “The estate is called Quinta da Queijeirinha, which is a bit unpronounceable, so we probably won’t be going there!”

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