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Symington announce €5m investment in new table wine winery with eye on Douro’s premium future

Published:  21 February, 2018

Pre-eminent port producer Symington Family Estates has announced plans to spend up to €4 to €5 million on a new winemaking facility at Quinta do Ataíde in the Douro to underpin the quality of its table wine production.

The investment comes after a decade during which worldwide sales of Douro table wines has more than doubled, from 2 million to 4.4 million 9l cases, according to the company. Symington accounts for around 4% of DOC Douro production, with labels ranging from its highish entry level Altano, to the high end Quinta do Ataíde and Quinta de Vesuvio wines.

Speaking at a Symington seminar on Douro table wines entitled ‘The Douro – 20 years on’ at Fell’s annual London tasting on 20 February, the group’s head winemaker Charles Symington described the new winery as his “pet project”, saying it would be ready by the 2020 vintage.

“Table winemaking is very special and very specific,” said Charles, explaining why the company was separating its table winemaking out from its port production.

“There has been an amazing amount of change in the Douro in the past 30 years, moving forward, adapting, as we have started to see the benefits of plantings in the eighties and nineties coming though,” he added, reminding the seminar that until then the vineyards were field blends. “We have had to learn about our varieties and vineyards.”

Paul Symington said he believed that Douro table wines were at a turning point with regard to establishing themselves as being among the world’s top tier of quality wines, while berating those that have been selling Douro too cheaply.

“The Douro is special,” he said. The average yields is 4,300 kilos per ha, the average incline [of a vineyard] is 30%... and the cost of building a Douro vineyard is about four to five times higher than anywhere else.”

“Around £9 [UK RRP] is the starting point for Douro wines, and as a family we can’t make wines more cheaply,” said Paul. “The Douro has been attempting to establish itself as a world class wine region and we as a family are very behind that.”

Charles Symington added that the family continues to experiment with the many indigenous varieties beyond the classic port grapes that currently form the backbone of the first generation of Douro table wines, hinting that much was yet to come from a region that counts some 100 grapes in its DNA.