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Symington family pays tribute to “dedicated” Port maker, James Symington

Published:  16 November, 2020

Leading Port maker James Symington has passed away, leaving behind many decades’ worth of dedication to his and his family’s craft.

James was a member of the third generation of the Symington family to produce Port, having been born into the dynasty in Porto in 1934. He was responsible for making Dow’s and Warre’s 1966 and 1970 Vintage Ports, as well as Graham’s 1970 – stand out years in the Symington back catalogue.

Today, the family paid tribute to a man who served as an army Second Lieutenant with the King’s African Rifles in Kenya with the British Army in the 1950s. Following a long depression in Port sales from the early thirties onwards, 1960 brought the first signs of a revival, the family said. It was then that James returned to Portugal to carry on the family tradition.

In a statement, the family-owned company said: “With constant good humour and indefatigable optimism, James built many close relationship throughout the world of wine. It was his friendship with Miguel Torres, Piero Antinori and Robert Drouhin that led to the Symington family becoming one of the founding members of the Primum Familiae Vini (PFV) in 1992.

“The PFV has since developed into a strong association of twelve wine-producing families committed to championing the values of family-owned wine companies and ensuring that they continue into the next generation.”

Like his ancestors before him, James had an “overwhelming love of the Douro”, the family said.

In 1987, he acquired a small, semi-abandoned property called Quinta da Vila Velha. Together with his wife Penny, he restored the quinta into the quality driven riverside property it is today, with 55 hectares under vine.

James is the grandson of Andrew James Symington who arrived in Portugal in 1882 and married Beatrice Leitão de Carvalhosa Atkinson, whose own family had long established roots in the trade.

He leaves behind his son, Rupert, two daughters, Clare and Miranda, and six grandchildren. Rupert is now the CEO of Symington Family Estates and his eldest son, Hugh, works in Premium Port Wines in the USA promoting the family’s wines. Clare also works in the family business and is based in the UK.