For the sixth year in a row, the Symington family have donated emergency equipment to a Douro community, this year a fully equipped ambulance to the Volunteer Fire Department of the town of Carrazeda de Ansiães.
Yesterday Paul, Charles and Johnny and Helen Symington together with more than twenty Symington Family Estates (SFE) staff from both Gaia and the Douro travelled to Carrazeda to celebrate the handover of the Ambulance to the town and Fire Department. With half a dozen quintas in the area, the Symingtons know Carrazeda well, as the town provides many goods and services to our quintas, and SFE employees, both year round and seasonal workers, live locally. Graham’s Quinta do Tua, Cockburn’s Quinta dos Canais, Dow’s Senhora da Ribeira, Smith Woodhouse’s Vale de Coelho as well as quintas privately owned by Charles and Johnny are all within the concelho, the administrative area served by Carrazeda.
After the priest blessed the ambulance, and Paul gave it a liberal splashing of Champagne for good measure, visitors, town dignitaries and the entire squadron of emergency volunteers went indoors for some brief speeches and of course refreshment. Paul spoke of the family’s commitment to the region: several generations of Symingtons have been involved with Senhora da Ribeira since the early 20th century, and now, with ownership of 26 quintas representing 1,891 hectares of land across the Douro region, we are a major investor, spending over €3.5 million each year for goods and services at our quintas. The Symington family have strong ties and a strong sense of responsibility to the communities surrounding their quintas, and these annual donations of emergency equipment are another way of expressing their gratitude for the local support for their enterprise.
Carlos Manuel Fernandes, Presidente da Associação Humanitária dos Bombeiros Voluntários, thanked the Symington Family for the donation of the ambulance, and José Luís Correia, Presidente da Câmara Municipal Carrazeda de Ansiães, also thanked the family and spoke of their presence and commitment to the region. He presented each Paul, Charles, Johnny and Helen with a gift of books of the history and sights of the area, just in case there was a detail they didn’t yet know about Carrazeda!
No Portugese celebration is ever complete without food. After the speeches we enjoyed some excellent fruit cakes which paired well with the Cockburn’s Special Reserve which was served (Quinta dos Canais being the largest property and nearest to Carrazeda). Whoever was in charge of the food came up with a brilliant and creative use for blue schist posts no longer needed in the vineyards.
But cakes are not enough, and after the ceremonies were over and the ambulance backed into its new home at the fire station, the Symingtons, their employees and many representatives of the concelho of Carrazeda and the emergency services drove down to Quinta dos Canais for a full lunch of carrot soup, Mirandesa beef, and a wonderful array of desserts, fruit and cheese, all served with the Symington’s Altano Douro DOC wines and Cockburn’s 20 YO Tawny Port.
Over lunch we all had a chance to catch up – Arlindo from Quinta dos Malvedos and Quinta do Tua was there along with his fellow caseiros (property managers) including Orlando Leonel (Canais) and Mário Passeiro (Vale de Coelho), our viticultural and winemaking teams were represented by Alexandre Mariz, Artur Jorge Moreira, Ricardo Carvalho and Pedro Sousa, as well as Manuel Lapa from the Tasting Room in Gaia; from the Lodges António Monteiro and António Fonseca came up together with Emílio Oliveira who is in charge of the Tanoaria (cooperage), and many more from our Gaia and Douro offices who have both personal and professional ties to the region.
Whilst at lunch the heavens opened up and it began to rain heavily. Many people commented on the fact the Douro is spectacularly beautiful even in the rain, and probably all hoped privately that no one would be needing the emergency services in this weather.
The slide show below shows many more images of the day, from the ceremony and reception at the fire station to the lunch at Quinta dos Canais.