The Symington family, owners of Graham’s, have the largest vineyard holding in the Douro Valley with a total of 965 hectares (2,385 acres) under vine; the five Graham’s quintas alone comprising 257 hectares (635 acres). These vineyards enable the family to meet most of their requirements (100% for Vintage and other premium Ports), although further grapes are bought in from a large number of small independent growers throughout the region. In this way, Graham’s and the Symington family are major contributors to the economic fabric of the Douro, which is heavily reliant on wine production for its livelihood.
The family’s social responsibility extends beyond this and over the years it has made donations to local fire brigades in the form of new ambulances to help provide adequate medical coverage for local populations. On Saturday, 31st August, on behalf of all Symington family members and their employees, Paul Symington handed over to the Régua Fire Brigade Chief a new ambulance to serve the local community. This is the 6th ambulance donated in as many years by the family to several Douro fire services.
It is particularly apt that this ceremony took place at this time, as Portugal has suffered one of its worst ever summers of forest fires; large parts of the country have been covered in smoke with as many as 250 fires recorded simultaneously on one occasion. Special fire-fighting planes were flown in from Spain and France and even from as far afield as Croatia to assist in fighting the flames. Sadly though, 5 volunteer firemen, including two young women in their early twenties have lost their lives and over 40,000 hectares of woodland have burnt in the month of August alone (more than in the whole of 2008 which was the worst year in recent history for forest fires). In fact as the ambulance was being handed over, many of the Régua firefighters were out tackling yet another fire.
In years to come, it is the Symington family’s intention to continue providing ongoing support to the Douro Fire Services, which contribute so many essential services in the Douro. Living and working in the region ourselves helps us to better understand the needs of the community.