True vin­tage

Country Life Every Week - - Kitchen Garden Cook -

This is the crème de la crème. Fon­seca Vin­tage Port 1985 has tremen­dous multi-lay­ered com­plex­ity with ripe berry fruit at the core—one of the great wine ex­pe­ri­ences (£89; www. wait­rose­cel­

ex­cel­lent Por­tuguese) than some of the other Bri­tish Port fam­i­lies. ‘Per­haps be­ing Catholic is a rea­son we’re all still here,’ re­flects Mr Syming­ton. ‘The other Bri­tish fam­i­lies went to the Angli­can church with its English vicar, but we go to the lit­tle vil­lage Catholic church in the Douro.’ There is also no doubt­ing the pas­sion­ate at­tach­ment that the Syming­tons feel for the wild Douro hill coun­try: ‘It heals my soul.’

Mr Syming­ton isn’t the only Bri­tish Port grower and ship­per who feels a strong bond to the Douro. Sophia Bergqvist (de­spite the Swedish­sound­ing name, she’s thor­oughly Bri­tish) has trans­formed the fam­ily farm of Quinta de la Rosa near Pin­hão into a com­bi­na­tion of wine-mak­ing and wine-grow­ing es­tate and what the Ital­ians call agri­t­ur­ismo. The Bergqvists used to sell their grapes to San­de­mans, then de­cided to go it alone.

Miss Bergqvist has been highly in­no­va­tive, set­ting up a bond scheme to at­tract in­vestors, then es­tab­lish­ing Quinta de la Rosa as one of the first Douro es­tates to make ex­cel­lent ta­ble wine as well as Port; the Syming­tons and Johnny Gra­ham of Churchill’s have fol­lowed suit.

Her love of the Douro runs very deep: ‘My grand­mother lived here for 30 years and the beauty and majesty of the place got into my skin. I also sensed how tough it is, a place of extremes, but you build love from suf­fer­ing and chal­lenge.’ That could be a good sum­mary of the strange per­sis­tence of the Bri­tish Port fam­i­lies in Por­tu­gal, which looks set to con­tinue for a good few gen­er­a­tions to come.

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