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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.