Symington Estates to uncover Douro’s best grapes

Importantly, the 53 varieties in the experimental vineyard are being subjected to every type of measurement, whether it’s the water pressure in the plant, moisture content in the soil, or vigour of the vine – with the latter monitored using GIS.


The Symington’s new head of viticulture R&D, Fernando Alves

Furthermore, a similar vine library has been planted in the heart of the Douro’s best site for Port production, the Cima Corgo, at the Symingtons’ Quinta do Bomfim. This will allow for comparisons with the results from Ataíde, deep within the more arid Douro Superior.

Although Quinta de Ataíde is not home to Portugal’s only library collection of native grapes – the Alentejo’s Esporao estate has a comprehensive planting of indigenous varieties, while there is a national ampelographic collection in DOC Torres Vedras near Lisbon – head of Symington Family Estates Paul Symington assures that “nobody had done something on this scale, and in the Douro”.

Furthermore, the Symington experimental plot includes international grapes from Chardonnay to Syrah for the sake of comparison. As Paul explains, “Varieties such as these are already widely studied, so we can compare existing results with our findings.” Then there’s the fact that the experimental vineyard incorporates the same grapes grown on different rootstocks, as well as different clones of each variety.

However, despite all the variables in the Douro, such as the rootstock used, or clonal selection, as well as the training system employed, Fernando stresses that it is the choice of variety that makes the biggest difference when it comes to the vine’s response to variations in soil pH, water availability or microclimate.

He also states that this experimental vineyard is not only designed to help Symington Family Estates select the best grapes for its range of sites along the Douro, but also to share the findings with the region as a whole.

And the aim of that? To enhance the diversity of varieties in the region – because this will add to complexity in the wines, and increase the area’s resistance to the threat of a warming climate in a place that’s already at the limits of heat and dryness for vine growing.

But the results will have even wider significance. With many parts of the wine producing world suffering from greater restrictions on their water supply and extreme heat, the identification of obscure grapes that can produce balanced berries in almost desert-like conditions is of immense global value.

On the following page you can see a full list of the grape varieties planted in the Symington experimental vineyard.

One Response to “Symington Estates to uncover Douro’s best grapes”

  1. Very interesting. In Italy, top viticulturalist Maurizio Gentile argues southern Italian (indigenous) varieties are so well adapted to the warm climatic conditions in Puglia, Calabria, Compania and Basilicata that contrary to expectations, they do not produce heavy, alcoholic wines.

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