Cockburn and Quinta dos Canais
Visiting the Symingtons in Portugal's Douro Valley, part 4

We stopped by Canais for a visit, but not to taste. This 740 estate was purchased by Cockburn’s in the late 1980s and was extensively redeveloped, with plantings by variety. There’s quite a bit of Touriga Nacional here. 

In 2006 the Symingtons bought the vineyards and wine stocks of Cockburn, including this beautiful property, but they continued to sell the grapes to brand owners Beam Global. Then, in 2010, they purchased the brand as well, which was a major acquisition for them.

‘As a family, we have to make sure we have a viable business,’ says Paul Symington. ‘In my 30 years in the Port trade, several families have gone out of business. Some sold well, others didn’t. So making sure we have a viable business is important.’ 

He points out that just 4–5% of Port sales are through independent merchants (40 000 cases). The Port industry is around 1 million cases over all. ‘So we have to work with the supermarkets and big retailers or I would have to sack 80% of my staff,’ says Symington. 

The Symingtons understand that to carry on doing business, they need to be big enough to work with the largest retailers, and that buying Cockburns would give them an edge. ‘In Cockburns we saw a fantastic brand that hadn’t been well treated in recent years. If we bring quality back to the fore, we have a great brand,’ says Symington. His view was that the Cockburns vineyards were in great shape, but the wineries were poor.   

We saw the winemaking facilities at Canais, and they didn’t look brilliant. The Symingtons are making just a bit of wine here at the moment. We had a quick look around, and then moved on to Senhora de Ribeira, another Symington quinta in the Douro Superior.



Part 1, introduction
Part 2, Warre's and Quinta da Cavadinha
Part 3, Graham's and Malvedos
Part 4, Cockburn's and Quinta dos Canais
Part 5, Dow's and Senhora de Ribeira
Part 6, Vesuvio, foot-treading and mechanical lagares
Part 7, Quinta de Roriz and the table wines
Part 8, Photographs  

Wines tasted 09/11  
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