The award was presented to the former estate director at a ceremony at Vinexpo, Bordeaux today (13 May 2019), where members of the wine industry gathered to honour his lifelong contribution to the trade.
A hugely influential and charismatic figure in the trade, Paul retired from his role as chairman and joint managing director of his family’s Port business at the end of last year. He was succeeded as chairman by his cousin, Johnny Symington, while Rupert Symington, previously joint managing director with Paul, will became CEO in January this year.
The Lifetime Achievement Award recognises an outstanding and inspirational figure in the world of wine whose enduring contribution spans a whole career. The honour has previously been presented to Robert Mondavi (2005), Marchese Piero Antinori (2007), Jean-Michel Cazes (2011) Baroness Philippine de Rothschild (2013), Hugh Johnson OBE (2015) and Miguel A Torres (2017).
At the celebratory lunch, the award was introduced by Patrick Schmitt MW, editor-in-chief of the drinks business, and presented to Paul by Adrian Garforth MW, Chairman of the IMW.
On receiving his award, Symington said: “I was honoured to be told that the IMW and the drinks business were giving me this award, as previous recipients are all people I respect immensely. I am absolutely delighted that our region’s unique vineyards and their two greatest wines, Port and Douro, should be recognised in this way.”
Paul Symington was born in Oporto in 1953 to Michael and Elizabeth Symington, both of whom were born in Portugal, as were three of his four grandparents.
When he joined Symington Family Estates in 1979, he became the fourth generation of Symingtons to produce wine in the Douro, where the family have been for more than 130 years. Symington Family Estates is one of the world’s leading producers of premium port, the leading vineyard owner in the Douro Valley and one of the top Portuguese wine producers.
After education in Portugal, the UK and Switzerland, Paul worked for a bank in Paris before entering a graduate trainee programme with a UK retailer. He then returned to Portugal to join the family company in 1979. A year later he was made a company director and in 1988 he was appointed Joint-Managing Director. Paul retired as Chairman of Symington Family Estates in December, a position he held from 2003.
The Symington family are members of the Primium Familiae Vini, a group of 12 European wine families, and Paul is Chairman of the PFV management committee. He has also been Chairman of John E. Fells & Sons, one of the UK’s leading importers of fine wines, since 1999.
Paul was vice president of the Port Wine Shippers Association from 1990 to 1995 and a counsellor on the Port Wine Institute’s General Council. He is a founder member of the Port Wine “Confraria” and a member of the Factory House in Oporto, where he was Treasurer on two occasions. He served as Vice President of the Universidade do Porto’s General Council from 2013–2017.
With a passion for reform on the regulatory system that governs the Douro, Paul has published numerous articles on the subject.
He now lives in Portugal with his wife Jane and four children: Robert, Charlotte, Louisa and Harry, three of whom are working in the family company.
He farms his own 37 ha vineyard at Quinta das Netas, near Provesende in the Pinhão valley.