Paul Symington, Decanter’s Man of the Year 2012, was ‘predestined’ for his role at the helm of the family company.
Speaking to Andrew Jefford in this month’s issue of Decanter magazine, the chairman of Symington Family Estates remembers how ‘grim’ life was for the port shippers when he was started work at the company in the mid-1970s.
‘Now we drive nice cars and live very comfortably, but then there wasn’t any money and we couldn’t afford to travel. I never went to England until I was 13.’
When he started work at the company in his mid-20s, he now feels he was ‘almost predestined for this, and that my career was laid out for me. It’s hard not to imagine what you might have done in another field.’
Symington tells Jefford he refuses to be downcast by the current crisis in Portugal. Indulging his passion for history he went through the archives and realised that good times come and go ‘like the seasons’.
‘Some times had been very good, but some had been really awful. We have some difficult times in Europe and Portugal now, but these things are like the seasons; it will change in time. I can’t do anything about it, so I don’t worry.’
Described by Steven Spurrier as ‘inspirational’ and by Marchese Piero Antinori as the ‘trustworthy descendent of a great dynasty,’ Symington also makes clear that he is a European – the ‘Europhobia’ of many of the British saddens him – and that he is passionate about his homeland, the Douro, where on his retirement he will live permanently.
‘It heals my soul. I can’t wait for Janie [his wife] and I to come and live here all the time.’
Symington Family Estates is run by Paul with his cousins Johnny and Rupert, and other family members of the company include his brother Dominic and his cousin Charles, with ‘the next generation is poised to arrive soon, led by Paul’s eldest son Robert’, Jefford writes.
As Symington is at pains to point out early in the interview, ‘It’s a family award, which I’m very happy to accept – but only on behalf of everybody.’
Read the full interview in Decanter magazine, on sale Wednesday 7 March.
Hall of Fame: Decanter Men and Women of the Year 1984-2011
2011 Giacomo Tachis Italy
2010 Aubert de Villaine Burgundy
2009 Nicolás Catena Argentina
2008 Christian Moueix Bordeaux
2007 Anthony Barton Bordeaux
2006 Marcel Guigal Rhône
2005 Ernst Loosen Mosel
2004 Brian Croser Adelaide Hills
2003 Jean-Michel Cazes Bordeaux
2002 Miguel Torres Penedès
2001 Jean-Claude Rouzaud Champagne
2000 Paul Draper California (left)
1999 Jancis Robinson MW OBE London
1998 Angelo Gaja Piedmont
1997 Len Evans OBE AO Australia
1996 Georg Riedel Austria
1995 Hugh Johnson OBE London
1994 May-Elianede Lencquesaing Bordeaux (left)
1993 Michael Broadbent MW London
1992 André Tchelistcheff California
1991José Ignacio Domecq Jerez
1990 Prof Emile Peynaud Bordeaux
1989 Robert Mondavi California
1988 Max Schubert Australia
1987 Alexis Lichine Bordeaux
1986 Marchese Piero Antinori Tuscany
1985 Laura & Corinne Mentzelopoulos Bordeaux
1984 Serge Hochar Lebanon
Written by Adam Lechmere