Paul Symington was officially crowned as Decanter's 2012 Man of the Year at an intimate dinner in London last night.
Family members, friends and trade supporters gathered to pay tribute to Symington, the chairman of Douro-based Port, Madeira and table wine producer Symington Family Estates.
Held at the two-Michelin starred The Square restaurant in Mayfair, the dinner was attended by the Portuguese Ambassador Dr João da Vallera, chairman of Berry Bros & Rudd Simon Berry, Decanter’s long-serving columnist Michael Broadbent and consultant editor Steven Spurrier, along with the likes of Johnny Graham of Churchill’s and Bill Warre.
Symington Family Estates is run by Paul with his cousins Johnny and Rupert; other family members of the company include his brother Dominic. All were present last night, along with Symington’s parents and three of his four children.
Described by Steven Spurrier as ‘inspirational’ and by Marchese Piero Antinori as the ‘trustworthy descendent of a great dynasty,’ Symington was at pains to point out that, ‘It’s a family award, which I’m very happy to accept – but only on behalf of everybody.’
Presenting the award, Decanter’s publishing director Sarah Kemp hailed Symington as ‘Port’s finest ambassador – a true evangelist for the region who has made Port relevant and accessible to consumers from Milwaukee to Mayfair.’ She told Symington that ‘the Douro has no stronger protector than you… [you are] a dynamic force for good – for your company, for the Douro and for the entire wine world.’
Symington replied that he was ‘proud and awestruck’ to be the first Portuguese recipient of the award, before paying tribute to his father’s ‘persistence, commitment and foresight’, illustrating the point by recalling how the tip of his father’s finger was lost to a crusher in making Dow’s 1970 vintage.
While the 1970 wasn’t on the menu last night, guests enjoyed the 2010 Altano white wine, followed by the 2004 Prats and Symington Chryseia red.
The undoubted stars of the show, though, were the three Ports – Graham’s Queen’s Jubilee Tawny from 1952 (which will be served at heads of state lunch in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at Windsor Castle today); Dow’s Senhora da Ribeira 1998 Vintage Port; and finally Graham’s 1945 Vintage Port – described as ‘a legend’ by Symington, and of which ‘only a few dozen remain’.
Decanter Men (and Women) of the Year 1984-2012:
2011: Giacomo Tachis – Italy
2010 Aubert de Villaine – Burgundy
2009 Nicolas Catena – Mendoza, Argentina
2008 Christian Moueix – Pomerol
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
1999 Jancis Robinson MW – London
1998 Angelo Gaja – Piedmont
1997 Len Evans, OBE AO-Australia
1996 Georg Riedel – Austria
1995 Hugh Johnson – London
1994 May-Eliane de Lencquesaing – Bordeaux
1993 Michael Broadbent – 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 – Florence
1985 Laura and Corinne Mentzelopoulos – Bordeaux
1984 Serge Hochar – Lebanon
Written by Decanter.com staff