Port industry pioneer Ian Symington dies

Tributes have been made to Ian Symington, one of the pioneers of the 20th-century Port industry, who has died at the age of 90.

Together with his cousin Michael, and later with cousin James and brothers Peter and Amyas, Ian Symington was instrumental in rebuilding the family’s international Port sales in the two decades following the Second World War.

Born in Porto in 1929, he was educated in Porto and England, seeing military service in the Seaforth Highlanders before returning to the family Port company in 1949, joining his father John, and uncles Maurice and Ron.

Symington Family Estates – now owner of Graham’s, Dow’s, Cockburn’s and Warre’s – said the Port trade was ‘in a parlous state’ following the war, but Ian had helped to rebuild sales and open up new markets.

‘Travelling tirelessly, Ian and his cousins brought Port back to the attention of consumers in the main markets,’ the company said.

‘Their work was rewarded when, in the 1960s, sales began to climb steadily around the world. Together they built a thriving and successful Port company.’

The company said Ian was respected ‘for his meticulous preparation, determination and negotiating skills’ in a near-50-year career, adding that he and wife Cynthia were renowned for their ‘generous hospitality’ entertaining customers and journalists, both in Porto and in the Douro.

A lover of the Douro Valley, Ian rebuilt an abandoned farmhouse near the remote Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira when nearing retirement, and was named president of drinks industry charity the Wine & Spirit Benevolent Society in 1983.

Ian and Cynthia Symington married in 1954, and had two daughters and one son, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Son Johnny joined the business in 1985, and granddaughter Vicky now works for the company.


See also: Interview: Paul Symington, CEO Symington Family Estates