The Symington family is firmly committed to innovation, and over the last decade has conducted very substantial research in the field of viticulture. Due to the uniqueness of the growing conditions in the Douro and the indigenous grape varieties, there is still much to be learned. The Symingtons are at the forefront of a detailed investigation into the relationship between the vinifera varietals used in Port production and the rootstocks best suited to Douro conditions.
Based on these interactions the best selection can be made for each site, matching the two components to optimise fruit quality for any given wine style. While this might seem relatively basic, the work is important as it simply hasn’t been done by anyone else. Certain less-known but traditional local varieties are also under evaluation as some of these forgotten grapes have fascinating characteristics that can greatly benefit the Port blends. In addition, the phenology of these rootstock / variety combinations is also under evaluation to better understand their annual cycles and accordingly coordinate viticultural operations more effectively.
This project has since been extended into vital clonal evaluation – an area also in its infancy in the Douro. The Symingtons now have vineyards planted with 16 clones of Touriga Nacional, ten clones of Tinto Cão, eight clones each of Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz and four clones of Tinta Amarela. New clonal plantings are ongoing, with further investigation of improved clones of Tinta Roriz. This work has been backed up with clonal microvinifications.