W. J. Grahams   W. J. Grahams Logo

The firm of W & J Graham & Co has its roots in a Glasgow-based textile concern.

During the early nineteenth century an office of this trading company was established in Oporto. In 1820 the brothers William and John Graham, who were then managing the office, accepted 27 pipes of Port wine in settlement of a bad debt.

This Port was shipped to the parent company in Glasgow which initially reprimanded the brothers for not sending cash. Fortunately however, after it was sold the Port turned out to be very popular and soon William and John were being urged by their parent company to acquire and ship more of this finest of fortified wines. Within the next few years Graham's reputation grew as a shipper of fine Port, first to Scotland and gradually all over the Port-drinking world.

Since the mid 15th century the wines of Northern Portugal had been shipped to Britain and, as Anglo-French relations grew increasingly hostile, so Britain's dependence on Portugal as a supplier of wines grew accordingly. It was initially this dependence that prompted British merchants to venture further inland to the rugged and inhospitable Alto Douro region where they discovered full, rich wines such as they had never tasted before.

The wines did not always travel well on their long sea journey to Britain and in order to keep them fresh these pioneering merchants added brandy to the casks. They were quick to learn that the more fortified and sweeter the wine, the greater favour it found amongst the discerning noblemen of England and Scotland. Thus it was that the world's most famous fortified wine was born.

The Port trade was given a firm boost in 1703 with the signing of the Methuen treaty between England and Portugal, under the terms of which English woolen goods were traded for Portuguese Wines. Many of the British merchants who took advantage of this treaty by becoming shippers in Oporto established companies which still form the backbone of the Port trade today.

By the late 18th century Graham's was firmly established as a prominent Port shipper. The Scottish connection remained, as it does today, an important feature in the company's identity.

In 1882 Andrew James Symington, a young Scot whose family was well known to the Grahams, took up a position with Graham's in Oporto. Although after a few years he left the company to join another Port shipping business, the firm of W & J Graham was acquired by the Symington family, his descendants, in 1970.

Today James Symington, grandson of Andrew James, and other members of the family draw on their century of experience in the Port trade to ensure that the quality and reputation of Graham's is maintained.

Graham's is managed with the personal touch which only a family-run business can offer, and today the international prestige of Graham's has never stood higher.


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