In 1798 a Portuguese merchant called Bruno da Silva arrived in London to see what business he might be able to open up with his native city of Oporto, and so started the wine-importing concern which fifty years later became Silva & Cosens when Mr Bruno's son John Silva joined partnership with William Cosens, also of London.
In the early part of the 19th century when England and France were continually at war, Bruno da Silva applied for "letters of Marque", equipped a privateer carrying nine guns, and carried safely many consignments of wines from Oporto to Bristol and London.
In 1868 George A. Warre, from one of the most established British families in Oporto, became a partner and was subsequently joined by James Ramsay Dow in 1877, when the firm of DOW & Co. was merged with Silva & Cosens (the firm of Messrs. DOW & Co was first known in the early part of the eighteenth century as Samuel Weaver and later Weaver & Dow).
Rodrick Dow became a partner in 1893 by which time Silva & Cosens had become one of the largest Port wine shipping houses in Oporto. Messrs. Dow & Co. had long enjoyed a good reputation for the shipment of quality wines, in particular Vintage Port, and so it was about this time that the decision was taken to make Dow's Port the House Brand of the Company.
During this period the company started a rapid expansion programme under the dynamic management of the combined firms. This resulted in the planting of the vineyards and the building of the adega at Quinta do Bomfim situated in the heart of the Upper Douro.
The wine lodges at Vila Nova de Gaia were also planned and built at that time. These lodges were the first to use vats inter-connected with hoses and pipes to facilitate the handling of the wines within the lodge.
A. J. Symington was admitted into the partnership in 1912 and was later followed by his three sons who managed the business through the two world wars. They were then joined by their own sons and today the company is managed by the fourth generation of the Symington family.
During the 1960s and 1970s Silva & Cosens continued to be at the forefront of modern progress by being one of the first shippers to install modern auto vinification fermenting tanks in their wine making centre at Quinta do Bomfim.
Today Silva & Cosens forms part of the largest Port shipping business in Oporto, and individually ranks third in terms of overall turnover and stock holding. The stocks alone amount to over 21 million litres of Port of which, under the law laid down by the IVP, one third is shipped throughout the world. The single biggest part being shipped under the Do''s name - a brand that continues to enjoy the high reputation it did when Ramsay Dow merged Dow & Co with Silva & Cosens back in 1877.
In 1998, the Bicentenary of the founding of the company, a new milestone was reached with the re-acquisition of Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira. This outstanding property was originally acquired by Dow's in 1890, but was sold in 1954 when the Port trade was at its lowest point and when many Port companies either closed down or were sold.
Situated in one of the most beautiful positions of the upper Douro valley above the river and facing the historic Quinta do Vesuvio (also owned by the Symington family), this Quinta produces some of the very finest Port in the Douro.