The recent vintage in the Douro Valley produced major shortfalls in yields compared with a normal year and some people were tempted to try to import and sell grapes illegally from outside the Demarcated Port Region.

As a result some totally misleading reports appeared in the Portuguese press, which insinuated that some port companies including one of ours were involved in purchasing some of these grapes.

These reports are completely untrue and on 13 October The Port Wine Institute issued a statement: "No Producers or Port Shippers have been found guilty of any wrong doing, or illegal transportation of grapes."

Collectively our port companies are the largest buyers of premium quality grapes in the Douro. These complement grapes from our own vineyards. We buy grapes from 1,680 farmers, all of who are selected for their quality and their grapes must arrive at our wineries with the correct legal documentation confirming their provenance. It is humanly impossible for us to have members of our staff in each of these 1,680 vineyards during picking and then to accompany them to our wineries. Nor are we allowed to intercept or stop grapes on the public highway. Verification can only be done inside our winery. Apart from our own controls, we rely on the Government authorities to guarantee that the rules are being obeyed and on the honesty of our farmers.

If farmers have the correct documentation, and the grapes are of the approved varieties, it is almost impossible for the recipient to discover a fraud. This year the authorities caught some trucks from outside the region and we assume that they will be prosecuted according to the law. The Government Inspectors are in place precisely to ensure that a supplier who is transporting illegal grapes is not defrauding the buyer.

There is absolutely no question of our involvement in this. We were the subject of a few fraudulent attempts by some people, holding the correct documents, to supply us with grapes from outside the region. The authorities have confirmed this. Immediately following the first incident, we sent a letter to The Port Wine Institute requesting that they put teams of inspectors on a 24 hour basis in both our main wineries for the remainder of the harvest. The reply was that there was no necessity as they were fully confident that we had no involvement in any wrongdoing.

There is no truth whatsoever in the veiled allegation that we have purchased or attempted to purchase any illegal grapes. We welcome the tightest possible control on all aspects of Port production and support the immediate and severe prosecution of any wrongdoing. Our wineries are open for inspection 24 hours a day.

We have built a reputation for integrity in The Port Trade, which is second to none. We would never put this at risk under any circumstances.