Information Warres Port wine

Two or three times a decade, Warre's judge that their wines are of such outstanding quality that they merit consideration to be 'declared' a vintage.

When such a wine becomes available it is sure to be a leader in its field. Warre's principal objective is to produce a vintage Port that continues the same superb reputation created by the great Warre's vintages of previous generations.

Wines of this quality are made using the traditional treading techniques that have not changed in 2000 years, producing wines with intense colour and flavour. Selected from a number of top quality vineyards, including Warre's own Quinta da Cavadinha, the company's Vintage Port is aged in wooden cask for 18 months before being bottled unfiltered using a normal driven cork

Warre's is one of the only Port companies always to have made a late bottled vintage in the original way. Today this tradition continues.

Carefully selected from the finest wines of a very good year, this port is aged in oak casks for 4 years before being bottled without fining or filtration. This ensures that, as with the fruit concentration is retained.

Once bottled, Warre's Traditional Late Bottled Vintage Port is left to mature for a further 5 years in Warre's own cellars before being offered for sale. It is this prolonged ageing in its own bottle that gives this particular LBV so much outstanding style and complexity.

1992, 1990 and the vintages that preceded them have continued to make their mark on the trade, being awarded no less than 5 gold medals in 8 years by the International Wine Challenge. A true reflection of the quality and style of Warre's bottle matured LBV.

Warrior is the oldest mark of Port in the World, having been shipped continuously since the 1750s.

The traditional style has been maintained over the years and is today a classic full-bodied wine with wonderful richness and balance.

Aged in seasoned oak casks for 4 to 5 years before being drawn off and bottled following a light filtration. Warrior Special Reserve is ready for immediate drinking and does not require any decanting or ageing


The Port trade's historical roots go back to the Treaty of Windsor in 1386, a special arrangement between England and Portugal based on military, economic and political grounds. This treaty was further reinforced in 1662 when Charles II married Catherine of Bragança.

Around 1670, the year in which Warre's was established, an embargo was levied on French wines as a result of the deteriorating relationship between France and England. The founders of the firm settled in Northern Portugal in the town of Viana do Castelo at the mouth of the River Lima. They traded English woollen goods and dried cod in return for the produce of the Minho district and beyond, primarily wine.

War in 1689 created additional demand for Portuguese wines, which forced many Oporto merchants including Warre to explore the Douro region, an area known for its big black tannic wines.

The Methuen Treaty was signed in 1703 confirming that England would defend Portugal in the war of Spanish succession. Preferential treatment for English textiles was also agreed in return for a duty on Portuguese wines that was a third less than that levied on France.

Access to the Douro region remained difficult as there were no roads over the mountains and the river was prone to severe flooding. The quality of the wines gradually improved. The wines, which were being fermented to dryness, were largely austere and very dark in colour.

The 1700s

Although the first apparent evidence of fortification occurred in a monastery in Lamego in 1678, most merchants did not add brandy to the wine before the 18th century and even then it was only used in an attempt to ensure that wine arrived at its destination in good condition.

In 1729, the first member of the Warre family arrived in Oporto. William Warre was born in 1706 at Fort St. George in Madras in India. He became a partner in the firm and henceforth it was known as Messrs Clarke, Thornton and Warre. William Warre was the first British resident to acquire land in Vila Nova da Gaia, across the river from Oporto, later to become the centre for the port companies' lodges and administrative offices.

During that time the Douro region suffered a period of over-production, which brought on a slump in the trade and a dramatic fall in prices. The Marques de Pombal, Prime Minister at the time, stepped in in 1756 to safeguard the livelihood of the Douro growers. Pombal created the Real Companhia, a virtual state monopoly, which excluded the English shippers. This action was followed by a bloody riot in the streets of Oporto known as the 'Tipplers Revolt' which was largely blamed on the British.

Despite this revolt a series of measures were implemented to regulate the production of Port including the drawing up of a boundary around the region, restricting Port production to vineyards within it. The Real Companhia eventually lost its monopoly in 1777 when Maria I succeeded the Portuguese throne and Pombal was dismissed.

The wine growing region at that time was centred around Regua and did not extend much beyond Pinhão, with the exception of Quinta de Roriz which was leased to a religious order. Interestingly, over 200 hundred years later the current owners of Warre's Port, the Symington Family, agreed to enter into a joint venture on Quinta de Roriz to market a Vintage Port and a table wine.

The Port trade saw another period of expansion during the second half of the 18th century, largely as a result of the development of the bottle. As the shape became more cylindrical, it became possible to cellar the bottles on their sides. The British merchants by that time had established themselves in Oporto with a hospital, school, club and the Factory House which represented perhaps the core of the British Port trade. This building was initiated and designed by John Whitehead, whose sister Elisabeth married William Warre in 1745. Whitehead was the Consul in Oporto and one of the leading figures in the British community at that time

The 1800s

During the first part of the 19th century, Oporto was rocked by invasion and rebellion with the French marching into the city in 1809. They were repelled by British forces lead by Sir Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington) three months later. The Peninsula War continued until 1811 and during that time the Duke and his officers drank the local wine and were well supplied with Port.

William Warre [left], the nephew of the senior partner in Warre & Co, joined the British army in 1803 and was drafted in to support the forces in Portugal five years later. He pursued a very successful career reaching the rank of Lieutenant-General, was knighted for his outstanding service to both Britain and Portugal in 1839 and was decorated by the King of Portugal with the Orders of Torre and Espada and the order of S.Bento d'Avis. In one of his letters to his father written during the Peninsula War, he mentioned that the Duke of Wellington was a keen Port drinker and often ordered Warre's Port during the campaigns.

The Port trade flourished during the mid-19th century with production reaching about 100,000 pipes, of which 25% was exported to Britain. All levels of society drank the wine either young or old and often mulled. The practice of 'declaring' wines of exceptional years began at that time. The auction houses then began to trade these wines, which gained a particular character if left to age in the bottle.

The fungal infection Oidium [left[ was first detected in the Douro in 1848 and quickly began to have a significant impact on the quality of the wines. Worse followed in the 1870s when signs of a far more devastating disease, the parasitic Phylloxera [right], began to emerge. This resulted in many vineyards simply being abandoned.

Replanting of the vineyards with American rootstock began in earnest in 1883. The Port trade then enjoyed another period of encouraging results - by that time Brazil had become an important market with sales of over 20,000 pipes. This strengthened the financial position of some shippers. One such entrepreneur was George Acheson Warre, who at the time was the wine maker at Silva & Cosens (Dow's Port). He bought three important properties and was perhaps one of the first Port shippers to purchase land in the Douro.

During this period, Andrew James Symington was admitted into partnership in the firm of Warre & Co having arrived from Scotland in 1882 and worked alongside the existing members of the Warre family since then.

The 1900s

Political instability dominated Portugal's history well into the 1920's. However, the Port trade was safeguarded due to a second commercial treaty signed between the UK and Portugal in 1916, prohibiting the importation of Port unless it came from Portugal. Shipments began to rise significantly to the UK thanks to the popularity of the 'Port and Lemon' drink, reaching 70,000 pipes (over 4 million cases) in 1918.

The Salazar period began in 1928 when Antonio de Oliveira Salazar was nominated Finance Minister. Although Portugal largely survived the 1929-1931 world slump, the Port trade had already begun to suffer from a change in fashion, driven primarily by a move towards drinking sherry and cocktails.

1933 saw the creation of the Government-run regulatory body Instituto de Vinho do Porto (IVP), the Casa do Douro which represented the growers, and the Exporters Guild. These three bodies, chaired by the IVP, have remained largely intact, with the exception of the Casa do Douro whose powers were severely curtailed in 1990. Their establishment underpinned the trade and business began to improve during the 1930's as prohibition in the US was lifted and the French began to consume large quantities of inexpensive Tawny. However, the Second World War brought the trade to a standstill with shipments dropping to 11,000 pipes in 1942 (the worst year ever recorded).

The depression that followed meant that many shippers fell on hard times. This was not helped by the introduction in 1959 of the so-called 'Lei do Terco' ("Law of three") which required each shipper to retain stocks of three times the amount they put up for sale. This put a huge financial strain on the shipping companies and many either folded or merged. During this period the Warre family sold their remaining shares to their partners, the Symingtons.

During the 1960's Portugal was plunged into turmoil as guerrilla war spread through her colonies in Africa. This resulted in a major drain on the country's resources as young and able bodied men were either sent to fight or emigrated in order to escape military service. This had an important effect on wine making in the Douro. The majority of Port was made in the traditional stone lagares and the lack of manpower in the region many of the shippers had to develop alternative methods of producing Port. Perhaps the most successful of these was the autovinification system that now accounts for up to 80% of total Port production.

By the time the tanks rolled into Lisbon on the 25th April 1974, the Port trade was showing signs of recovery - successful declarations of the 1963, 1966 and 1970 vintages had put most shippers in a fairly positive frame of mind. A very volatile period followed while the country tried to deal with the aftermath of Salazar's regime and at one point it was rumoured that the whole Port industry was to be nationalised. This was however never implemented and Portugal emerged in 1976 with a new democratically elected socialist government under Prime Minister Dr Mario Soares.

Portugal's full membership of the EU in 1986 accelerated the pace of change and a law was introduced that allowed independent growers to export their wines directly from the Douro without passing through the lodges in Vila Nova da Gaia. The impact was not immediate due to the three-to-one stock ratio rule, but by the mid-1990's thirty or so producer-bottlers were trading from the Douro - although their share of the market remains very small.

During the 1990's Portugal benefited from huge EU investment programmes which were primarily focussed on rebuilding the country's rural infrastructure. A new motorway was opened in 1995 cutting the journey time from Pinhão to Oporto by almost 50%. This has greatly increased the access to the Douro and encouraged new investors into the region while at the same time enabling the Port shippers based in Vila Nova da Gaia to maintain a much closer contact with their vineyards.

The market for Port during the 1990's developed slowly with certain countries such as Holland, Portugal, USA and Canada displaying the most impressive growth. The premium part of the trade (everything that is not Ruby, Tawny and white) has shown much more rapid growth as the demand for LBVs and Reserve has increased. The multinational companies who came to the rescue of the trade in the 60's and 70's have gradually disengaged themselves from Port (with the exception of Allied Domecq) returning ownership to a small number of dominant independent companies each managing three to four of the major Port names. This polarisation has produced a much more competitive environment within which the surviving Port companies must operate.