The firm that became Warre’s was established in 1670.
Two Englishmen, William Burgoyne and John Jackson opened offices in northern Portugal as Burgoyne & Jackson - initially a general trading company, exporting wines, olive oil and fruit, as well as importing dried cod and English woollen goods.
Over time, the company admitted new partners and its name changed accordingly; in 1718 it traded as John Clark, then in 1723 it was known as Clark & Thornton and finally in 1729, it became Messrs. Clark, Thornton & Warre, with the arrival of the first Warre in Portugal. This was William Warre, born in India (1706), where his parents and grandparents were long established members of the East India Company.
By the close of the 18th century, Warre’s had become one of the leading companies as illustrated by the total shipments of Port for 1791. In that year, 21 companies exported a little over 30,000 pipes of Port, of which Warre & Sons accounted for 2,937 pipes, i.e. 10% of the total.
One of the great Port families.
On arriving in Portugal in 1729 William Warre (1706 - 1773) was to start a family Port dynasty that would make a unique and unmatched contribution to Port and to the life of its adopted city and country. In 1745, he married Elizabeth Whitehead, sister of John Whitehead, the distinguished British Consul responsible for designing and building the magnificent British Factory House (1790).
Their eldest son, also William, would himself serve as His Majesty’s Consul. The 5th sibling, James Warre, became a prominent figure in the Port trade for over 50 years and would father the most illustrious member of the family, another William Warre (1784 - 1853).
This William was destined to have an outstanding military career which was to mark him as one of the most distinguished and historically important figures to come out of the many Port families in the long annals of the Port trade.
A heroic figure in the history of Port
Commissioned as an officer in the British Army, the young Porto-born Captain Warre played a central and decisive role at virtually all of the key battles throughout the Peninsular War (1808 – 1812), during which joint British and Portuguese forces fought Napoleon Bonaparte’s successive invading armies. Captain Warre’s knowledge of the language and the country, despite the fact that he was aged only 24 at the outbreak of war, made him invaluable to his commanders, Field Marshall Beresford and the Duke of Wellington.
To the latter William recommended and supplied Port from his family’s company. In a letter to his father, dated 15th May, 1810, written from Army Headquarters at Fornos d’Algodres, he wrote:
“My Dear Father,
I have been much flattered lately by Ld. Wellington’s reception of me, and lately remained two days at his Hd. Qrs. At Celorico, 2 leagues from here. He has applied to me to procure him one hogshead of very fine old Port. He does not care about the price, and wishes me to get you to take care of it for him in London. At Oporto it is impossible to get any old wine, and I therefore told him I would write to you, and beg your assistance.”
He would eventually rise to the rank of Lieutenant - General, receiving several awards for gallantry and titles from both Portugal and England in recognition of his substantial contribution towards the recovery of Portugal’s independence.
Warre's, founded in 1670, was the first British Port company established in Portugal and therefore the pioneer of a great tradition; its history is synonymous with that of Port itself
William Warre, from the Oporto family of Port producers, fought with the Anglo-Portuguese army led by the Duke of Wellington, at nearly every major battle in the Peninsular war (1807-1814). These battles re-established Portugal’s independence. Warre’s Warrior Reserve Port is the first and oldest Port brand in the world, having been shipped continuously since 1750.
The Symington Family is descended from Andrew James Symington and Beatrice Atkinson who were married in Oporto in 1891. Andrew James arrived as a young man from Scotland in 1882 and was admitted to partnership in the firm of Warre & Co. in 1905.
Beatrice Atkinson was descended from John Atkinson who had lived in Oporto since 1814, and both her father and uncle were Port producers. On her mother’s side, Beatrice Atkinson was a direct descendent of the 17th century Port merchant, Walter Maynard, English Consul in Oporto in 1659. He is recorded in the official archives of the city of Oporto as shipping 39 Pipes of Port in 1652. This is the second oldest shipment of Port (by one year) ever made by a British merchant and pre-dates the foundation date of any British Port company.
Thus the Symington family’s ancestry in the Port trade spans a period of over 350 years, through 13 generations, from Walter Maynard to the present generation of Symingtons, who are owners and managers of Warre’s and the family’s other Port companies. With their roots long established in northern Portugal, the Symingtons have gained a wealth of experience as producers of Port and have shown the resilience to withstand the upheavals of history, from revolutions and world wars to difficult trading conditions which drove numerous families out of the Port business altogether. No other family involved in Port production today possesses such an unbroken lineage, stretching right back to the very beginnings of Port.
Currently six members of the Symington family (five from the 13th generation in the Port trade) are actively involved in Warre’s day to day management, with the dedication and long-term commitment that are unique to a family-run business. From the vineyards through the winemaking, ageing and blending, a member of the family is directly responsible for every bottle of Warre’s Port produced. The family’s commitment to its wines is stronger than ever after 350 years, an unparalleled tradition in the Port trade.
In addition to Quinta da Cavadinha, Quinta do Retiro Antigo and the most recently acquired Quinta da Telhada, Warre’s top vineyards, held by the company itself, the Symingtons are individually significant owners of vineyards in the Douro Valley. Each member of the family has vineyards that he or she owns privately and manages. The grapes from these vineyards are supplied to Warre’s. This extent of private family vineyard ownership is unique to the Symingtons in the Port trade. In none of the other principal Port companies do the partners or owners possess vineyards directly as is the case with the Symingtons. This reflects the family’s centuries-long dedication to the Douro and to its wines.
During the vintage, family members spend most of their time in the Douro Quintas, determining when to pick the grapes, supervising vinification, while at the same time often hosting visitors from all around the world. Members of the next generation of the family have already spent time during their school and university holidays working both in the Cavadinha winery and in the lodge in Gaia.
The Symingtons’ unmatched experience acquired over the centuries affords a special understanding of the Douro vineyards as well as an unrivalled expertise, which they apply to the production of consistently outstanding wines. Warre’s is 100% owned by the Symingtons and along with the family’s other firms it is the only remaining Port producer of British origin in the hands of a single family.
The Symingtons are members of the exclusive Primum Familiae Vini, a grouping of eleven leading wine families in the world. Fellow members are Antinori, Joseph Drouhin, Egon Muller Scharzhof, Hugel, the Perrins of Beaucastel, Mouton Rothschild, Pol Roger, Sassicaia, Torres, and Vega Sicilia. The criteria for membership of this highly prestigious association is simple; all members have to be entirely family owned and they must have been for many years amongst the finest producers of their respective wine regions, with an outstanding international reputation.
Very few can achieve these qualifications.“Oldest of British port shippers (since 1670)…Fine, elegant, long-maturing vintage wines…excellent LBV; 10 Year old Otima has been a huge success.”
Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2006
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