Warre’s has been leading the Port trade since it was established as the first British Port House in 1670. A pioneer of a great tradition with over 300 years of history, Warre’s legacy is built on the superb quality of Warre’s Vintage Ports and on an unwavering commitment to quality and successful innovation.
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.
The Warres: 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.
William Warre: 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.