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The oldest of all British Port producers, Warre's has been operating in the region since the 18th century. Messrs Clarke Thornton spawned the company that was to become Warre's. William Warre added his name to the company when he became partner in 1729. The current Symington family owners involvent started when 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 depression that followed, meant that many shippers fell on hard times. During this period the Warre family sold their remaining shares to their partners, the Symingtons. As with other Port houses, Warre's will always be inextricably linked with its quintas, the estates dotted along the Douro and her tributaries that are the source of this region's grapes. With Warre's this is Quinta da Cavadinha, located in the Pinhão Valley in the upper reaches of the Douro, known as the Alto Douro (or Douro Superior). Today it is widely acknowledged that it is these arid vineyards, that are the source of the best quality grapes. Cavadhina is an important source of fruit for Warre's Vintage Port, and in non-declared years it may be bottled as a single quinta wine. It is also the location of Warre's experimental vineyard. Warre's have also recently acquired the 46 hectare Quinta do Bom Retiro Pequeno, a leading estate located in the Rio Torto valley, from which they have historically sourced fruit. As with other Port houses, Warre's also maintain a lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia, on the site purchased by Messrs Clarke, Thornton and Warre. Today the buildings house the largest oak vat used by any house, the Memel Vat, which holds the equivalent of over 178000 bottles of Port.
Port is made in the Cima Corgo, Baixo Corgo and Douro Superior districts of the Douro Valley in the north of Portugal. The summers are hot and dry and the climate becomes more continental as you move further east towards the upper Douro Valley. Here temperatures often exceed 40 degrees. The Douro Valley has steep hillsides with terraces, which is not only aesthetically pleasing but is also extremely useful for making quality wine. The schist soils aid in drainage and have become very important to port production, so much so that much of the Douro table wines have been relegated to granite soils. The six main grape varieties used for port production are Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca, Touriga Francesa and Tinta Amarela. There are another 42 grape varieties that are permitted but these six are considered to be the noblest ones, each adding something different to the blend. After the harvest the grapes are trodden, often by foot but more often by machines, in giant lagars (troughs). Port is a fortified wine so during fermentation ‘brandy' (not actually brandy but a grape-distilled spirit) is added to increase thealcoholic strength to around 17-19 % abv. This leaves a sweet, red fortified wine with lots of vibrant fruit. There are many different types of Port from the Basic Ruby Ports, through to Tawny Ports and LBVs, to probably the most famous of all Vintage Port that can take 20 years to reach its peak. When mature, Vintage Port is a unique tasting experience with warm, concentrated spicy-fruit flavours and a superb length that just goes on and on.