Wine has been made in the Douro region since the days of the Roman Empire. In 1638, Christiano Kopke, a German ambassador, founded the first port house in Porto. It still exists today. In the second half of the 17th century, something happened that would forever change the popularity of port wines and make it one of the most respected and sought after wines in the world.
The British have always had a very good relationship with Portugal throughout history. The British founded a colony of traders, not far from Porto. During skirmishes with France at the end of the 17th century, there were very high tariffs for the British and Dutch for the then highly appreciated wines from France. In 1703 a treaty was adopted (Treaty of Methuen), creating a special trade agreement between Portugal and England. This made it possible to buy or exchange Portuguese wine for British textiles at reduced rates. This British textile was sold on a large scale on the Portuguese market. The production of wine in the Douro, which is richer and tastier than other Portuguese wines, increased enormously.
The wine from Portugal did not always make the crossing to England, because the wine became sour. Therefore, a solution was sought. At the end of the manufacturing process Brandy was added so that the port remained good for a long time. This allowed the port wine to make the crossing.
Warre’s became the first of the British port traders in Portugal in 1670. Since then the company has always been owned by family members, they are the only port house that can make this claim. In the decades that followed many more British port houses, such as: Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman, Sandeman, Croft, Quarles Harris, and Silva & Cosens (now known as Dow) who all still act in port. Over the years port has occupied a very important place in the daily life of Portugal and it is one of the most productive sectors with a lot of employment. To put this in perspective, about 1/5 of Portuguese exports are port related
Port as we know it today has only been made since about 1820. Until that time different production methods and “additions” were used, because of this the wines were not consistent and they did not resemble the port as we know it today.