The first known reference regarding Port Wine as a Douro wine exported through the City of Porto’s customs.
During this period, the expansion and growth of Port exports was notable, with an increase from 800 to 8,000 barrels, thanks to the comercial spirit of English merchants.
Port exports reach the impressive figure of 19,000 barrels.
1750 - 1755
A period marked by a sudden drop in Port wine exports to England, due to the high number of counterfeits and the adulteration of many Douro wines. The lack of consistency and quality of these wines generated discredit for the Port industry in its main market, and consequently caused a decrease in demand, generating a crisis in the Douro valley. These events would lead to the foundation of Real Companhia Velha.
Real Companhia Velha was founded on the 10th of September 1756 by Royal Charter of King D. José I, under the auspices of his Prime Minister, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the Count of Oeiras and Marquis of Pombal.
Formed by the most important land-owners of the Douro Valley, and the good men of the city of Porto, the company was entrusted with the task of “sustaining the cultivation of the vines, conserving their natural production and purity, towards the benefit of Agriculture, Trade and Public Health.
This year marks the first known declaration of Vintage Port. A very fine wine, as opposed to the disappointing wines of previous vintages.
Amongst the Company’s numerous services in favour of the public, the most important event was the so called “Pombalina Appellation of the Douro Valley” which was implemented between 1758 and 1761 by Real Companhia Velha’s Board of
All adjustments to the Douro demarcated region, comprising a total of 67 parishes, are
completed. Sanctions are applied to those who break the Company’s rules, including wine adulteration, mixing white and red grapes, transferring wines from other regions into the Douro Appellation and blending them with original wines.
A great Vintage year, declared by shippers as a “memorable” year. It was the first Vintage Port to be presented on auction house Christie’s catalogue in 1768.
Exceptional Vintage. According to some English shippers, this was the first Douro wine exported to England that could actually be considered a Vintage Port.
According to the Company officials, this is a year of “rarely seen” superior quality.
Start of the demolition of the Cachão da Valeira, a narrow passage that which obstructed upstream navigation on the Douro river. The works are carried out by the Company and financed by a tax charged on the wine, brandy and vinegar barrels transported by river. This operation would take 10 years to be completed.
Real Companhia Velha, known abroad as Royal Oporto Wine Company, took its Ports to the Imperial lips of Catherine of Russia, through large shipments carried in steamers freighted for this purpose.
This was the beginning of a continuous trade between Portuguese and Baltic ports, and as a result of the Company’s action, Douro wine exports underwent considerable and successive increases.
The quota of Port Wine on Portugal’s economy is considerable. In 1799, Port Wine represented 50% of all Portuguese exports.
Extension of the demarcated area, known as the Marian or subsidiary apellation; the region now comprises 87 parishes.
Foundation of the Royal Academy of Maritime and Trade Affairs of the City of Porto, the precursor of the University of Porto, by initiative of the Company.
During the famed French invasions; Napolean Bonaparte’s troops demanded the wines of Real Companhia Velha as part of their rations.
British officer Lord Wellington and his troops, at the time settled in the town of Lamego, demanded for Real Companhia Velha’s wines and for which a supply of 300 barrels was provided by the Company’s warehouses in Peso da Régua.
Considered one of the great Vintages of the 19th Century. A very sought after wine at international trade fairs during the second half of the century. Some bottles were still sold during the 1930s.
An excellent Vintage year, which according to the Baron of Forrester, showed unusually “rich, sweet and tasteful” wines.
1821 offers an excellent Vintage both in quality as in quantity. The Company’s “Annual Judgement” considers the wine with “good ripeness, fine bouquet and taste, with similar quality to 1820, although less colour and ripeness. Nevetheless some shippers held barrels of this Vintage that was considered of superior quality to 1820.
The Liberal Courts promulgated the first laws restricting the Company’s privileges: they establish the Régua Market and qualification cards; fix the prices for exported wines; and liberate the distillation of brandy in the three Northern provinces, until then a Company privilege.
In 1822, new restrictions to the Company’s attributions are imposed. Its first option on the purchase of wines from producers; the exclusive sale of wine by the pint in Porto; the exclusive export to the ports of Brazil, which is liberated for Douro wines and brandies; and the obligation to promote and carry out public works, are all abolished.
As D. Pedro IV’s troops march into the city of Porto, the Company’s Board of Directors relocates to Régua. A second Committee is appointed to replace it.
On 16th August 1833, the Miguelists set fire to the Company’s lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia, leading to the loss of approximately 16 000 barrels and 15 200 casks of Port wine, some of which very old.
D. Pedro IV puts an end to “all privileges, authorities, prerogatives and benefits of any nature or denomination granted to the Company”, which becomes a trading company called Companhia dos Vinhos do Porto, established for 12 years.
A famous Vintage year, which resulted in very fine Ports. Considered one of the great Vintages of the 19th Century.
Costa Cabral grants the Company an annual subsidy of 150 contos (Portuguese currency at the time) to purchase 20 000 barrels of Douro wine. The Company acquires new competences: to propose to the Government the amount of wine to approve as 1st quality each year; to establish bank offices in the demarcated district to grant loans to grape growers; and to open warehouses in the American and European markets for the sale of wine.
A great Vintage, considered by Ernest Cockburn as one of the very best Ports in history.
The Company begins to operate in a free market, when on the December 7th 1865, by Royal Charter of the Regent D. Fernando, all exports for Portuguese wines from the city of Porto were declared free.
The first case of phyloxera is identified in Portugal, in the Douro valley.
During the decade of 1870, exports increase significantly, with good exports to Russia and Scandinavian countries, but especially to Brazil and the Platinum region.
1878 - 1890
The Company becomes a public limited company and is extended by statute for 99 years.
1878 reveals to be an exceptional Vintage year. Production levels were low, due to the development of the phyloxera insect, which clearly marked the harvest. Due to the propagation of this plague, many landowners chose not to re-plant their vineyards.
During this period, reports reveal an increase in competition, creating difficulties for the Company, however, it remains a market leader, with continuous, positive results in exports.
1887 showed to be amongst the best Vintages of the 19th century. Harvest occurred under optimal conditions with warm days and cool nights, following a very warm summer.
In 1889, Real Companhia Vinícola do Norte de Portugal is established in Vila Nova de Gaia, to act as an intermediary between production and trade and as a trader in its own right, which is acquired by Manuel da Silva Reis in 1963 and integrated in Real Companhia Velha in 1973.
The Company establishes in London a new agency for the United Kingdom and Ireland.
1896 - 1897
Two exceptional Vintages, with 1897 considered the best of the two, yet production was lower due to the scarcity of wine brandy for fortification due to the past year’s declaration. Some producers chose to declare solemnly 1896.
Foundation of Companhia Vinícola Portuguesa, incorporated into Real Companhia Vinícola do Norte de Portugal in 1922.
1912 - 1913
Two wine brands are registered, Grandjó in 1912 and Evel 1913. The two brands will become the oldest brands in the Company.
An excellent Vintage, which results in the first Port produced following the First World War.
1921 - 1939
The company experiences a very favourable period, due to the development of world trade influenced by the currency depreciation and the era recovering from the war of 1914 - 1918.
In 1925, the net profits of the Company reached the value of one thousand contos, which will only be exceeded in the 1960’s.
1927 was characterised by one of the largest and best harvests ever that would be distinguished in the 21st century by the specialty magazine “Revista de Vinhos” with 20/20 values.
In 1928 the Fundador brand is registered and in 1930 D. José, both Port wine brands that honour King D. José I, founder of the Company.
In 1928 the brand Porca de Murça is also created, later becoming the most exported brand in the Douro.
In 1931, an exceptional Vintage was produced, with great ageing capacity, and is a reference year in the Wine Spectator magazine.
The Company settles its accounts with the State, ending the lawsuit, which had dragged on since 1834 regarding the compensation to which it believed was entitled to cover the losses suffered in the fire of 1833.
Classic Vintage, with rich, structured wines, showing depth and sweetness with a good concentration of fruit flavours and tannins. This is the first Vintage Porto to be bottled following the World War II.
The Company reaches the highest number of litres of Port wine exported to this date: 831 329 litres.
Manuel da Silva Reis acquires the Port company Miguel de Souza Guedes & Irmãos, and with it the Estate that would become the main and most emblematic property of the Company, Quinta das Carvalhas.
In 1960, with the support of the banker Pinto de Magalhães, Manuel da Silva Reis acquires the majority of Real Companhia Velha’s capital and takes its leadership. Up until 1974, the company enjoys very prosperous times.
Real Companhia Velha experiences its largest period of expansion, which was reflected by: a change in company’s headquarters; raise in capital, renovation of its equipments and the modernisation of its vinification equipment; a rigorous control in the making, treating and conservation of its wines; the expansion of business activity.
One important event is the opening of new production facilities for physical treatment of wine, in order to attain better biological stabilizations through means of cooling and pasteurization.
The Company leaves its head office in Rua das Flores in Porto, where it had been based since 1756, and moves to Rua da Carvalhosa in Vila Nova de Gaia, where the Museum & Enoteca 17.56 are located today.
In 1962 the Company inaugurates in the town of Peso da Régua, in the heart of the Douro Valley, a modern vinification centre with capacity for 3 600 pipes. In the same year, the Company acquires Sociedade de Vinhos Santiago, Lda., and Elviro Garcia Lda.
Manuel da Silva Reis acquires Real Companhia Vinicola do Norte de Portugal, also known as Real Vinicola, together with its impressive Quinta do Síbio and Quinta do Corval. In that same year, Real Companhia Velha acquires the Port firm Nicolau de Almeida & Companhia Lda.
The Company takes a pioneering initiative and obtains the Port Wine Institute's permission to transport Port from the Douro to Vila Nova de Gaia by road using stainless steel cistern trucks for the first time.
The Company takes the second place in total sales and export of Port wines and the first position among genuinely Portuguese companies.
In 1968, the Company acquires Quinta dos Aciprestes, located facing the mouth of the tributary Tua River, and Quinta do Casal da Granja in Alijó. In the years to follow, both estates will be crucial for the production of great quality Ports and Douro DOCs.
In 1972, Companhia Geral das Vinhas do Alto Douro and Real Companhia Vinícola do Norte de Portugal merge into one single trading company.
The Company acquires Quinta de Cidrô, a charismatic estate located on the plateau of São João da Pesqueira. In the following years, the Quinta sees total replantation of its poorly treated Old Vines and the reconstruction of its magnificent palace.
Following the 1974 Portuguese Revolution, the Company faces troubled times that put at stake its expansion and development led by the Chairman, Manuel da Silva Reis. The communist government intervenes the Company during May in 1975.
Excellent Vintage year, producing very classic Ports.
The democratic Government determines the end of the State intervention in the Company, extinguishing the functions of its Administrative Committee, and Real Companhia Velha is returned to its owner.
On October 2nd, Manuel da Silva Reis resumes his position as chairman of the Company’s Board of Directors.
After these troubled times, the Company was forced to make a large commercial operation which involved the purchase of various aged Ports in the value of 1,000,000 contos - which constituted the biggest financial investment the Douro region had ever seen. As a result, the Company was back in a prominent position amongst the main Port producers.
In this same year, Manuel da Silva Reis’ oldest son, Manuel José, joins the Company.
Pedro Silva Reis, Manuel da Silva Reis’ second son, joins the Company.
Sales in the domestic and overseas market reach a considerable volume of 5,450,000 contos, reflecting an impressive 18% of the Port market share.
In the 90’s, the Company benefits from a total re-structure of its operations, focusing on a modern approach to viticulture with the adoption of new techniques and cultural procedures which were reflected in its new wine range.
The brand Quinta das Carvalhas is registered and would label wines exclusively made from Real Companhia Velha’s main Quinta.
In 1993, for the first time, international grapes are planted at Quinta de Cidrô with the prospect of starting a Fine Wine Division. Grapes like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon were planted alongside indigenous varieties in a very peculiar, yet innovating project.
“A monumental Vintage”, considered by many to be the very best year in the history of Port. The wines were powerful and concentrated, resulting from perfect grapes harvested under optimal conditions.
After consecutive years of losses, the Company returns to profits.
In 1996, Real Companhia Velha launches its Fine Wine Division, a project aimed to show the results of its innovative approach to the vineyards of Quinta de Cidrô, Quinta dos Aciprestes and Quinta das Carvalhas.
In this same year, the Company hires Californian Jerry Luper as Head Winemaker for Douro DOC wines, a position he would undertake up until 2006.
Pedro Silva Reis re-activates the granite “lagares” at Quinta do Casal da Granja, an essential vessel where grapes are foot-troden for Vintage Ports and top Douro reds.
After some years of producing Vintage Ports in large concrete vats, the 1997 Vintage Port (a great Vintage) was again foot pressed in the new granit lagars.
In this same year, two young agronomists by the name of Álvaro Martinho Lopes and Rui Soares join the Company. In the following years, the two would lead the Company’s vast viticulture development.
The first wines from the Fine Wine Division are released from Quinta de Cidrô with the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Carbernet Sauvignon all from the 1996 harvest.
Quinta de Cidrô Chardonnay 1997, earns.
Real Companhia Velha earns the prize of Company of the Year by Revista de Vinhos (Portugal Wine Magazine)
The first Quinta dos Aciprestes DOC Tinto, from the year 1997, is launched for the market.
A year of great transition, with the start of a bold and innovative project to recover some of the oldest and almost extinct grapes of the Douro Valley. Grapes like Rufete, Tinta Francisca, Malvasia Preta, Cornifesto and Samarrinho were planted in individual parcels of no less than 1ha at Quinta das Carvalhas and Quinta do Casal da Granja. This impressive selection would total 29 grapes varieties rescued from extinction and into production.
Pedro Silva Reis becomes Real Companhia Velha’s 27th President.
Real Companhia Velha celebrates 250 years of uninterrupted activity in the service of Port and Douro.
Manuel da Silva Reis passes away at the age of 86, after 42 years of service to Real Companhia Velha. His legacy will continue through his sons and grandsons.
A great Vintage year, both in quality and quantity.
Real Companhia Velha acquires the historic Port brand Delaforce.
Jorge Moreira returns to Real Companhia Velha to take the position of Head Winemaker, after starting his career at the Company from 1996 to 2001.
An exceptional Vintage, considered by most producers and press, as one of the greatest Vintage years in Port History.
Grandjó – inspired in the village of Granja de Alijó – this brand owned by the Company celebrates 100 years and becomes Douro’s oldest wine brand.
The Company launches the first two Douro DOC wines of the Quinta das Carvalhas range from the 2010 harvest. Produced from selected parcels of old vines, the Carvalhas White and Carvalhas Vinhas Velhas red are positioned as the top wines of the Company’s range.
Pedro Silva Reis (son) is the first of the third generation of the family to join the Company.
Evel, one of the most charismatic wine brands in Portugal, celebrates 100 years of existence.
The Séries Rufete 2010 is the first single varietal red wine made from a rare grape launched in the market under this experimental range.
Porca de Murça tinto 2013 places 39th on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year.
Real Companhia Velha celebrates 260 years of existence and launches the Carvalhas Memories 1867 as a celebratory Port. This Very Old Tawny Port scores 99/100 points on Wine Spectator and 19/20 points by Revista de Vinhos.
In this same year, Evel Tinto 2014 places 50th on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year.
The first vineyard block of the name Outeiro, consisting of 1.9 ha of Touriga Franca located on the southfacing hill neighbouring Quinta das Carvalhas is purchased under the expansion project for this Quinta.
Quinta das Carvalhas Touriga Nacional 2014 places 50th on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year.
Manuel da Silva Reis’ oldest grandson, Vasco Silva Reis joins the Company.
The 2017 Vintage results in great Ports, after one of the hottest and driest summers ever recorded.
More vineyard blocks are purchased under the Quinta das Carvalhas expansion project. A total of 11.8 ha, located on the southfacing hill neighbouring Quinta das Carvalhas are purchased in the following individual parcels: Bacelo dos Casais (3.2ha of Touriga Franca), Santa Barbara (3ha of Old Vines Field Blend) and Vinha Grande (2,6 ha of Old Vines Field Blend).
Opening of Entoeca 17.56 Gastro Wine Bar and the Museum of the Oldest Appellation in the World at the former cellars of Miguel Souza Guedes & Irmãos, once the headquarters of Real Companhia Velha from 1960 to 1973.
Further acquisitions of vineyard blocks take place under the Quinta das Carvalhas expansion project. Amongst them, the very special Carvalheira Grande consisting 5.3ha of very Old Vines in a field blend with over 90 years of age; and Carvalheira Pequena (3.6 ha of Touriga Franca) both located on the southfacing hill neighbouring Quinta das Carvalhas. These acquisitions totalled a significant expansion of 19.6ha of vineyards, consolidating Real Companhia Velha’s position as principal landowner in
the Douro Valley (according to the Port and Douro Wine Institute’s records).