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Croft

Croft has a long and rich history, beginning in the north of England in 1588, when Henry Thompson was admitted to the Merchant Company of York and set up a successful business trading wine. By 1647 the Thompson's had acquired wine cellars in Bordeaux, and also established themselves in Hull, London and Amsterdam. In 1681 Francis Thompson married a Thomas Croft, but the Croft's were not to become involved in the family business at that time. The Thomson's did not deal solely in wine, textiles were also traded, and by the mid 17th century they had begun importing cloth to Portugal. New treaties made commerce between England and Portugal advantageous, and as England was frequently at war with France, the business, led by Richard Thompson shifted their focus to Portugal, and it was Richard who transformed the family firm into a Port wine company. In 1707 he merged his business with that of Irish brothers Thomas Phayre and Nathaniel Bradley who, as well as other goods, were trading in Port, and the company became known as Phayre, Bradley and Thompson, until the two brothers left the partnership and were replaced by Benjamin Tilden, and the name Thompson and Tilden was adopted. 1736 saw the first Croft to become involved in Port – at the age of 42 John Croft became a partner and now the company was known as Tilden, Thompson and Croft. In 1788 the second John Croft wrote the first detailed book about Port, “A Treatise on the Wines of Portugal”. In 1781 Croft produced the earliest known Vintage Port, and by the second half of the 19th century Croft had gained renown as a producer of Vintage Port, a distinction it retains to this day. In 1889 Croft acquired the famous Quinta da Roêda Estate, often referred to as “the jewel of the Douro Valley vineyards”; it remains the main source of grapes for Croft's Vintage Ports today. In the late 1800's the London wine merchant Gilbey's had developed a brand known as Gilbey's Invalid Port; the wine was supplied by Croft, shipped in cask to England and bottled by Gilbey's in London. It was such a great success, prescribed by some physicians as a tonic, that Gilbey's became concerned about guaranteeing their supply of wine. So in 1892 they purchased half of the shares in Croft. Sales of Invalid Port continued to flourish, and Gilbey's concerns abut supply became even more acute, leading them to buy the remaining shares in Croft in 1911, taking full control of the company. However a connection with the Croft family continued as Percy Croft remained as a director and is credited with saying “Any time not spent drinking Port is a waste of time”! Much later Gilbey's became a brand of Diageo and in 2001 Adrian Bridge, the director of what was then Taylor Fonseca, attained the purchase of Croft from them. With this acquisition the company became the Fladgate Partnership. Croft's Vintage Ports were taken to a higher level when they reintroduced traditional methods of Port making and built traditional granite treading tanks at the estate's winery. Innovations continued, with Croft introducing the first ever rosé Port in 2008. Croft is the oldest Port wine company in operation. This trailblazer of Port continues to prosper, and has a reputation as a “first growth” Vintage Port house.

www.croftport.com