Croft is one of the most distinguished of all Port houses. Founded in 1588, it is the oldest firm still active today as a Port wine producer. The company is renowned above all for its Vintage Ports as well as for its range of wood aged reserves and tawnies, time-honored styles refined by skill and experience passed down the generations. But in spite of its rich heritage and history spanning over four centuries, Croft has never been constrained by tradition. Today, as in the past, it maintains a pioneering spirit, continuing to create innovative new styles such as Croft Pink, the first ever rosé Port.
Iconic Croft Vintage Ports
As important as its history, traditions and vineyards, is the fact that Croft remains a family company. In 2001 Croft Port returned to family hands after a period of being a subsidiary of the large international beverage group IDV which later became Diageo. With the acquisition of Croft Port, the Taylor Fonseca group renamed itself The Fladgate Partnership. The connoisseur and collector prize Croft dedication to the production of the most excellent Ports of all styles, from full-bodied reserve Ports to the iconic Croft Vintage Ports.
Quinta da Roêda
Behind every great wine, the producer is a great vineyard. The cornerstone of Croft’s distinctive house style is the famous Quinta da Roêda, acquired in 1889, described as the jewel of Port wine estates. The wines of this magnificent property, which contains some of the oldest vineyards in the Douro Valley, are the heart of Croft’s Vintage Port blend. The story of the House of Croft begins over four centuries ago in the city of York which at the time was one of England’s principal centers of trade.
The move to Portugal
By the mid-seventeenth century, the Thompsons had begun importing cloth to Portugal. Since the signing of the Treaty of Windsor in 1386, England and Portugal had been close trading partners. In 1654, commerce between the two countries was further encouraged by a new treaty which awarded special privileges to English merchants trading in Portugal including entitlement to lower duties. As a result, the Thompson family shifted their focus from France, which was frequently at war with Britain, to Portugal.
In 1588, Henry Thompson, member of a prominent Yorkshire family, set up a successful business trading in wine. This firm was to become the Port house that we know today as Croft. The Thompson and the Croft families had become connected through the marriage in 1681 of Frances Thompson and Thomas Croft.
By that time the firm was led by Richard Thompson who was responsible for transforming the family firm into a Port wine company. In 1707, Richard Thompson merged the business with that of Thomas Phayre and Nathaniel Bradley, two Irish brothers who had settled in Portugal and were trading in Port and other goods. The company became known as Phayre, Bradley & Thompson until the two Irishmen left the partnership and succeeded by a new partner, Benjamin Tilden, after which it adopted the name, Thompson & Tilden.
Tilden, Thompson and Croft
The first Croft to become a partner in the Port firm in Oporto was John Croft, the beginning of a string of Crofts of that name, who joined the firm in 1736 at the age of 42. Shortly afterward the company became known as Tilden, Thompson, and Croft. The next generation Croft (John III) produced the earliest known Vintage Port, the Croft 1781, pursued by later Vintage Ports from 1784, 1785 and 1786.