Port Wine Brotherhood

History of the Confraria do Vinho do Porto (Port Wine Brotherhood)

The great movement to create the Wine Confraria (Brotherhoods) took place between 1945 and 1965, but it was only in 1964 that the circumstances aligned for the formation of a Wine Confraria within the Port Wine Trade.  However the difficulties encountered in forming independent associations in Portugal at that time prevented this much desired project from materializing, despite the fact that the process had been totally organized.

It was only in November 1982 that this longstanding dream was realised through the drawing up of a public deed, founding the Confraria do Vinho do Porto (Porto Wine Brotherhood), with its headquarters in the Palácio da Bolsa (the Stock Exchange) in the city of Oporto.

The patron chosen by the Confraria do Vinho do Porto was the Infante D. Henrique, third son of King D. João I, born in Oporto. The indomitable character of this great Portuguese Prince, who inspired the most extraordinary maritime voyages, is reflected in the traditional values and characteristic quality of Port Wine.

Established with the statutory purpose of communicating, promoting and reinforcing the worldwide reputation of Port Wine, the Confraria do Vinho do Porto welcomes into its midst persons who carry out a professional activity in the making and exporting of Port Wine, as well persons who, by their deeds, reputations, or standing make a significant contribution to the image and knowledge of Port Wine.

Besides aiming to extol the magnificence of Port Wine in all circumstances and at every opportunity the Confraria do Vinho do Porto pays tribute to the people who have rendered it good and loyal service.


Whether they be Heads of State, notable personalities or institutions, independent merchants, directors or managers of companies, they all bear the name of Confrades (Brothers) and are attributed  the ranks of title.  These Confrades Honorários (Honorary Brothers) are attributed one of three ranks; (Vice-Chancellor), CancelárioInfanção (Nobleman) or Cavaleiro (Knight).

The rank of Cancelário is given to Heads of State who, through their status, bring dignity to the Confraria do Vinho do Porto. For example the Confraria has a few dozen Cancelários, including the President of Portugal, the King of Spain, and the King of Belgium among the many Presidents, Princes and leaders of the world who honour this brotherhood by their participation.

Infanção is attributed to all notable personalities or institutions who make a significant contribution to the promotion and prestige of Port Wine or who merit distinction with this rank due to their personal prestige or high ranking positions.

Cavaleiros are those who merit recognition for their dedication and service to Port Wine and do not find themselves included in the previous ranks

In addition to these honorary ranks, the Confraria do Vinho do Porto is made up by the members of the Port Wine trade who carry out a professional activity in the making and exporting of Port Wine, be they individual merchants, directors or managers of companies.

These active Confrades can receive the rank of Mestre (Master) in the case of owner or director and Experto (Expert) in the case of a manager. It is these active Confrades, - Mestres and Expertos - who, amongst themselves, elect the Chancelaria (Chancery), a Board who preside over, and represent, the Confraria do Vinho do Porto. In addition they elect the Mesa De Vedores (a supervisory Board). The Chancelaria consists of the Chanceler (Chancellor, the senior representative in the Confraria), the Almoxarife (Administrator), the Coperio-Mor (Head-Cupbearer), the Almotacé (Treasurer) and the Fiel dasUsanças (Warden of Usages).

The Confrades meet in a Capìtulo (Chapter), officially convened by the Chanceler, to take the important decisions concerning the Confraria, including the admission of new Confrades.  Aside from the Statutes, the Confraria possesses the Usanças (rules of Usage), an internal set of regulations that set out, in great detail, the activities of the Confraria do Vinho do Porto.

The Usanças define the ceremonial attire of the Confrades, inspired by the garments of the patron Infante D. Henrique:

  • A black hat with a wide brim, bound around the crown of which is a wide black silk ribbon which falls to the shoulder and is wrapped around the neck. The members of the Chancelaria are distinguished by the use a cream coloured ribbon;
  • A garnet coloured cape trimmed with black ribbon;
  • An insignia with the Confraria emblem placed on the left-hand side of the cape at breast height;
  • A bright green and red ribbon placed round the neck from which hangs a Tombaladeira  - a traditional Port Wine tasting cup from the XVII century.

This use of this attire is obligatory for the Confrades.

  • The Confrades Honorarios (Honorary Brothers) use a bright green and red ribbon from which hangs the Tombaladeira, and the ranks of Cancelário and Infanção are presented with the cape and hat.

A unique diploma indicating the respective rank, and signed by the Chanceler and Almoxarife, is presented to all the Confrades.

The Confrades Honorários (Honorary Brothers) include: public figures, high-ranking administration officers, diplomats, scientists, oenologists, journalists, writers, farmers and Port Wine importers and traders. Besides the Portuguese, they are represented by nationals of the following countries: Spain, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Canada, America, Brazil, South America, Japan, Australia and South Africa.

For Confrades   in the Port Wine trade, the recognition by their peers in the Confraria do Vinho do Porto and the ability to display their respective diplomas is an endorsement of, in many cases, a lifetime, and sometimes of more than one generation, specializing in the trade of a very special wine.


According to the Usanças; “the Enthronement is the highest act of the Confraria, as such a great deal of care has to be taken so that effectiveness, dignity and everything else is in accordance with the prestige that is required for Port Wine”.

Similarly the Usanças establish that the Enthronement Ceremony takes place at the headquarters of the Confraria or in another place approved by the Chancelaria, according to  the image of dignity and honour of this Ceremony.  The traditional use of the Palacio da Bolsa (the Stock Exchange) in Oporto has been maintained and the ceremony takes place in the Patio das Nações (Courtyard of Nations).

The new Confrades who, having been proposed by a Mestre or by the Chancelaria (maximum honour) and accepted in the Capitulo (Chapter) convened for that purpose, and having heard their curriculum read out by the Fiel das Usanças during their enthronement, receive their insignias from the hands of the proponent Mestre. They then sign the Book of Honour and are handed the respective diploma by the Chanceler.

The new Confrades are admitted due to the fact that they “have made a significant contribution to the understanding and prestige of Port Wine”.  However, with entry into the Confraria, they make a solemn commitment (“take an oath”).

With a glass of Port Wine in their hands and in the presence of all, the new Confrades must proclaim aloud during the Enthronement Ceremony:


Because Port Wine blends all of this spirit, the Confraria ceremonies and the speeches of Chanceler always end with the same toast:

For Port Wine, For the Confraria, for the Confrades

Tribute to Infante D. Henrique

The Confraria do Vinho do Porto believes that the indomitable character of Infante D. Henrique, third son of King D. João I, born in Oporto, is reflected in the traditional values and characteristic quality of Port Wine.  This great Portuguese Prince inspired the most extraordinary maritime voyages. Due to this fact, the Infante D. Henrique was elected as Patron, and ordained as the first Cancelário, the highest honour of the Confraria.

Confraria Celebrations

Every year the Confraria do Vinho do Porto organizes a Ceremony of Enthronement, at which the new Confrades are welcomed into the Confraria , and a race of the Barco Rabelo (the flat-bottomed boats used for bring Port Wine from the Douro to Oporto)

These events concur with the festivities of the patron saint of the city of Oporto – St John – on the 24th June (except when it conflicts with Vinexpo) and add to the spirit of celebration, joy of the City and Port Wine.

By | 2016-11-18T10:24:14+00:00 March 30th, 2010|Categories: History|0 Comments

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