Sandeman: premium key to port's future

Growth in premium tiers will ensure port retains a strong presence in the British drinks industry, according to a leading supplier.

George Sandeman, chairman of the Sandeman port group, has been in London to promote Sandeman Cask 33, a limited- edition single cask old tawny retailing at £525.

He told OLN: “The UK is a mature market for port and we have seen an interesting swing towards premium port. Sixty per cent of port shipped to the UK is classified as falling into a special category, so reserve upwards, and there may be a slowing down of sales of standard ruby port, but there is still a solid interest in special categories.”

He added: “We have got our younger-drinking Vau Vintage into Tesco so hopefully that will do well over Christmas.

“There’s still a lot of life left in the old dog. It’s a question of drawing people’s attention to it and getting it out of being a seasonal drink.

“It’s a wine that always pleases. There are very few people who taste port and don’t like it. It’s about drawing attention to it, taking the mystique out of it without losing the heritage.

“There has been an enormous growth in tourism from the UK to Portugal, and particularly to Porto, and people are seeing it served as an aperitif and chilled, which works well. There is a trend towards using port in cocktails and that is helping broaden its appeal.

“There is still an idea that port needs to be drunk while wearing a dinner jacket and smoking a cigar, so a lot of promotional and educational work is being done to change that.”

Berry Bros, Hedonism and Lea & Sandeman have put in orders for Sandeman Cask 33, which celebrates the port house’s 225th anniversary in 2015.

“It’s the first time we have done anything like this,” Sandeman added. “2015 is our 225th anniversary so we wanted to mark this big occasion with something special.

“The average age of this wine is 50 to 55 years old. It’s very much a collectors’ item. It comes in a hand-blown bottle that replicates the bottles we had when Sandeman was founded in 1790.”

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