Luxury retailer Harrods has reported an upsurge in sales of premium port and believes more shoppers now see it as a wine to be enjoyed all year.

Christmas is always a peak time for port sales, but Harrods wine buyer Edward Gerard said shoppers want to enjoy interesting experiences such as drinking aged tawnies and colheitas at home more frequently nowadays.

He picked out Kopke and Ferreira as two brands performing extremely well at the Harrods wine rooms.

Gonzalo Pedrosa, chief executive at Kopke supplier Sogevinus, told OLN: “We have increased UK sales by 300% in the past year. We are very proud of this and hope it will continue. We are trying to drive value into the market.

“We are focused on the consumer. It’s not about telling people ‘you have to drink my wine because it’s super’. In the past the port industry has not been focused on the consumer and on innovation. It has focused on the trade and on itself. You can’t forget the end consumer.

“The most interesting thing is innovation. The profile of our wine remains the same but you can try to change the approach, to show the wine at different occasions and in different serves, not just as a dessert.

“The UK is probably the only country in the world that is always looking for new things but also keeping with tradition. It’s dynamic but also always looking for authenticity.”

Ferreira is the leading port brand in Portugal but is not as widely distributed in the UK as brand owner Sogrape has focused on championing stablemate Sandeman.

It has just brought in design firm Stranger & Stranger to give the Sandeman range a makeover and it is starting with aged tawnies, which are coming into the UK market in time for Christmas.

Marketing manager Rupert Lovie told OLN: “The reason aged tawnies have come first is that Sandeman is very proud of its aged tawnies and they have won lots of awards, so it was an obvious starting point.

“Designers spent a long time trawling through the archives. They have focused a lot on the Don, an iconic figure. Now if you line them up you can see the evolution of the liquid as the colour changes. They are more akin to the premium drinks and spirits you see behind bars.”

Lovie believes aged tawnies are the way forward for the UK port category. “Tawnies are growing rapidly and aged tawnies particularly,” he said. “Tawnies are growing at 38% while port is only growing by about 1%. It’s already a premium category. The average price for tawny is higher than ruby and at least half of tawnies are aged. The good growth shows there are consumers out there wanting more. It’s growing from a small base so we want to drive it forward.

“You can open a bottle and keep it in a fridge or on shelf for a couple of months without it deteriorating. That’s a marked difference for tawny ports.

“The category needs shaking up. If you think how dominated the market is by ruby port and by the off-trade, it’s heavily skewed in many ways. It would be a good thing to talk to the consumer about different types of port, different ways of drinking it on different occasions.”