Nov 03, 2016
History In A Bottle
A Scottish artist, pretending to be a Frenchman, illustrated the iconic logo shadowy figure of the Sandeman ‘Don’ in 1928. That logo has become synonymous with the brand and its port production.
George Sandeman, seventh generation family member of Sandeman Ports made his first trip to Vancouver in late October.
Last year, Sandeman celebrated 225 years, and today is just one piece of the extensive family of wines, produced under SoGrape Vinhos (Mateus, Gazela, Quinta da Azevedo, Grão Vasco, Ferreira Porto...) of Portugal.
Part of Sandeman's visit was to introduce us to the new packing of their tawny ports
However, the more commonly recognized ruby ports, came along for the ride as well.
Sitting down at Boulevard in the Sutton Place Hotel, Sandeman gestured to the lineup of wines before us.
"I like to taste ruby before tawny. They [ruby ports] tend to be much more expressive, yet less complex - more obvious, nice, but immediate".
He finds that primary characteristics in ruby ports are simpler than those secondary characters in lengthy, oak aged tawny ports.
This is due to the fact that ruby ports are aged less time in barrel; the ageing on ruby ports is meant to be in bottle.
Equally important, he finds more and more that all ports respond best to a slight chill – that most are served too warm. He suggests storing them in the refrigerator after opening and consuming them within a few weeks – especially the entry level Fine Ruby Port or the Founder’s Reserve.
Of course, with the sales of port remaining static in much of the world, and other traditional markets shrinking, port producers have had to work harder to sell their wines.
This is a challenge I am aware of, having spent time in both Jerez, with sherry producers (who have suffered similar or greater historical market losses), and in the Douro, with port producers.
In fact, in late 2014 I was asked to speak to wine producers at the Uva d’Ouro Conference in Porto, specifically about the Canadian wine market.
My findings, at that time, after speaking to buyers and sommeliers from across Canada, was that sales of Port were fairly stale or static in the main/traditional regions with growth being shown mostly in the west, BC and Alberta.
However, British Columbia has less of a robust red wine drinking culture than Alberta, and with Alberta’s recent economic crisis, I’m fairly certain sales have not grown.
So, what do you do when you make a product that is no longer trendy?
Well, Douro has the continued capability to make wine - simply as table wine. It's a well-known region with the ability to fulfill the requirements of a new red wine drinking consumer.
Arguments abound from within - cost of the production is not low (have you seen the steep, terraced Douro vineyards), or that it is not tradition; Douro is about fortified wine.
I've spent time in the region and written about it, its challenges, history and successes.
Sandeman’s own argument is also valid – before fortified wines, Douro produced still table wines. It’s just a return to their more ancient roots.
However you slice it, there has been a need to sell wines from a region suffering a new generation’s loss of interest. If still wines supplement the region and make up for the downturn of fortified wines, who are we to argue?
Some port producers report an overall decrease in entry-level ports, but renewed interest in super-premium ports.
To appeal to a new consumer, perhaps, as Sandeman suggests, you play with the concept of port a bit – like sherry producers did. Appeal to bartenders; use port in new ways.
Serve an entry-level port, such as Sandeman Fine Ruby Port or Founder’s Reserve Port, as sangria. Add fruit, ice and soda water – to add a little spritz.
Use it like a mulled wine in winter – it already has more complexity than a typical mulled wine.
Serve it on ice with an orange slice – orange is very cohesive flavour with port wines.
Fine Fine Ruby Port NV Expect deep purple berry notes, figs, dried cherries and bold aromas of molasses and vanilla along with a potpourri of cedar and dried flowers.
It is sweet and smooth with generous fruit and a chocolaty finish.
Founder’s Reserve Port NV is more restrained on the nose than the Fine Ruby Port, less of a strumpet so to speak - also drier. A straightforward port – one well suited to sangria.
$14 Private stores (375ml)
Sandeman ‘Vau’ Vintage 1999
This wine was made for the first time in 1997. It was developed as a complex wine, offering good value, but not meant to age like a declared vintage port. It is more opulent, forward and ready to drink earlier than a vintage port, for people who love to drink vintage but don’t want to wait. It is purposely made with more Touriga Franca than Tinta Roriz. Vau is the name of a Sandeman quinta (estate) however, it is not from a single quinta. Sandeman admits the value in this wine is great.
Initially, it is boozier on the nose than previous two. There is some definitive oak influence here, with cedar, spice and dried flowers. Less overt fruit on the palate, but it is thick and rich with more tannic structure.
$28 private stores
Sandeman 10 year Tawny has some oxidative notes; it is spicy and earthy, cedar and dried orange peel and candied roasted nuts. It is slick and nutty with more complexity than the rubys with an interesting nougat character.
Nice balance overall. Great length.
$34 private stores
Sandeman 20 Year Old Tawny The core of the Sandeman tawny portfolio, this 20-year-old offers aromas of brandy with some smoked peaty undertones along with cedar kindling and dried orcha