Exchanging glances

“Thus they took the logical decision that it was cheaper to lose half the crop than do the treatments. Nature is not so simple and many lost 80%-100%. Yet again, we see an example of a system that was set up with good intentions in 1933 but no longer serves a useful purpose but actually damages farmer interest,” he states.

“The good news is that we have produced some great ports this year. However, a tight harvest has pushed up prices that we see as rising by about 3% this year. Spirit prices are expected to rise in 2017.

“The UK market remains a challenge after Brexit, mainly because the value of sterling has fallen 15% and is making selling port unprofitable in the UK. Price increases for 2017 are inevitable given the number of factors that are influencing the industry,” says Bridge.

Paul Symington, of Symington Family Estates, is bullish. He says: “The transformation of port continues. Until the early 1970s it was characterised by large volumes of ruby port and small volumes of supreme quality vintage ports. Since then the premium category has gradually been replacing the large volumes of ruby ports.

“Since 2000, this process has been speeded up, encouraged by the ever-increasing costs of farming the steep and low-yielding Douro vineyards.

“In recent years the growth of Reserve, LBV and especially old tawny ports (10, 20, 30, 40-year-old and Colheita), has been excellent, aided by strong innovation from a few more enlightened port companies. The future is bright for those companies that have embraced and, to a great extent, led these changes,” says Symington.


On the bright side Bridge sees opportunities. “We are seeing the trend of using port in cocktails increasing in many markets. We developed Croft Pink for this market back in 2008 but now the trend encompasses many different styles of port. It is easy to see why, given that port has full, rich flavours and yet low alcohol, for the sort of body it can give a cocktail or punch. It is ‘low alcohol’ when compared to spirits and we are seeing many consumers pushing to have lower-alcohol cocktails on offer.

“Demand for our 50-year-old single harvest ports remain strong. We have had a successful year with 1996 and are now launching the 1967. Demand is strong as consumers are looking for something for a special occasion,” says Bridge.

French company La Martiniquaise is another major player in the Douro with its Porto Cruz brand. The company claims to have increased its sales by 41% between 2011 and 2015 (Source: IWSR Portugal 2016 Report).

Junior international brand manager, whiskies and aperitifs, Johanne Theveney, is very keen. He tells DI: “We are really enthusiastic for the years to come as the whole category has started to evolve, but it is true that the port category has been, and is still, facing some challenges.”

This year in its home market – Cruz’s first – the brand launched Cruz Fresco – claimed to be ‘a new way of consuming port’.