Port: Steady as she goes

Not one to rest on his laurels, Bridge has also unveiled a 430th anniversary celebration edition of Croft, which is said to commemorate the port house’s establishment in 1588 and the “rich history of the oldest port company in operation”.

The Symingtons are no slouches on this front. Symington reports its Graham’s 20 Year Old was up 33% on a year-to-date basis, which he says is down to the clear glass bottle and adds that 4.5-litre formats are raising its profile in bars, providing “visibility and theatre when served”.

Descamps says: “The port category is really well adapted to the duty free market and with Porto Cruz we have strong ambitions to continue developing this channel. In fact, we are already present, for instance, in duty free in Porto, Lisbon and Kuala Lumpur with some dedicated offers such as a miniature set of 37.5cl bottles. Duty free also represents a nice opportunity to value our port expertise through premium references such as Gran Cruz aged port, Colheitas or Vintages.”


Symington says the future is: “Very positive. Port exports, particularly at the premium end, are very healthy. Quality has never been as high as it currently is. We have just finished one of the most successful vintage port en primeur campaigns of all time. We declared our 2016 vintage ports in April this year and we were entirely sold out by the end of July.

“Coupled to this vintage port is performing very well on the secondary market. For example, Dow’s 2011 vintage port was trading on the secondary market (Livex) at £450 per case in 2013 (declaration year) and is now at £1,500 per case.

“Additionally we are working hard to bring port to a wider market, introducing younger drinkers to this incredibly varied drink, ranging from white port and fine tawny which can be mixed with tonics or cocktails, through to LBV, aged tawnies and, of course, vintage ports. There is something for all palates and appetites within the category which no other style of wine can offer,” concludes Symington.

The UK is a premium port market, so, from a British perspective, Hawes says: “I feel it is a mistake to describe a reliably strong Christmas sales performance as a ‘curse’. It is more a core strength that can be built upon. What it means is that port penetrates a very high proportion of all UK households over the festive period, either as a purchase or being received as a gift.

“Perhaps the underlying issue is that port remains an impulse purchase for most of the rest of the year, Our challenge is to extend its usage repertoire and this can be done. For example, Taylor’s LBV is perhaps the perfect pairing with dark chocolate. A lightly chilled aged tawny is perfect with a summer barbecue. A white port & tonic is a refreshing and lower alcohol alternative to a G&T,” Hawes says.

Descamps sums up: “We are conscious that we have to take care of people’s affinities. Mature markets such as France, Portugal and Germany are used to drinking tawny ports, whereas the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK are more used to consuming ruby ports. Some countries are more familiar with classic references, as in France or Belgium, whereas in the US, Canada or Denmark they are used to enjoying premium-to-rare ports.

“Already renowned as an aperitif or an after-dinner drink, port can be as well appreciated for tasting or in a cocktail, in food pairing. The tourist boom in Portugal also represents a positive aspect that makes us confident in our choices,” concludes Descamps.