Valuing the Douro

09 December, 2014

It’s certainly a positive trend as far as Bridge is concerned. He sees no future in chasing volumes when the speciality categories  – in particular, aged tawnies – offer so much promise. “People are discovering there are new styles which are high quality and interesting.” 

He says this is being driven by the on-trade and, in particular, restaurants, which points to another trend in the category – that of the use of food as marketing leverage.

For example, Porto Cruz launched a campaign in France, Tapas & Ports by Cruz, inviting people to pair different styles of port with tapas, while Noval has been working with chocolatiers in various countries. “You can reach younger, medium and older people because everyone likes chocolate,” says Noval export sales director, Xavier Sanchez.

But the real driving force for port at the moment is perhaps the most unexpected and the least orthodox – traditionalists may want to look away at this point – the serving of port in cocktails, over-ice and mixed as long drinks.

“In Mexico young people seem to be interested in port we are actively promoting port on the rocks. That’s unorthodox, but without ice whisky wouldn’t be where it is today. We have to be open-minded,” says Reis.

And Sandeman agrees: “It is key to show consumers that port can be part of their everyday drink selection by demonstrating ways in which it can be enjoyed, and more importantly ‘empowering’ them to do it.

“We’re telling consumers how to enjoy port by expanding usage in food matching, cocktails (in the US), chilled, aperitif, dessert… we need to speak to consumers in the language they understand and highlight that port is an exciting category with lots of flavour and diversity.

“We have no problem with the way people drink Sandeman port – chilled, iced, mixed or in cocktails – if at the end of the day they enjoy it.”

So it looks like producers are determined to engage new consumers at the expense of their traditional core base, and nowhere has this been highlighted more than with recent innovations such as Croft Pink, Cruz Pink and Noval Black, both representing new styles and both attempting to appeal to a younger, trendy consumer.

Croft Pink has been successfully playing into the increasing popularity of rosé wines, while Cruz Pink and Noval Black have been seeding themselves in the nightclub and cocktail bar scenes of some countries – a far cry from the gentlemen’s clubs many still associate with port.

Between a ruby and a reserve LBV, Black, says Sanchez, is being blended by mixologists with vodka or pineapple juice. And again, it’s the “opposite of our philosophy” – but it’s encouraging consumption and finding new fans for port.

Sanchez adds: “We launched Black five years ago and I think in the next five years we will find it in bars and shops, such as Waitrose in the UK or Monoprix in France. Black is a very modern style – not traditional – and the price is quite inexpensive. It’s between red wine and port.”

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