Valuing the Douro

09 December, 2014

Cocktail focus

And cocktails have been a focus for Real Companhia Velha, with Reis pointing to the introduction of a Portuguese version of the Brazilian Caipirinha – the Caipi Royal, made with Royal Oporto white port, lemon and pineapple.

So, consumption trends may be starting to move along, but can the same be said of port’s global spread? Certainly new markets are opening up – particularly those with Portuguese affiliations, such as Angola and Brazil – but Asia, widely expected to embrace port, has proved a tough nut to crack, even for a beautifully almondy aged tawny.

Reis ponders: “Asia is a bit disappointing because, so far, no one has managed to make progress. We made a lot of effort in China. They like red and sweet so with the combination of the two things why don’t they work?”

He’s not alone in scratching his head. George Sandeman thinks Asia has ‘potential’ but adds: “It will require thought. One of the things that’s been said about port in the Asian market is that the prices should be a lot higher. It’s a lot to do with wine’s image. There are millions of people in Asia, of which a percentage know about wine, and a pecentage know very little. A lot of people drink from what the perceived image is.”

And Sanchez adds his thoughts: “There’s no culture for port in China. They are drinking a lot of red wines and cognac but not port. I think in the next 10 years it can work very well – for example, in 1987 the culture for red wine was not very strong but now it is. We are working on developing the category over there, but we are selling port and education. 

“In China rich people buy vintages because they are rare but the main markets buy red wines from the Douro and entry-level ports. They have no interest in vintage.”

Russia is looking like an emerging market, with Sandeman saying it has been growing by two digits a year and Porto Cruz excited about its prospects.

The company’s Prat says: “We have great expectations in Russia. Cruz was the first brand to invest on this market and to list different qualities of Ports. We are still investing on this market. This year, we launched a big masterclass plan to educate consumers about ports. 

“We strongly believe this category has a promising future but this future depends heavily on the educational programme.”

But it’s the mature markets that need some massaging right now, encouraging them to trade up to the speciality tiers. And, certainly as far as Bridge’s portfolio is concerned, this is already happening. “Aged tawnies are growing around the world, especially in the US. There’s 8.5% MAT growth for 10-year-old and 10.5% for 20-year-old Taylor’s.”

It’s the special ports that are taking the limelight right now – and could well represent the future for a sector that’s finally attracting new consumers.

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