Sandeman’s black-cloaked ‘Don’ has become one of the most recognisable motifs of the wine industry. Dressed like the Spanish caballeros de Jerez in his cape and wide-brimmed hat, the Don was designed in 1928 by Scottish poster Artist George Massiot Brown. But by that time the Sandeman wine company had already been trading for almost 150 years, started by George Sandeman, another young Scotsman from Perth, in 1790 to trade in Port and Sherry. By 1795 Sandeman had established an agency in Cadiz, Spain, and by 1811 he had purchased an Port cellar in Villa Nova de Gaia in Oporto.
In the modern era, Sandeman has become a Portuguese-owned company. After a brief ownership by the Canadian Seagram company, Portugal’s Sogrape Group bought Sandeman in 2002 to join their other wine brands, including Ferreira Port, Mateus, Finca Flichman in Argentina and Framingham in New Zealand.
I recently paid a brief visit to Sandeman’s impressive new visitor facility and winery in the Douro Valley, at the Quinta do Seixo (view from the terrace, left). Guides show visitors around the cellars and the production processes, including the robotic lagars (inset) that closely replicate the traditional method of treading Port grapes by foot. The centre is a wonderful addition to a tourism scene in the once sleepy Douro, that is developing fast.
My brief visit finished, naturally enough, with a tasting of Sandeman’s Ports. For all Sandeman’s stockists, see wine-searcher.com
Sandeman Apitiv White Port
This light tawny coloured Port is made with a few hours skin contact and has 90g/l of residual sugar. It has a delicate hint of pink to a light tawny colour, and a touch of toffee and pretty floral nuances to pear fruit. On the palate this has a rich, orange and nutty character, with ripe, sweet pear fruit and a medium-bodied texture. Tangy, though the alcohol is quite prominent in the finish. £6.99
Sandeman Founders Reserve Ruby Port
This is a four-year-old Port that has a medium to deep, quite vibrant purple/crimson colour. Dry, red cherry fruit and a hint of something earthier on the nose, then the palate has a refined richness of cherry and blackcurrant fruit, and a smooth, rich, quite chocolaty finish. There are smooth tannins and a well-integrated spirit. £7.99
Sandeman Late Bottled Vintage Port 2000
Unlike vintage Port, LBV is aged in cask so it matures more rapidly and can be sold earlier. 2000 was a very good Port vintage. After fruit set was reduced by rain and mildew in March, a long, hot, dry summer gave excellent vintage conditions. This has a solid crimson/black colour. There’s an earthy richness on the nose, with open, approachable red fruits and a hint of florality. Fairly light, but smooth and delightfully fruity palate. Raisins and chocolate start to emerge, and though the finish isn’t hugely complex, it is long and silky. £15.99
Sandeman Vau Vintage Port 2000
An early drinking vintage Port, Vau is designed to be drunk after eight years or so instead of the 15 or 20 of the regular Sandeman vintage. The wines that go into Vau are all selected and approved as vintage, then barrels are selected because they have a softer, fruitier, more early drinking character. This is Sandeman’s nod to the 1991, 1994 and 1997 Port vintages which attracted high scores form American critics, and were bought by new Port consumers who would not age the wines, but wanted to drink them early. There’s a little vegetal note, suggesting rhubarb or beetroot, with intense, bright, kirsch-like cherry fruit, and a smooth, cocoa quality as well as little floral nuances. The palate is very sweet, rounded and pure, with a lovely black fruit density. £17.99
Sandeman Vintage Port 2000
Quite closed, though a refined black fruit quality with more of a blue/black concentration. There’s a schisty sense of minerality in a complex, layered profile. On the palate a lovely lightness and racy quality, with refined fruit layered with black plum, spices and a bittersweet coffee richness becoming smooth and chocolaty in the finish. Very good indeed. Around £40 – £50.
Sandeman 30-Year-Old Tawny Port
Wines destined for the 30-year-old are selected early: must be dark, structured, intense wines. Lovely burnished tawny colour with a hint of ruby at the core. Beautifully nutty and spicy, with layered biscuit and toffee notes, a suggestion of dried figs and orange. The palate has lovely sweetness. The alcohol is rich and mouthfilling, but the sweetness comes through, and the toffee and honey, glycerine richness fills the mouth. Spices and sultana cake character into a long, layered, balanced finish. £55 – £60.