There are few more iconic images in the world of wine than the ‘Don’, the logo created for the Sandeman family in 1928 by George Massiot Brown. The cape was modelled on the attire worn by students of the University of Porto, while the wide-brimmed hat was a nod to the family’s presence in Jerez.
Today, the Sandeman Ports are becoming every bit as famous as the image of the Don. This hasn‘t always been the case, but since the Guedes family bought Sandeman from Seagram in 2002, the major investment that has taken place in the vineyards and the winemaking has seen them rise to the top of the tree in the Port trade. The production of Port – especially Tawny – requires patience and a long-term vision, something which explains why families like the Guedes and the Symingtons are the major players in the Port business today.
The new Sandeman winery, built in 2007 with significant investment from the Guedes family, is based at the breathtakingly beautiful Quinta do Seixo, situated on the south bank of the Douro, just downstream from Pinhão. The winery is perched on top of a hill that is garlanded by terrace after terrace of vines, some of which are over 100 years old. Quinta do Seixo covers 42 hectares, planted primarily with Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional and boasts an ‘A grade’ classification in the ‘Cadastro’ ranking system of Douro vineyards. The wines reflect this sustained investment and the skill of winemaker Luís Sottomayor, gradually and modestly, he has transformed the fortunes of Sandeman.
The Single Quinta Vintage Port from Quinta do Seixo is a beautiful expression of this estate’s unique sense of place. A third of the grapes in the blend come from a small field-blend plot of extremely low-yielding centenarian vines which produce intensely concentrated fruit. The 2013 vintage in the Douro was characterised by cooler than average conditions. This translates into delicate floral notes and hints of mint alongside the precise cherry and blackberry fruit and a vibrant acidity which carries the intense flavours onto the long finish.
Another expression of place is the ‘Vau’ Vintage Port. The grapes in this Tinta Roriz-dominant blend come from Sandeman’s 73-hectare Quinta do Vau estate. The 1999 showcases the bright red fruit character of Tinta Roriz alongside the tertiary complexity of decades of bottle age.
A Vintage Port is only produced in truly outstanding years. The recently declared 2018 has been described by Luís as “one of the best, if not the best, vintage years I have witnessed.” A blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Sousão and Tinto Cão sourced from the best plots of the Quinta do Seixo and Quinta do Vau estates and foot trodden in Quinta do Seixo’s granite lagares, this bears the Sandeman hallmarks of powerful structure and incredible depth of flavour.
The Sandeman Unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage it is one of the best LBVs on the market. A blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca, it boasts intense aromas of ripe black fruits married with a chocolatey richness.
The Sandeman range of Aged Tawny Ports is the most highly awarded of any Port House. These intense and complex Ports undergo extended periods of ageing in oak casks in the Sandeman lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia. The 10-Year-Old Tawny marries mellow fruit flavours with nutty hints and has a lovely freshness. The 20-Year-Old has intense flavours of dried fruits, caramel and roasted nuts balanced by a crisp acidity. Moving up the scale towards ever greater complexity, the intensity and sprightliness of the 30-Year-Old is remarkable given how long it has spent ageing. As proven by the many trophies and ‘Best In Show’ awards that it has been garlanded with over the years, the 40-Year-Old is the pinnacle of premium Tawny Port, with absolutely staggering complexity and length.