Port needs to be taken “out of the dining room”

Paul Symington, co-chairman of Symington Family Estates, has said that tawny Ports are an “essential” part of the Douro’s future success.

Speaking at a tasting of the re-launched Graham’s tawny range yesterday (11 October), Symington explained that while the category was a “niche within a niche”, it was still vital to use it to ensure the region’s continuing popularity and success.

“We believe as a family that they’re very important for our business and for Port as a whole,” he said.

“Why? Because you can chill them and serve them without decanting them and they’re very enjoyable.”

Symington Family Estates has worked on the blends of its tawny Ports in recent years because it was thought that the flavour profile had become “too sweet”.

“It tastes great to start but you don’t go back for a second glass,” said Symington. “We went looking for a cleaner finish more tannins and acidity.”

Symington quoted some recent figures from the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto, which show that 53% of Ports sold in the UK are in the premium sector.

Symington said: “Sherry producers, who are doing wonderful things with their wines, would give their right arm and maybe their left as well to have over half their wines sold in the premium sector.

“We are not a category in decline. We have no illusions of grandeur but we’re happy to see that we – by which I mean Port producers as a whole – are ploughing our furrow pretty well.”

Fellow co-chairman, Johnny Symington, added that the small market share of tawny Port in the UK (38,500 cases out of 981,000) was a chance to grow.

“The premium sector is doing well but the tawnies haven’t started yet,” he said.

The renewed focus on tawny is part of the Symingtons’ wider aim to get Port to a wider, younger, audience, using wines other than vintage and ruby.

Johnny said that the revitalised range was a chance to “show the versatility of Port and versatility of old tawnies.”

Paul spoke to the drinks business last year saying how he thought single quinta Ports would prove similarly useful in spreading the message that Port is not just a drink for stuffy old men.

“Port has to move with the times,” he said, “We need to catch up with things or we’re in danger of being left in the dining room.”

For a more detailed look at the global prestige and potential of tawny and single quinta compared to vintage Port, see October’s issue of the drinks business.

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