I recently had dinner with Fernando Seixas, export sales manager at The Fladgate Partnership, a Port Wine company. I regret that until I met with Fernando I’d never tried port wine. I always thought of fortified wines as an after-dinner drink, and there are so many digestif options out there I’d just never tried Port. My perception of Port wine is now changed, and Fernando hopes he can inspire similar change among the general public.
One topic we spoke extensively about is the Port wine industry’s need to be seen as an apertif or during-dinner option, competing with non-fortified wines. Changing consumer perception isn’t easy, but Taylor Fladgate is working on bringing Port to younger consumers and those who, like me, have ignored that corner of the wine industry.
We began with a Port-based cocktail, which was refreshing and light. The Fonseca Siroco White Port & Tonic is made using Siroco Extra Dry, which was introduced in the 1930’s, matures for four years in oak vats and is 20 percent ABV.
Throughout dinner, I was introduced to a variety of Port wines. The Fonseca Porto Bin 27 is matured for four years in neutral oak, is 20 percent ABV and pairs well with cheeses. The Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny, made by blending tawnies with an average of 20 years aging, is also 20 percent ABV, but has 111.17 grams per liter of residual sugar (compared to 27 for the Siroco and 97 for the Bin 27). The final Port I sampled with Fernando is the Croft Classic Vintage Porto 2011. Vintage Ports are bottled immediately and age in cellars, often for decades. The 2011 is 20 percent ABV, with a residual sugar of 101 g/L.
After trying a number of Port wines, I can see the potential for the category to move beyond dessert. But changing people’s long-held perceptions will take time. My best advice to retailers who want to expand their knowledge of Port wine is to speak to someone like Fernando to learn more about how they’re made and how they pair with cheeses, nuts, berries and chocolates.
Even if customers aren’t lining up to buy these flavorful wines now, trends can change quickly. It’s better to be prepared for Port to be the next niche beverage category to take off, rather than be caught off guard. Craft beer and Bourbon’s growth rates caught many industry experts by surprise and there’s no telling where consumers will turn their attention next.