Established in 1790 in London by a young Scotsman named George Sandeman, Sandeman quickly gained a reputation for producing exceptional Port Wines from Portugal’s Douro Valley.
Located in northern Portugal, the Douro Valley is today a stunning UNESCO-listed wine region renowned for its terraced vineyards that line the steep slopes along the Douro River. The region’s rugged terrain, Mediterranean climate, and schist soil create optimal conditions for grape cultivation.
In the 19th century, under the leadership of George’s sons, George Jr. and John, Sandeman expanded its presence in the Douro Valley, purchasing its own vineyards and estates. They became known for their innovative winemaking techniques, including the use of ageing cellars and blending to create distinctive Port styles. Throughout history, Sandeman has continued to thrive, becoming a global brand and industry leader of Portugal’s oldest wine.
“The Douro is a unique region,” says Luís. “Every nook and cranny has its particularities and special details, giving birth to fantastic grapes that produce different styles of wines, but always with extraordinary quality.
“Due to the experience and knowledge that we keep gaining through time, we know how to obtain the maximum potential of each plot and each variety.”
EXCEPTIONAL GRAPES ARE THE SECRET TO SUCCESS
“The most important factor to making exceptional quality wine are the grapes,” Luís explains when asked about the company’s wine-making philosophy. “Sandeman has always looked for the best grapes, both in order to fulfil quality standards and, primarily to ensure consistency – a precious attribute in Sandeman’s portfolio which is combined with the blending expertise of the winemaking team.”
While Sandeman does own vineyards and quintas, the majority of Port Wine production in the Douro Valley involves a cooperative system. Many producers, including Sandeman, source their grapes from local growers and vineyards, as well as from their own properties.
The Sandeman brand is known for producing a variety of Port styles, including White, Rosé, Ruby, including LBV and Vintage Ports of course, and Tawny, with its Aged range being the subject to huge acclamation. These wines undergo different ageing processes and are blended to achieve specific flavour profiles, for which they are renowned.
“To create such diverse flavours, it all starts in nature,” Luís says. “The essence, again, is in the grapes. We have a deep knowledge of our grape varieties and which ones, according to where they are planted, best suit each style of Port.
“Once the wine is produced, per our experience and long years tasting and blending, we know how to work and age them while keeping faithful to the house style.”
ADAPTATION KEEPS SANDEMAN AT THE TOP
“Sandeman has always been an innovative, trendy, and contemporary brand,” explains Luís. “We’re aware of consumers’ preferences and expectations. Whilst always offering top quality and highly awarded wines – namely our Aged Tawnies range – Sandeman has also evolved through generations.
“We apply the knowledge, heritage and expertise that has been passed on from winemakers and master blenders to the next generations and take advantage of new and more modern winemaking techniques. We respect the past, but we’re always looking to do things better!
“Sandeman has also come a long way, and we are dedicated to evangelizing the Port Wine perception and consumption. This has been done through promoting its different styles in a more approachable way, calling for new and younger consumers, while presenting new ways of enjoying – cold, chilled, with ice, mixed with other drinks and even on the go with the newest ready-to-drink Portonic. We also create new wine references to conquer new tastes – Sandeman Beat is a good example here.”
TOP TIPS FOR PORT TASTING – THE ULTIMATE EXPERIENCE
If you’re passing through Porto you cannot leave without tasting the elixir that gave it its name. Also known as the Invincible City, or ‘Cidade Invicta,’ during the 19th Century Civil War, Porto successfully resisted a brutal siege for 18 months. After this show of strength, it proudly gained its nickname.
Just outside the city, you’ll discover the numerous wine cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia, where Sandeman is one of the most prominent associated names. Here they age and store their Port Wine. Walk along corridors of casks, get to know their Tawnies and Vintages and taste some of their finest.
When asked for some tips, Luís tells us “To taste Port Wine is not much different than still wines. A kind of surprising tip for some is to drink it chilled, on the rocks or even by mixing it with ice, tonic water, and lemon – this last one is to be done more with the whites and rosés.
“In a more serious or formal tasting, we must observe colour first, then the aroma and taste. While tasting it will be evident the higher level of alcohol, but if served at the correct temperature, it will be a quite pleasant experience overall.”