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 university students in Porto, while the wide-brimmed hat was a nod to the family’s presence in Jerez. Today, the wines are good enough to be every bit as famous as the image of the Don. Since Sogrape bought Sandeman in 2002, the major improvements and investment that has taken place in the vineyards and the winemaking has seen the wines rise to the top of the tree in Port. The production of Port – especially Tawny – requires patience and a long-term vision, something which explains why families like the Guedes are among the major players in the Port business today.
The soil in the Douro Valley is made up of schist – a slate-like metamorphic rock that is rich in nutrients and has useful water retention properties. The vines are grown on terraces cut into the steep hillsides of the Douro Valley. The terraces are walled with cut schist to prevent erosion, otherwise torrential rains would wash loose stones down the slopes and into the river. Each terrace can hold up to three rows of vines.
Grapes for Sandeman ports are hand-picked and harvest timing is decided according to the style intended. For tawnies, grapes are picked with an acidity structure which emphasises freshness in the final bottled wine, as this is crucial for creating balance in wood-aged styles. They are also more delicate and aromatic than the grapes used for bottle-aged ports (e.g., late bottled vintage and vintage styles). The grapes are destemmed and crushed before fermentation at controlled temperatures, with skin maceration to extract tannin, colour and flavour. For tawny styles, this process is done in overhead stainless steel fermentation vessels with punch downs and pumping over, unlike for bottle-aged styles ports which are fermented in shallow granite lagares. The moment of fortification with a neutral grape spirit is chosen by the winemaker following strict control of fermentation temperatures and must densities according to the vine variety, maturation stage and the final sweetness required. After the harvest, the wines remain in the Douro until the following spring, when they are taken to Vila Nova de Gaia and enter Sandeman’s centuries-old lodges for ageing in small, used oak barrels. Over the years, the wines selected for this 10 Year Old Tawny are carefully tasted, analysed and racked from lees. The final blend results from a selection of wines between 9-12 years of age, composed to maintain consistency and character.
The wine has an intense and bright red tawny colour with shades of brick red, typical of this style of Port. The aroma is elegant and complex, combining ripe fruit, jam and nuts, with hints of vanilla and raisins. Sandeman 10 Year Old Tawny is an incredibly flavoursome, full-bodied and appealing wine, with a very persistent finish. Serve this chilled in a proper wine glass to allow the perfumes to express themselves.