Haute How to: Enjoy Port


When making resolutions at the start of a new year, there are two types of commitments we whole-heartedly stand behind: those that involve learning something new and those that don’t involve a detox. For example, why not focus on learning more about different varietals of wine? First up on the list: the ultimate after-dinner wine, Port. To get the 411 on Portugal’s most popular export, we reached out to George Sandeman, the 7th generation chairman of the Porto-based wine merchant company, Sandeman, which was founded in 1790. Sandeman explains that Port is a “is a fortified wine made from the grapes cultivated on the schistous soils of steeply sloping vineyards, with a natural residual sweetness which makes it attractively rich in flavor.” He enjoys it on its own or mixed into a cocktail. Here are his tips to the most memorable Port experience, plus, you’ll find out when you should drink it, how to store it, and why Sandeman is one of the best Port brands around.

George Sandeman
George Sandeman

When is the best time to drink Port?

The best time to drink Sandeman Port is when you want to make a moment special. Served cool, or chilled, in a red wine glass it will make the sun shine on a dull day, the rain taste like nectar and melt the big chill. Sandeman Port comes exclusively from the oldest demarcated and regulated region of the world, the Douro in the north of Portugal, and takes its name from the City of Oporto (in Portuguese: O Porto, or “the port”). Sandeman’s Ports have the advantage of being wines with a great diversity of flavors and styles. While Port has a heritage of being served at the end of a good meal, it also is known for its history as an aperitif or consumed on its own as an alternative to a sparkling or still wine. In the last decades, Sandeman Port has grown in popularity as a wine to match with food (such as foie-gras or chocolate desserts) while in the aperitif category, Port has been widely recognized as an influential part of a number of classic cocktails, leading many mixologists to experiment in the widest range of mixed drinks and creative cocktails.

Once a bottle of port is opened, how long will it last?

A bottle of Port has the advantage over a regular wine of having a longer open bottle shelf life. Depending on the style it can be kept for 4 to 12 weeks once opened. The full-bodied Founders Reserve Ruby Port may fade after 4 or 5 weeks, while Sandeman’s 10 or 20 Year Old Tawny will be great even after 10 or 12 weeks.

What are the best conditions for storing an opened bottle of port?

Like most natural wines, storage is an important consideration. An open bottle of Port will last longer if stored in a cool, dark environment, away from direct lights which tend to heat the bottle. Ports can be stored in a refrigerator or in a ViniCave.

What do you love most about port?

It is the diversity of Port styles which I enjoy most. The possibility to drink a wonderfully cool Sandeman 20 Year Old Tawny as the final treat of the evening, or as a Sandeman royale cocktail at the beginning of the evening. Or a sangria made with Founders Reserve, with ice and orange slices. It seems to me that there is always a style for the moment. And it makes the mundane moment special!

What makes Sandeman different from other brands?

The heritage of Sandeman has created a unique style. Always respecting tradition, there is a clear track of innovation in the wines, the brand, and the communication. The recent change to disruptive clear glass bottles to show off the distinctive colors of our Aged Tawny Ports is a clear indication of the tradition of innovation. This could not be done without the exceptional quality wines upon which we draw. This stock, which dates back to the 1850’s, provides us with the award winning Sandeman 10, 20, 30 and 40 Year Old Tawny Ports which are contained in this individually labeled collection.

Is port still considered a spirit for older generations or are younger people interested in it?

There is still a great respect for the heritage associated with Port, but there is a fast growing interest in the aged dated Ports like Sandeman 10, 20, 30 and 40 Year Old Tawny Ports, and an understanding of how delicious these are when served chilled. There is also an ever-increasing understanding that Port is an excellent part of the ‘higher flavor/lower alcohol’ cocktail trend, and rising number of bartenders are including Port in their drink repertoire. Serve in a tasty cocktail or over ice, chilled in a wine glass, on its own or as a match for savories or chocolate desserts. People from all generations are discovering that Port can be a cool part of their drink repertoire.