Wine leg­ends

San­de­man Vin­tage Port 1945, Douro Val­ley, Por­tu­gal

Decanter - - CONTENTS -

a leg­end be­cause…

With its bril­liantly mem­o­rable logo of a don in a wide-brimmed hat and cape, San­de­man has long been one of the drinks in­dus­try’s most recog­nised brands. Qual­ity has not al­ways matched the dash­ing im­age, yet there were some mag­nif­i­cent wines pro­duced in the first half of the 20th cen­tury. San­de­man cer­tainly tri­umphed in 1945. Well-stored bot­tles re­main vi­brant and drink­able to this day.

Look­ing back

Ship­ping its wines to Bri­tain since 1790, San­de­man was fam­ily-owned un­til 1980 when it was ac­quired by Sea­gram, and since 2001 it has been owned by Por­tu­gal’s So­grape. The 1960s to 1980s were a tricky pe­riod, prob­a­bly be­cause of ex­ces­sive pro­duc­tion and a loss of con­tracts with some ex­cep­tional quin­tas. How­ever, in the 1940s and as re­cently as 1963 some ex­cep­tional wines were pro­duced. Re­cent vin­tages such as 2011 and 2016 show a wel­come re­turn to form. Ear­lier this year Ge­orge San­de­man re­called: ‘The 1945 vin­tage has a spe­cial place in my heart. It was the vin­tage my fa­ther con­trib­uted to the Fac­tory House when he joined.’

The vin­tage

The grow­ing sea­son was out­stand­ing, and al­though the sec­ond half of Au­gust was cool and wet, hot weather re­turned in time for har­vest, which San­de­man be­gan on 10 Septem­ber. The grapes were small and thick-skinned. The sec­ond week of Septem­ber was tor­rid, and San­de­man recorded slow fer­men­ta­tions, de­liv­er­ing deeply coloured and rich wines of very high qual­ity and im­mense con­cen­tra­tion.

The ter­roir

As with most vin­tage Ports, the grapes are sourced from com­pany-owned vine­yards as well as other quin­tas with which the firm has long-term con­tracts. San­de­man gen­er­ally ac­quires fruit from vine­yards around Pin­hão and in the Rio Torto area.

The wine

The just-picked bunches were foot-trod­den in tra­di­tional la­gares (shal­low stone troughs), en­sur­ing a thor­ough and rel­a­tively swift ex­trac­tion of colour, tan­nin and flavour. The fer­ment­ing must was run off the skins and for­ti­fied with grape spirit, to ar­rest the fer­men­ta­tion. The wine then rested for a month or so be­fore be­ing racked into stor­age tanks and sub­se­quently trans­ported to Oporto for age­ing in casks, known as pipes, for up to two years – vin­tage Port is in­tended to be aged in bot­tle. As was com­mon at that time, some of the wines were bot­tled in Oporto, while oth­ers were shipped in cask to Bri­tish im­porters to be bot­tled in their cel­lars. There is usu­ally no sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence in qual­ity be­tween the two sources.

The re­ac­tion

In 1990 James Suck­ling ex­claimed: ‘It can’t get much more en­joy­able than this... Full-bod­ied, with very fo­cused, sweet fruit flavours, great con­cen­tra­tion and a silky mouth­feel.’ In 2000, Michael Broad­bent com­mented on an Opor­to­bot­tled ex­am­ple: ‘Pro­trud­ing cork and level into neck: fairly pale but lovely colour; sweet and equally lovely bou­quet and flavour.’ In 2002, Ser­ena Sut­cliffe wrote: ‘A real smell of smoky roses. Amaz­ing power and punch on the mid­dle palate and fin­ish, great fruit and im­pact. So frank and foursquare. The great­est San­de­man with the heav­enly 1912.’

Richard Mayson de­scribed the wine in 2011 as: ‘Ripe yet re­strained and gen­tle on the nose, touch of dark choco­late; rich, ripe, tight-knit, bit­ter-sweet fruit, very fine, firm and still very fresh with lovely length and depth.’ And Aus­trian wine critic Peter Moser tasted the wine in 2014: ‘Very re­strained in aroma and still needs a lot of time to re­veal it­self. Sub­tle red-berry nu­ances... im­mense sweet­ness on the palate, which has liquorice and spice notes and hints of dried or­angepeel. Fine and well-han­dled length.’

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