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 have 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 Malvasia Fina, Códega, Viosinho and Gouveio grapes that make up the Sandeman White Port blend are sourced from high altitude vineyard sites in the Cima Corgo. Grapes grown at higher altitudes undergo a slower ripening process, as cool nights counteract the heat of the Douro valley days and the grapes accumulate great intensity of flavour whilst retaining a crisp natural acidity – an essential component for White Port. Soils in the Douro valley are composed predominantly of schist – a slate-like metamorphic rock which fractures vertically, allowing the vine roots to delve deep to access water and nutrients to sustain them through the hot summers. Once they have reached optimum levels of ripeness, the grapes grown in these steep and terraced vineyard sites are carefully harvested by hand.
Upon arrival at the winery, the hand-picked grapes are destemmed and gently crushed. A brief maceration on the skins ensures optimum extraction of aromatic compounds. The juice is then separated from the skins and racked into stainless-steel tanks for fermentation at cool temperatures to preserve maximum freshness. The ferment is closely monitored to determine the ideal moment to halt the fermentation by fortifying with grape spirit, leaving some of the grapes’ natural sugars. The wines remain in the Douro until the spring following the harvest when they are transported downstream to the historic Sandeman cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia for ageing in oak casks. The wines are regularly tasted and analysed and the final blend is assembled from a selection of the best casks and combines wines between two to five years of age. The final blend is filtered and cold-stabilised prior to bottling.
Straw yellow in colour. On the nose, aromas of ripe citrus and tropical fruits such as lemon, melon and pineapple are complemented by subtle vanilla nuances. A crisp and refreshing acidity on the palate perfectly balances the sweetness and carries the juicy fruit flavours onto the lingering finish. Best served chilled, this White Port can be savoured on its own, or as a refreshing ‘Portonic’ with a splash of tonic water, a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint.
SILVER - International Wine Challenge 2019