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An industry leader with a legacy dating back to the late 18th century, Sandeman has long been one of the biggest and most important names in port, instantly recognizable to generations of drinkers for its famous caped mascot, the Don. From its Founder’s Reserve bottling (SRP $24.99), an elevated take on the ruby category aged for five years before release, to its aged tawnies (coming in 10, 20, 30, and 40-year-old versions) all the way up to its premium vintage bottlings, Sandeman offers a wide range of expressions across multiple styles and price points, all perfect for any drinking occasion.
Port has been an essential wine category for U.S. consumers for decades. But as fortified wines began to fall out of fashion in the 21st century, sales for this iconic Portuguese wine slowed. That all changed last year when the COVID-19 pandemic upended consumer purchasing behaviors—and sent them flocking to trusted port houses like Sandeman as they explored new wine styles.
According to Nielsen data, off-premise sales of Sandeman port skyrocketed 26.2 percent in value and 21.2 percent in volume during the 52 weeks ending in January 23, 2021. Such record growth might surprise those who have unfairly stereotyped port as stuffy or old-fashioned. Upon closer investigation, however, the brand’s recent success makes perfect sense.
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With its historical role as a comfort drink, the recent discovery of Portugal as a sought-after travel destination, and the incredible value it delivers, it’s no wonder that Sandeman ticks off all the right boxes for consumers seeking adventure and quality during lockdown. As the same customers explore port at home, they are quickly discovering that port no longer needs to be confined to just the dessert course but can be enjoyed like any other new wine: before, during, and after a meal, and even in cocktails.
To April Gordon, the vice president of marketing at Evaton, the U.S. importer of Sandeman, the past year has only accelerated a trend that had already quietly begun to climb. She points to the category’s incredible versatility and affordability as the two main forces driving that renaissance. “Not only are consumers realizing that port is a wine that can be enjoyed across many more drinking occasions, but the price point is extremely reasonable compared to other like-minded wines and spirits in its category.”
That sentiment applies across the entire Sandeman range, with their high net sales value per bottle—especially the brand’s aged tawnies, which Gordon singles out for the unique value proposition they offer. “Aged tawnies are much more affordable than whiskies with similar age criteria, at a lower ABV,” she says. “And if you compare them against premium wines, they last significantly longer.”
From the 10-Year-Old Aged Tawny to the 40-Year-Old, each expression represents a sensational bargain in its own right. The Sandeman 20-Year-Old Aged Tawny (SRP $55) is a particular favorite of consumers and industry members alike, winning awards year after year for its complexity and vibrancy.
Now that drinkers across the country have finally discovered firsthand why port houses like Sandeman deserve their classic status and that momentum shows no signs of slowing down. After all, that’s the thing about classics—they’re timeless.