Tawny Port over £10
Sandeman Thirty Year Old Tawny
Sandeman were the worthy winners of the Vintage Port Trophy last year with their 2007. Their story deserves to be partly repeated because, under the ownership of Seagram, then Sogrape, Sandeman had a distinctly quirky approach to vintage Port, changing direction a number of times over the past thirty years.
But in the background Sandeman have long maintained a stock of fine old wine in lodge pipes, much of it in the Douro, planning 10, 20, 30 and even 40 year years ahead.
It is fair to say that throughout this time, Sandeman’s tawnies have never wavered in quality and have always been at the top of their game.
Aged tawny is not an easy category to maintain. Wines set aside for tawny are selected from among the finest Ports, usually just after making up the potential vintage blend. In pipe (casks of 600 – 640 litres) the wine undergoes slow maturation as the opaque youthful colour fades to tawny and the rough and ready tannins steadily give way to silky complexity.
Unlike a vintage Port, where each wine is a one-off, the tasting and blending of tawny Port is a continuous process, the aim being to produce a wine that conforms to house style and remains as consistent as possible over time.
At the outset wines are often marked with the year of harvest (or colheita) but as the shipper makes up new blends and then blends of blends, the characteristics of individual years are lost.
Lighter, earlier maturing wines will be bottled as 10 years old whereas the richer more structured wines are kept back for the older blends. I have always thought that 20 year old represents the apogee of tawny, combining freshness with complexity of cask age.
Thirty year olds tend to be slightly richer, sometimes verging on unctuous and can be marked by what the Portuguese charmingly call vinagrinho (little vinagre).
But Sandeman’s trophy winning 30 year old is at the peak of perfection; amber-tawny in colour, lifted yet gentle on the nose, rich without being unctuous, supremely delicate with lovely texture and length.
This is the second time that this wine has been awarded a trophy in the Deacanter World Wine Awards and Sandeman’s 40 Year Old Tawny also won a gold medal this year.
It confirms their position as the producer of the finest of tawny Ports.