The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2013

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Page 94 of 148

PORT REPORT The Dawn of AMONG A PROFUSION OF STYLES, THE ROBUST GROWTH OF AGED TAWNIES KEEPS THE PORT CATEGORY THRIVING Tawny by Timothy Moriarty 94 / the tasting panel / may 2013 PHOTO: DOUG YOUNG "Y ou do hear people say, 'Oh I don't drink as much port as I used to', but that's in contradiction to what is actually happening. Overall, the market is very healthy, particularly in the U.S." That's how Rupert Symington, the joint Managing Director of Symington Family Estates, sums up the situation with port and the American consumer. Port-style wines are being produced in California, Australia, South Africa and elsewhere; they take up a good portion of sales in the category due to their low price point. This report is concerned solely with the fortified wines from Portugal's Douro Valley. The region has undergone dramatic changes in the past decades. After Portugal joined the European Union in 1986, a host of new regulations—from health and safety to minimum wage—drove up the cost of wine production in the Douro. Then, the economic slowdown worldwide has drastically affected sales, particularly of pricey vintage ports in its traditional markets, such as France and Great Britain. "The overall port market worldwide peaked at 10.5 million nine-litre cases, seven years or so ago," says Symington. "Since then we have lost about a million cases. It's a serious loss, but it's completely accountable by the increasing cost of producing grapes in the Douro." Volume of production has been steady, however, and there has been a conscious drive to increase quality through improved methods in the vineyard as well as a marked increase in the quality of the neutral spirit that fortifies the wines. "There is an overall shift from quantity to quality," says Adrian Bridge, Managing Director of Taylor Fladgate and CEO of the Fladgate Partnership, also representing the wines of Croft and Fonseca. Chris Adams, the CEO of New York-based Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits. "With port you have to be patient. [Now] there's less need to put it down in your cellar, because there's approachability at a younger age."

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