Oddbins, too, has launched a “refreshed port range” in time for Christmas with new ports from family-owned company Churchill’s, plus additional lines from its current suppliers.
Oddbins buyer Ana Sapungiu says she has seen a shift in consumers’ interest in the category. “We have noticed that Tawny port is becoming more popular and we have responded to this by ordering two new Tawny ports, Noval 10 Year Old and Taylor’s 10 Year Old in 37.5cl,” she says.
“We are launching a white port from Churchill’s in a 50cl bottle for the first time. This will have distribution in a selected number of stores.”?Sapungiu says white port is being used to reach customers who are not traditional port drinkers. They’re either enjoying it as an aperitif or using it in cocktails or with a mixer, like white port and tonic, she says.
Mark Symonds, marketing controller for John E Fells, which distributes Symington Family Estates, and includes the port houses of Graham’s, Dow’s and Smith Woodhouse, agrees white port has come back into fashion.
“White port is popular – but clearly growing white grapes in the Douro Valley is very difficult. There is a resurgence but you have to put it in context – ruby still makes up the vast majority of sales,” he says.
According to Nielsen, the port market is worth £73 million, up 2% from last year. Of this, standard and premium ruby accounts for three-quarters of volume sold in the off-trade.
However, Andrew Bird, category manager of M&S wines, beers and spirits, believes there has also been a change in how consumers view port.
“People are enjoying lighter, fresher styles such as white and pink port. We have encouraged customers to drink these as long drinks with soda or lemonade and serve over ice.
“At the other extreme, there is growing interest in vintage port, as people recognise what great value these wines are as gifts compared with fine Bordeaux or Burgundy.”?The port category is still very much a seasonal one, according to Sainsbury’s buyer Vanessa Pearson.
She says: “Due to the strong seasonality within the category it is difficult to identify trends which are not driven by this and promotional activity. However, it does appear good growth is coming through in Tawny and LBV styles. We have a very strong own-label range offering quality and value throughout the year, but the high volumes are driven during Christmas with our focused promotional lines.”?M&S pink port was developed jointly with Taylor’s in 2008 in a bid to widen port’s appeal to new consumers outside the key Christmas period. Bird says this has been “widely copied ever since by other shippers and retailers”.