Some companies are more interested in developing their brand, and projecting their image, than others. After visiting several Port houses and Douro quintas, it became clear that Sandeman’s was definitely one of more brand-obsessed wine companies.
We had two encounters with Sandeman’s. One was by ourselves in Vila Nova de Gaia, where we bought our tickets for the standard tourist tour and tasting. The next tour in English was not to start for another 20 minutes, so we looked around their museum. Not a museum celebrating their wine, or even the company in general, but one dedicated to The Don. It was moderately interesting, but not really what I wanted to learn about. How up-yourself to want to devote a museum to your own marketing material! Then, as shown above, we had a tour conducted by an appropriately dressed guide, through cellars adorned with spooky images. The tour finished by the shop, where you could buy your own black cape for around €100 – hat extra. And then we were given two glasses of basic port, white and tawny, and left to wander off.
Later, on Roy Hersh’s trip this time, we travelled up the Douro and visited Sandeman’s Quinta do Seixo. The very knowledgable Ligia Marques was our gracious host, and we had a great visit.
But again the Sandeman’s branding was very much in evidence – a lot more so than at other places we visited. Above, you can see the brand etched onto the window of the panoramic tasting room. What you cannot see is The Don etched into every tasting glass, and thoughtfully turned towards the taster. But my worst branding experience happened as we were being shown around by Ligia. I thought our group was alone with Ligia, but at one point, in a dimly lit room, I turned round to find myself unexpectedly staring into the pale face of another guide dressed up as That Sodding Don. I cannot remember ever having been so frightened.
Dear Mr Sandeman – can I suggest you consider replacing your nasty scary don by a friendly teddy bear or similar? Or, even better, just concentrate on your wine.