What is it about Porto, Sandeman and all that cloaked Orson Welles figure mystique ? Was El Zorro from Porto ? Why is port wine such a British (and not Portuguese) thing ? After all, what’s all the fuss about, isn’t it just a sweet sherry-like thing that your aunty has at Christmas which you went through a phase of drinking when you were 15 but which is not really a cornerstone of your future inebriation strategy ?
Well, maybe but read on…it’s not quite as simple as all that.
Let us just explain a few points (oops almost wrote pints…) about Port wine, Port wine drinkers and Porto wines like Sandeman. And let’s keep Orson Welles out of it (till the end).
What is Sandeman ?
Sandeman is a brand of Port founded in 1790. Founder George Sandeman was a (red-nosed) Scotsman from Perth. As well as Port, Sandeman produce Sherry, Brandy and Madeira. According to the Sandeman legend, the geezer on the logo is a caped man named Don (enigmatically) and the cape and clobber is actually a Portuguese student’s cape and a wide Spanish hat. This fits in with the tradition of students carousing around Porto, basically on the lash. The Spanish bit is actually from Andalucia, probably nicked from the sherry drinking lands near Jerez (where Spanish “Dons” or squires would roam).
Is “Don” El Zorro – the caped what’s-it?
Actually yes, maybe. It appears that Sandeman commissioned the original artwork for their classic logo in the 1920’s from an artist by the name of George Massiot Brown. This was another Scottish piss artist who liked to up his artistic street cred pretending he was French by leaving the “Brown” out (well, wouldn’t you?) and signing his stuff “G. Massiot”. Turns out, just before submitting his artwork, GMB had been to see Douglas Fairbanks (Senior) as El Zorro in “Gaucho” at the flicks in London. Don’t say we don’t supply you with some pithy chat-up lines!
What about Orson Welles’ caped look?
Probably nothing to with Porto, except for the sherry connection. Welles was a true hispanophile who loved a drinky and a cigar. It was logical step for him (if artistically punching below his not inconsiderable weight) to do some Domecq sherry ads in the 70s and get some extra cash for cuban cigars and hanging around at bullfights.
The Count of Montecristo?
That’s quite enough now…