One of the most amazing careers in the history of Port Wine is the life of Jann Hinrich Andresen. He was born in 1826 in Oevenum on Föhr and grew up in very humble circumstances. He just got a very basic school education, as he could only attend school during the winter – in the summer he had to take care of the cows of his parents. Back then there was only really one profession to chose from for a young men on Föhr: Sailor. When Jan Hinrich was 14 he found a job on a ship, which was on the way to Porto. He was the youngest sailor aboard – and his first trip was also his last trip as a sailor… There are two stories that explain why he and the ship parted so quickly in the first port, in Porto: The first story mentions that the captain of the boat was a very unpleasant person and he used every opportunity to make life a living hell for the young sailor, and so – when the ship reached Porto – Jann Hinrich sneaked away and was hiding in the town until the boat had left. The second story is slightly more interesting: The crew decided to enjoy the city of Porto and left Jann Hinrich behind, to take care of the ship. For some reason, there was the fur of a polar bear aboard – and Jann Hinrich noticed that the good people of Porto were really interested in seeing and touching the beautiful fur. He realized quickly that he could make money if he let people aboard to examine the fur… When the captain came back to the ship and saw the commotion, he wasn’t very happy and that was the end of Jan Heinrich’s maritime career.
A 14 year old child, in an unknown city, in a foreign country with a strange language – many youngsters would have been devastated in that situation. But Jann Hinrich made the best of it – he started to work in a lamp shop, learned the language and started his own business already when he was 19 years old: the Port Wine company Andresen.
His dedication, his will to succeed and several good decision enabled him, to marry into one of the most noble families of Porto (Brito) and to rise to become one of the most prestigious, distinguished gentleman in the finer society of Porto. His honesty and impeccable character were well-known. When he gave the leadership of the Port Wine company to his oldest son, at the end of the 19th century, he was one of the richest men in Portugal. He owned a fleet of steamships that delivered his wine and other goods to many places in the world, especially to Brazil and the United States. This trading activity created his enormous wealth. Charles Seller wrote in 1899 about “John Andresen” (this is how the English called him): “Everything he touched turned into gold”.
To remember where he came from, he called one of his boats “Oevenum”. He might have felt more Danish than German, because he chose to become a Portuguese citizen rather than accepting a German passport, when Prussia took over the small island of Föhr.
When he died, his family had grown substantially. The number of involved people and the fact that nobody in the family has inherited the entrepreneurial capacity of the founder led in 1942 to the sale of the company. Albino Pereira dos Santos bought the firm; he was especially interested in the old tawnies and the good reputation of the company. That’s why he didn’t change the name after acquiring the firm. After the death of Albino in the year 1962 his son Mário Ruy Flores de Santos replaced him and continued the philosophy of his father: buying high quality Port Wine, store it for decades and just sell as much of the wine as you need to keep the company afloat.
Since 2009 Andresen is run by the siblings Manuela and Carlos Flores dos Santos, both children of Mário Ruy Flores de Santos. Together with two other sisters and their mother they are the shareholders of the company. Andresen is one of the few Port Wine firms owned by a Portuguese family. If you ever have the chance to meet Carlos Flores dos Santos – you will for sure remember that meeting. He is such a nice, humble person… so much dedicated to his wines – he represents to me all the virtues that I admire so much in the Port Trade. A real gentleman.
Unfortunately Andresen has no Quinta in the Douro Valley – but they have a long-term agreement with the “Quinta das Aranhas” to purchase the grapes of this Quinta – and also the grapes of Quinta das Lages. These agreements give them already access to 40 hectares of category “A” grapes. But even this is not enough and the company has agreements in place with several other smaller wine growers. The wine maker is by he way Alvaro van Zeller, one of the many members of this famous family in the wine trade.
The main markets for Andresen are Norway, Holland, France, England, Canada and the USA. As they are a niche player it’s often difficult to find their wines in liquor stores – but thanks to the internet it’s these days very easy to get hold of their wines these days.
Andresen offers the full spectrum of Port Wines – plus some categories that most other producers don’t offer. Besides the usual Rubies, Tawnies and white Ports has the company focused on old wood-matured Tawnies. Andresen makes of course also Vintage Ports and LBS – but that is a segment with a lot of competition. However, in other niches this company is one of the market leaders – White Ports with an indication of age. The 10 and 20 year old white Ports are exceptionally well done and provide a lot of drinking pleasure. Of course we find also the “normal” red grape Tawnies with 10, 20, 30 and 40 years (whereby of course the 40 years old turns out to be the star); but what I like most about Andresen are the old colheitas. These are incredible wines and very reasonably priced. My favorites are at the moment the 1968 and 1975. For the really interested wine connoisseur the company has something very special to offer: Colheitas from 1900 and 1910. Amazing complex wines – not inexpensive, but whoever had the luck to try them will not forget them. Ever. Nearly a third of the sales of Andresen are coming from the premium Port categories – another proof of the focusing on high quality Ports.
As the company has no Quinta in the Douro Valley, the only place to get better acquainted with their wines is the lodge in Gaia. However, this storage facility is quite hidden and off the usual tourist streets of Gaia – and visits are also only possible with appointments. If you are a lover of old Tawny Ports you should really try to taste some of the Andresen wines. Should you not be able to visit their lodge – well, every February there is the “Essencia do Vinho” in Porto, and Andresen can be found their… Alone the Andresen Ports justify already the entry to this wine fair…
Rua Felizardo Lima 74
4410 – 901 Vila Nova Gaia
Tel: + 351 223 770 450