Despite the universal recognition of port as one of the most traditional and famous fortified wines in the world, there has been little investigation into this product, in either the field of marketing or strategic management. An empirical investigation into the marketing strategies of port wine companies is presented here. Qualitative data were obtained during early 1998 through internal sources and semi‐structured interviews conducted with the directors of port wine shippers and the chairmen of institutions which play a key role in the port wine industry. Four different types of companies were identified in the port wine industry: companies owned by multinationals (MOCs), British family‐owned companies (BOCs), Portuguese family‐owned companies (POCs) and independent wineries (IWs). This study identifies the key issues faced in relation to each of the components of a marketing strategy. It reveals the importance of key issues involved in the development of marketing strategies of port wine, and in particular, the extent of distribution network, packaging, product quality, price point, value for money, direct marketing and the organisation of special events. It also reveals that the port wine industry is controlled by long‐term orientated organisations (i.e. MOCs and BOCs). Companies that have difficulties in controlling their distribution network (i.e. BOCs and IWs) also have difficulty in establishing long‐term objectives. Generalisations to wine marketing must be made with caution since this investigation was built on a study of a specific wine industry which has particular characteristics.
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