Port, the after-dinner tipple of choice for the gout-suffering classes, is attempting to shake off its stuffy image with a new pink version aimed at elusive female drinkers.

Its creators hope their innovation will stem a sales slump stretching back for a quarter of a century. Pink port, from Croft, will hit the stores this spring in time for what Fladgate Partnership, the Portuguese port maker behind the brand, hopes will be a summer rush.

Tiego Trigo, Fladgate's UK market manager, said: "Port is perceived as a winter drink so we hope a rosé version will increase sales in the warmer months." Like rosé wine, pink port is best served chilled.

The prospect of a port makeover has divided experts. Guy Woodward, editor of Decanter magazine, called an M&S version "worryingly close to the alcopop market". But Lulie Halstead, chief executive of the market analyst Wine Intelligence, was less wary. "Initially consumers will struggle to understand what it is and when to drink it, but I think they will like it."

The last shake-up in the port industry came in 1970, when late bottled vintages were introduced. And it is more than 70 years since Taylor's launched white port.

However, this lack of innovation has cost port dear; as its oldest fans die off, sales declines have seen the value of fortified drinks overall in the UK fall by between five and 15 per cent a year for the past 25 years, say Wine Intelligence.

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