Port is shaking off its fusty image as the preserve of old men with cigars to become this season's fashionable drink, with women accounting for nearly half of all drinkers.

Port is shaking off its fusty image as the preserve of old men with cigars to become this season's fashionable drink, with women accounting for nearly half of all drinkers.

The drink's popularity is also surging among the under-35 age group, a study by the market analysts AC Nielsen has found, and sales have risen by 46 per cent since 1992. Retailers are also selling 74 per cent more premium port than they did a decade ago.

The survey found that 46 per cent of port consumption is down to women, while 25 per cent is drunk by the under-35s.

Sainsbury's, which commissioned the research, has appointed its first female port buyer. Melissa Draycott said: "We believe that the increasing influence of women is probably a reflection of their growing confidence and roles in the workplace. Along with this success comes the breaking down of old demarcations."

Experts also point to an increasing trend for "retro drinks" in the past year, with sales of dry sherry, cognac and vermouth all on the rise.

Amy Wislocki, editor of Decanter magazine, said: "In the past couple of years, companies have been working hard to make port more trendy and appeal to a younger audience. There are some really sexy looking bottles now which have a very young image ...You can drink port chilled, as an aperitif, or with dessert rather than at the very end of a meal."

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