Mar 29 2023

Storing Vintage Port In Wine Cabinets

Like a fine wine, vintage port can be an excellent investment, albeit not as lucrative or popular as some wines. With relatively small production quantities and a limited number of passionate collectors, vintage port is a specialised area. Nonetheless, it is also a drink that can therefore be enjoyed without the incumbent guilt that you are sipping away your profits.

Typically, a vintage port is produced from a single exceptional year’s grape production, which spends no more than two years in a barrel before being bottled. Once it is transferred into a bottle, it needs to be stored correctly so that it ages very slowly - the longer it ages, the better the taste.

Only about three per cent of a year’s port production is assigned to vintage status. Add to this the fact that a good year is only declared every two to three years, and the rarity value of a good vintage port makes for a sound investment.

What are Vintage Port Declarations?

A ‘declaration’ refers to the year in which the port is produced - which tends to be about every three to four years. When producers hit a good year, they ‘declare’ a vintage, barrel it for a couple of years, then bottle it and hold back a limited number of bottles in reserve, releasing them to add to the rarity value.

When a vintage port is ‘held’ and not opened, it continues to improve in the bottle and remains eminently drinkable. Trading of some of the oldest vintage port declarations still continues, with some changing hands which are over 100 years old - and still considered to taste fantastic.

The first mention of vintage port was in a Christie’s catalogue dated 1773, listing a declared vintage of 1765. Historical records list vintage years of 1775, 1790 and 1797. More recently, 2011, 2015 and 2017 have been declared good years to hold onto vintage port.

Vintage Port Storage

For a vintage port collection to retain its value, it must be stored correctly. When stored incorrectly, the port itself will spoil and not only decline in terms of taste quality but will also devalue. Therefore, to truly understand and enjoy collecting and investing in vintage port, you need to make sure your vintage port storage fulfils a number of essential criteria.

How Long to Keep Vintage Port

One of the most asked questions about investing in vintage port is how long to keep it in storage. As long as the storage conditions are correct, a good declared vintage will keep and improve for decades - in fact, there are some vintages on the market that are well over a century old!

When a vintage port is bottled and laid in storage, the producer includes all the grape skins, yeasts and other residual elements that help the wine develop and age in the bottle. This is the reason why you must always decant a vintage port into a decanter, to ensure that the sediment is eliminated prior to drinking. Storing port in a decanter means that the port is ready for drinking and will no longer age, so it is at its optimum.

Vintage Port Storage Temperature

Constancy and consistency are the most important elements when it comes to vintage port storage temperature. Ideally, that temperature will be between 10 and 14 degrees centigrade, so somewhere cool, dark, and humid - in that order of importance.

Often if you are building your collection at home, a double-depth wine rack would be an ideal addition to your wine storage. You will not need to access the bottles, and they can sit at the back of wine stores slowly but deliciously improving in taste, quality, and value.

Damp and darkness are also friends to storing vintage port. Darkness is more important - so make sure the bottles are kept somewhere tucked away from both artificial and natural light.

In an ideal world, storage will also be in a humid environment as this helps to keep the corks in good condition. While the perfect conditions are not always achievable, as long as you get as close to the most ideal conditions as possible, then your investment in vintage port will maintain its value.

Another rule for storing vintage port is to keep it horizontally on its side, and to disturb it as little as possible. This is why so many photographs that you see of vintage port collections are covered in dust and cobwebs, as they have been left to gently mature undisturbed for often many years.

If you would like to set up the perfect vintage port storage conditions for a growing interest and passion in vintage port, Cranville can advise you on the ideal storage solution for your circumstances. Contact the company for more information.