How To Read a Port Label

Despite our name we don't just auction whisky. We accept a wide variety of spirits and a selection of ports, Madeiras, sherries and fortified wines.

How To Read a Port Label

Port is essentially a full-bodied red wine made from ripe fruit harvested from Portugal’s Douro valley, which has been dosed with spirit (‘aguardente’) mid way through fermentation to kill the yeasts and retain around 100 grams per litre of residual sugar.

You can auction your old and rare port with us. We specialise in selling Vintage Port, Single Quinta, 10 Year Old, 20 Year Old, 30 Year Old & 40 Year Old and ‘Colheita’ vintage-dated Tawny ports. However the word ‘vintage’ is much abused and other port terms can be confusing, often labels are very similar too.

Here’s a quick guide on how to understand a port label.

Step 1

Vintage Port

Vintage Ports are ‘declared’ three or four times per decade. They are bottled as virtually black wines after maturing for 18 months in 550 litre casks known as pipes. These then mature for decades in the bottle and throw heavy sediment, requiring decanting before serving. True vintage port tends to have minimal information on the label, often just the name of the shipper and the vintage, and that’s about it.

The more widely declared recent vintages have been: 2017, 2016, 2011, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2003, 2000, 1998, 1997, 1994, 1992, 1991, 1985, 1983, 1980, 1977, 1975, 1970, 1966, 1963.

Note that not all shippers declare in all years, so you often get a few quirks as to who’s declared what.

Step 2

Single Quinta Port

Single Quinta Ports can be hard to distinguish from ‘full’ vintage ports as they do tend to say ‘Vintage Port’ on the label, these are essentially ‘mini’ vintage ports from the top farms (or quintas) designed to be consumed at closer to ten years of age rather than 20 for full vintage. Examples of these are Graham’s Quinta da Malvedos, Taylor’s Quinta da Vargellas and Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha. Look for the word ‘quinta’ on the label (the exception being the port named ‘Quinta Do Noval‘ which is arguably a single quinta port but is also its name.

Step 3


Colheita is the Portuguese word for ‘harvest’ and basically signifies a vintage-dated tawny.

The wine must be from a single year and aged for a minimum of seven years in wood before bottling. In practice many are aged for considerably longer.

Step 4

Tawny Port

Tawny Ports are matured in the barrel rather than the bottle, so there is no need to decant a tawny port. That said, if these have then been kept for many years beyond their bottling date there may be some additional sediment thrown.

True tawny starts with the Reserve designation, and extends into indications of age: 10, 20, 30 and Over 40 Years. These designations are average ages so each will include wines considerably older and younger than the number featured on the label.

Step 5

Late Bottled Vintage

Late Bottled Vintage Port (LBV) is made entirely from grapes harvested in a specific year from a variety of vineyards, which is then left to age in cask for four to six years before bottling. It’s usually fined and filtered, so has no sediment and doesn’t need decanting. These ports are meant for drinking within two to three years of release.

Traditional unfiltered LBVs are slightly more serious, unfiltered versions of the above, but usually bottled with ‘driven’ corks. They’re a little bit longer lived


What Ports We Do And Don’t Accept

If you want to sell port please request a valuation first so we can let you know which bottles we can auction.

For instance we do not accept basic Ruby, ‘Reserve’ Ports, Tawny Ports, LBV and White Ports.

We do accept Vintage, Single Quinta, 10 Year Old, 20 Year Old, 30 Year Old & 40 Year Old and ‘Colheita’ vintage-dated Tawny ports.