Port Dating Back to Napoleonic Wars on Sale at Christie’s

Ports dating back to the Napoleonic campaigns go on sale at a Christie’s International Plc auction in Geneva next month, along with bottles from the First and Second World Wars and more recent vintages from the 1960s.

A bottle of Macedo Porto Vieux Garrafeira 1808, from the period when the Portuguese royal family was exiled in Brazil and French forces were fighting in Spain, carries a top estimate of 4,500 Swiss francs ($5,000), according to Christie’s catalog. A bottle of Manoel Beleza de Andrade 1812, dating from the year of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, carries the same price tag.

The sale includes more than 50 bottles of port spanning every decade of the 19th century, as well as a similar range from the first half of the 20th century, amid demand from collectors for historic ports with established provenance. While prices of younger wines from the 1980s and 1990s have been capped at auction by the financial crisis since 2008, older vintages can command a rarity premium.

“There’s a steady throughput of vintage ports from the ’60s, from the ’40s, from the ’50s,” Paul Symington, Chairman of Symington Family Estates, said in an interview. “Those prices have been rising steadily of the very rare, old wines. They’ve definitely stabilized out.” Symington owns Cockburn’s, Warre’s, Graham’s and Dow’s and traces its roots back to 1652.

Waterloo Vintage

Five bottles from 1815, the year of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, carry an upper estimate of 4,500 francs each, three from F. Chamisso Filho et Silva, Porto Rex and two from Antonia A. Ferreira, Porto, according to Christie’s.

A two-bottle lot from 1917, one a Cockburn’s vintage and the other a Quinta Da Faisca, Porto Favios, has a top estimate of 800 francs while a bottle of Real Royal Companhia Velha, Porto 1945 is priced to fetch as much as 500 francs.

More recent vintages include a three-bottle lot from 1963, one a Taylor’s Fladgate & Yeatman, a second a Niepoort Vintage and a third a Niepoort Colheita, with a combined top estimate of 550 francs, according to Christie’s.

The sale comes as demand for mature Port vintages has been evident at auctions, with cases of Dow’s ’63 selling in London this year at 1,092 pounds ($1,760) at Bonhams in July, according to the Liv-ex market’s Cellar Watch website.

2011 Vintage

A case of Graham’s ’77 sold at Bonhams in London in July for 517 pounds while three cases of the same vintage fetched between 585 pounds and 702 pounds at Christie’s in London in May, according to Cellar Watch data.

The port market this year has been focused on the sales campaign for 2011 ports, which “sold particularly well,” according to a July report by London wine merchant Fine+Rare. That may give the vintage a boost in the auction market in coming years as supplies dwindle.

“One of the results of the recession was that the vintage ports from the ’80s and ’90s have not increased in value at auction,” Symington said. “The 2011’s over the next five to 10 years will strengthen quite significantly because we have none left. It’s all sold out.”

Port shippers declare vintage years such as 2011 and 2007 approximately three times a decade, based on the quality and aging potential of the wines, with past vintages including 1963, 1977, 1983 and 1992.

Apart from rare ports, the Christie’s sale in Geneva, on Nov. 12 and Nov. 13, includes historic Madeira wines as well as magnums of Bordeaux, including Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1947 and Chateau Haut-Brion 1929, according to the auction house.

Here is a list of global wine auctions scheduled so far this year. Dates may be subject to revision, and links are to auction house sale catalogs and websites.


Nov. 7/8:        Christie’s, London
Nov. 9:          Sotheby’s, New York
Nov. 12/13:      Christie’s, Geneva
Nov. 13/14:      Sotheby’s, London
Nov. 15:         Christie’s, New York
Nov. 21:         Acker Merrall & Condit, New York
Nov. 21:         Bonhams, Hong Kong
Nov. 23:         Bonhams, San Francisco
Nov. 22/24:      Christie’s, Hong Kong


Dec. 5:          Bonhams, London
Dec. 6:          Christie’s, Paris
Dec. 7:          Christie’s, New York
Dec. 7:          Sotheby’s, New York
Dec. 11:         Sotheby’s, London
Dec. 13:         Bonhams, London
Dec. 12/13:      Christie’s, London
Dec. 13/14       Acker Merrall & Condit, Hong Kong
Dec. 13/14:      Hart Davis Hart, Chicago
Dec. 18:         Acker Merrall & Condit, New York
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