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Warre's Colheita

July 25, 2011
Question by: Deirdre, UK

Q:

I have a bottle of Warre's Colheita 1940, which says it was kept in casks and bottled in 1988.  I also have a bottle of Sandemans, the label says: Sandeman 30 years old Tawny Port matured in wood and bottled in 1990. The bottle is a replica of bottle used in 1790. It was produced to celebrate bicentenary of the House of Sandeman.  Can you tell me if they are good years and where I might be able to sell them?  Thank you.

 

A:

Hi Deirdre.  A Colheita is a type of Tawny Port, the difference from other Tawny styles being that the wine derives from a single vintage, in the case of this Warre's 1940.  However the wine was aged in small wooden casks to maximise the effects of micro-oxygenation (which is one of the defining characteristics of Tawnies) and bottled at a time when it was judged fine for drinking - in 1988 after 48 years in cask.  Contrast this with classic Vintage Port which is aged in large casks of thousands of litres, and bottled after only two years.

Colheitas, like other Tawnies, are meant to be enjoyed within just a few years of bottling, and are not intended for ageing for an extended period in bottle.  Most tawnies and colheitas will be bottled with a T-stopper type of cork, rather than the usual full length cork that requires a corkscrew to remove, which is another indication it is not meant for extended ageing in bottle.  That said, if the bottle has been well cellared (kept undisturbed in a cool, dark place with a bit of humidity), there is a fair chance it will still be enjoyable, though be prepared to decant, as after 23 years in bottle it may have thrown some deposit.  We cannot recommend holding it any longer.

1940 seems to have been a good year, though there were almost no declarations during the war.  Notes from our records at Bomfim say  The Vintage at the three Quintas (Bomfim, Zimbro and Senhora da Ribeira) started on 18th September and the weather kept fine throughout... The grapes generally were free of disease and there was little or no escolha (need for selection)... The wines should turn out well and in any case much better than was expected.

Regarding your Sandeman's, "30 Years Old Tawny Port" would be a blend of cask-aged ports from various years, which work out to an average age of 30 years or more.  Again, as a Tawny style, this was never meant to be aged in bottle for 20 odd years, but if it has been well cellared, it may still be enjoyable.

I would suggest you invite some friends round to try them with you, and have ready some creamy cheese or a creamy dessert (crème brulée for example), orchard fruit and nuts to enjoy with the wine.

As neither of these wines were meant for bottle ageing, it is not likely they will have value except possibly as collector's items, however we are not active in the secondary market ourselves, so are not your best source of advice on this.  In the UK, you might consult Berry Brothers & Rudd in London, or Christie's or Sotheby's, both of which have fine wine departments and hold regular auctions of old wines.



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