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Unmarked Bottles

January 30, 2012
Question by: Margaret, Edinburgh, Scotland

Q:

My brother left me 3 bottles of port. None of the bottles have labels, but all have wax seals on the top with "vintage port" 1960. Is there any way of finding out where the port came from?

A:

Hi Margaret, Up until 1974 almost all Port was shipped in 550 litre wooden casks to merchants around the world who then bottled it locally for their customers.  Labelling was also at the merchants' discretion, so it is not uncommon for older bottles to be unmarked like this.  Some merchants would brand the corks, so when you open the bottle, you may learn more, or if the wax seal does not cover very much of the neck, it is possible you could shine a very strong light on the bottle neck and read the cork.  Without seeing the bottles it is difficult to advise you further.

It might be worth taking them to a specialist wine merchant or to one of the auction houses that handle wines, such as Bonham's, Christie's or Sotheby's - their experts may be able to tell you more based on an examination of the bottle or the character of the markings on the seal which you describe.  If your family have any records of when or where the bottles were purchased, or any kind of cellar book that might have information, that would also help the identification process. 

1960 was a declared year, and you can read more about it in our 1960 Viticultural Report.  if the wine has been well cellared it may be very enjoyable.  Good luck!



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