How to Sell Port Wine: Choosing the Most Profitable Method

To sell port wine, know the vintage and producer

Before you sell port wine, consider the wine’s provenance. Damaged port is worth very little on the secondary market. Photo Credit: Wikimedia CC user Ed Brambley

Deciding when—and whether—to sell port wine can be a major challenge, as one wine enthusiast recently discovered. In 1997, a family friend gave this wine enthusiast’s young son an incredible gift of birth-year wine—six bottles of Quinta do Vesuvio stored under bond in the original wooden case. Because the case was stored under pristine conditions, the wine was potentially quite valuable—the son could choose to either drink the wine himself when he came of age or sell the bottles for a profit later. But when the time came to decide what to do with the port, the wine enthusiast and his son weren’t sure how to proceed. The man explained, “I thought I was reasonably worldly and wise until my son asked me what he should do with his port, then suddenly I was completely stumped.” At the time, the wine was only worth about $150 for the entire case, so he wasn’t convinced that selling was the right option yet. Ultimately, he decided to keep the wine in storage indefinitely until it increased significantly in value.

 
The biggest issue with selling port wine is that only some rare vintages are actually worth flipping for a profit. Additionally, port takes decades to mature and gain in value, and collectors who don’t have time to wait may not be able to make a profit. This is why it’s important to know when, whether, and how to sell port wine. In this post, we’ll be discussing which vintages and producers actually have value on the secondary market, how long those bottles need to age before they will be worth selling, and which services offer you the best options for selling your wine.

Most Port Isn’t Worth Selling

While you can pretty easily lay down a bottle of Margaux with the assurance that the wine will be worth more on the secondary market later, port isn’t nearly as simple to resell as grand cru Bordeaux. That’s because there are only a handful of producers that make truly valuable port wine. Moreover, only certain legendary vintages are worth hundreds (or, rarely, thousands) of dollars. And, even if you have a bottle from a high-quality producer and a sought-after vintage, there’s still no guarantee that your port wine is worth reselling.

Let’s say that you own a bottle of 1847 Real Vinicola that you inherited from your grandparents. While that wine is worth more than $9,500 per bottle, on average, you can ask for that price only if you stored your bottle under perfect conditions for its entire lifetime. In other words, if your grandparents kept the wine in a cabinet in their living room, it may not be worth much on the secondary market. There’s a good chance that it was exposed to high temperatures at some point, and this causes the wine to lose significant value. If, on the other hand, you bought the wine from a merchant who had it stored safely under bond, or who can otherwise prove the bottle’s provenance, then you may be able to sell it for a price close to its upper limit on the market.

How to Tell If Your Port is Worth Selling

Knowing whether your port is worth selling requires considering the producer’s reputation, the vintage quality, and the wine’s provenance. These three factors significantly impact the value of your port, and could mean the difference between a $50 bottle and a $10,000 bottle.

Research the Producer

Before you sell your port, consider whether your collection contains any vintages from prominent producers. The most valuable port wine producers include:

The list above is by no means comprehensive; there are many other valuable port producers on the market, so it’s a good idea to research each bottle you own in order to estimate its value. Keep in mind that just owning a bottle from one of these producers doesn’t guarantee that your wine has resale value. You also need to look at vintage quality in order to determine the value of what you have.

Research the Vintage

Vintage port is only made when the quality of the wine is especially high. This means that you can rarely go wrong with vintage port. Still, some vintages are higher in quality than others. Some of the finest port vintages include:

  • 1908
  • 1912
  • 1924
  • 1927
  • 1931
  • 1935
  • 1945
  • 1948
  • 1963
  • 1966
  • 1970
  • 1977
  • 1985
  • 1991
  • 1992
  • 1994
  • 1997
  • 2000
  • 2003
  • 2007
  • 2011 (you can read about this vintage in more detail here)

For the most part, any vintages prior to 1950 are drinking well now, so you will be able to sell some of these older wines for a greater profit than younger vintages. Port enthusiasts are often willing to spend more on bottles that have already aged for decades and don’t require more time to fully mature. Younger vintages are likely worth holding on to for at least another decade or two before you resell them (that is, if you can afford to wait). The longer you wait, the greater the profit you will likely make from the sale.

Investigate the Bottle’s Provenance

As we mentioned above, even if you have a bottle of 2007 Dow’s, you can’t necessarily sell that bottle at full value unless you can prove its provenance. The guidelines below can help you determine whether your wine is worth selling or whether you should drink it yourself:

Was the wine stored under bond? This is the best-case scenario. It’s fairly easy to sell port wine that has been stored professionally, untouched, for its entire lifetime. If you bought the wine directly from the estate, or you bought it from a private seller who has it stored under bond, then you can ask for the highest price possible for your wine.

Was the wine stored professionally? Under bond sales are rare, which is what makes bonded wines so valuable on the secondary market. Most of the time, you’re going to buy port that has changed hands a few times, especially if you’re purchasing older vintages. But as long as there’s proof that your wine was stored professionally throughout its lifetime, or, at the very least, stored under excellent home cellar conditions, then you can likely sell an aged fine vintage for a decent profit.

Is the wine’s history questionable? I’ve known many collectors who have tried to sell their port without understanding the exact history of the bottle, and in most of these cases, the collectors had to charge much less for the bottles than they would have liked. If you own a wine that has been stored professionally for the past five years but whose history was essentially unaccounted for before then, it could be difficult to sell that bottle and difficult to make a profit on it.

Is the wine a family heirloom? Most heirloom port isn’t worth selling unless it was kept in a cool, dark place throughout its lifetime. Rather than selling these kinds of wines, it may be more worthwhile to continue the tradition and keep the wine exactly where it is. Or, drink the wine yourself and keep the bottle as a souvenir.

Although port is fortified and relatively sturdy, it’s still a wine, and you’ll need proof of proper storage if you want a return on your investment. Your best option in many cases will be to drink and enjoy the port yourself, then sell the empty bottles online. You won’t make hundreds of dollars from empty bottle sales, but there is a small, niche market out there for beautiful port wine bottles, especially those from the 1800s and early 1900s.

How to Sell Port Wine

Once you’ve determined the approximate value of your port, you can start the selling process. By far the easiest, safest, and most legal method for selling port wine is to locate a trustworthy, licensed merchant or auction house that has experience selling fortified wines. You will have to pay a fee to the seller if you want to sell port wine using this method, but very often the fee is well worth the price of admission. An experienced merchant or auction house will take care of every detail of the sale, including:

  • The audience/buyer (the best auction houses and merchants already have a great reputation on the market, and as a result, they attract buyers who are serious about purchasing high-end port).
  • The wine sales license and any interstate shipping regulations or costs.
  • The full description of the bottle (the wine’s condition, provenance, photos, and any other details that will attract buyers).
  • Storage space while the wine is in the process of being sold.
  • Advertisement for your sale.
  • Payment and transfer of ownership details.
  • Specific payment and shipment guarantees.
  • Insurance for damage or theft.

The fee for this type of service is often very reasonable, depending on the merchant or auction house that you choose. Here are some of the most common fees you’ll come across when you sell port wine through a professional:

  • Fixed fees: The seller charges anywhere from zero to 18% of the final sales price. If the seller charges more, it may be wise to shop around for other options or ask why the fee is higher than average.
  • Sliding scale fees: You only pay the seller based on what the wine is worth. You’ll pay a much higher fee for a $10,000 bottle of port than you would for a $240 bottle of 1968 Taylor’s.
  • Insurance fees: The seller charges an average of 1% to cover theft, damage, or other complications that may occur before the sale is complete.

A seller will typically charge you just one of the fees above. However, in some cases, a seller may have both a fixed fee and a separate insurance fee, or a sliding scale fee and an insurance fee. Before you choose a seller, ask them how they calculate their fees and, if possible, request a fee estimate in writing in advance.

Ultimately, a small sales fee is worth paying in exchange for convenience and peace of mind. When you send your wine to an auction house or full-service merchant, you’ll never have to ask yourself if your wine is worth selling. A professional wine expert will answer this question for you after carefully analyzing your bottle from label to cork. These professionals stay up to date with the latest wine prices and trends, and can help you pick the ideal time to release your port on the market. Professional full-service wine sellers will handle factors like appraisals, shipping, insurance, storage, and payments. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and watch the profits roll in.

Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buyingselling, and professional storageContact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.

Image by Ed Brambley (originally posted to Flickr as Christmas Cheer) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

At Vinfolio, we help our clients buy, sell, store, and manage their most treasured bottles of wine. But in our spare time, we’re just a group of passionate and slightly obsessed oenophiles--we love sharing a great glass of vintage Champagne, followed by a Burgundy, and then a Bordeaux, to get things started. We’re always obsessing over the latest (and oldest) vintages, and we want to share that knowledge and passion with our readers.