Port/Seepage Question

I have very little experience with port, so throwing this out there hoping for some info. I have a bottle of 1990 Heitz Grignolino port (1990 Heitz Cellar Grignolino Port, USA, California, Napa Valley - CellarTracker" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;) purchased from a fellow board member a while ago. I noticed today while rummaging through my wines that this bottle is showing ever so slight seepage. A couple dried, sticky drops that weren’t present ~6 months ago. Fill is base of the neck.

I can’t find much of any info on this wine. Bought it to fill out a case purchase, but have no idea what I should expect. Should I pop it soon given the seepage? Is seepage less of a concern given that the contents are fortified? I’m familiar with Heitz, but not their port, so would appreciate any info. Thx for any help!

If the wine is getting out, then air is getting in, leading to oxidation. Had this on an older 1960’s VP and when poured was only and oxidized alcohol taste, and then down the drain. Did let it sit for a few hours with no improvement.

I have had many old ports with signs of seepage. If you have stored the wine properly and it hasn’t leaked that much I personally wouldn’t be too concerned.

IMO when a Port starts to seep it’s a good time to crack the cork and enjoy. I will say I’ve had many older bottles that have leaked and still shown well, but I’ve had far more that didn’t show so well.

Besides do you really want to sit on this Port for another 10 or 20 years only to later discover it was spoiled due to the seepage? And for such a young bottle to show signs of seepage isn’t a good thing.


Find a good time this winter and crack it open. If it was a 1963 Graham’s I’d be far less concerned than a domestic bottle.

Well mine was a '63 Graham’s, the seapage had the level down to the shoulder. Luckily I had a back up bottle of '70 Taylor’s.

Thanks for the great advice, guys. I’ll pop it soon!


CJ Savino,

I have that same '70 in decanter at the moment.

This is still one of my favorites and had it decanted the night before my wedding a few years ago. It never disappoints.


Btw, this probably won’t taste anything like a Port from Portugal. It will be dark and sweet, i.e. “in a Port style”, but that’s all! [basic-smile.gif]

I bought six bottles of '85 Graham’s at auction two years ago and they have been impeccably stored since. About six months ago I noticed that every one of them was showing signs of seepage, why I can’t imagine. (I may not have inspected them too carefully when I got them.) Two opened so far have been spectacular but still seem young. I’m not going to rush to drink the rest. I know that many will disagree, but as with sweet Bordeaux I find port a lot sturdier than dry wines when it comes to bottle condition.

David Kubiak

The type of Port will make a difference. If it is a vintage - glass port, bottled within 2 years, then seepage is not good and the bottle should be drunk soon. If it is a wood port- ruby, tawny or LBV- then seepage is not as big a deal since the wine was in wood for 4- 40 years and has already had a far amount of oxidation.

The jury is still out on whether slight signs of past seepage will consistently have a negative affect on the Vintage Port. From my own empirical evidence, some bottles still show beautifully and tend to seal themselves back up or stop leaking … while others continue that process with air getting in and ultimately turning the Port into a Tawny (at best). There’s no clear indication that your bottle will go one way or the other.

That’s my two cents and I’m stickin’ to it.

Mr. Pepe, come visit us in Seattle area and I’d be happy to open some bottles of Port after tasting a few of your Pinots.

Vintage port for Pinot, an offer I cannot refuse. [wow.gif]

Deal. Let me know, next time you are heading up this way! Dinner included. [cheers.gif]

I don’t know if others have this experience, but I think sweet wines are more prone to seepage. When I was sharing a poorly temperature controlled wine store room with others, the Germans were the big seepers.

Also, alcohol is not kind to corks (ever notice how corks in brandies tend to break down after the bottle is opened?), so I can imagine that fortified wines might pose problems. Presumably the wax seals helped with that historically.

On the other hand, sugar and alcohol are both preservatives, so ports and late harvest wines should be less susceptible to oxidation.


You say that “sweet wines” are the problem … painting with a broad and sweeping stroke, and then finally narrow your comment down to German wines. That is like 1% of the dessert wines made in the world. I am exaggerating, but still, you can’t say that ONE TYPE of dessert wine is representative of an entire category. That is just wrong. Most German BA/TBA/Eiswein’s I’ve had were infamous for their short and cheap corks.

You also write:

Also, alcohol is not kind to corks (ever notice how corks in brandies tend to break down after the bottle is opened?), so I can imagine that fortified wines might pose problems. Presumably the wax seals helped with that historically.

Wow! Port and Madeira are fortified wines which have alcohol levels from 19-21% and yet, I’ve experienced a VERY low number of leakers of those wines in the past 25+ years. Port corks tend to be long, Madeira corks tend to be short … so I don’t see any correlation whatsoever.

Not sure I understand either of your points, nor do I agree with the premises.