A vintage Port sold in Hong Kong is the latest bottle to raise the bar on booze prices.

By Mike Pomranz
March 25, 2019
Courtesy of Lalique

While the stock market may have turned from bull to bear, investment in booze has been on an incredible tear. The recent Wealth Report 2019 pegged rare whiskey as offering, by far, its best returns over the past year, with the spirit buoyed by repeated record-breaking sales at auction. Fine wine also saw a nine-percent bump in value over the same period, thanks in part to some record-setting auction sales of its own. Meanwhile, Port wine — a tipple that knows a thing or two about aging — shouldn’t be forgotten either: On Friday, Sotheby’s announced the auction house had seen a new world record bid for the Portuguese fortified wine.

A decanter of Niepoort in Lalique 1863 Port wine sold at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong for HK$1,054,000 — or USD$134,000. The specially-designed bottle from crystal giant Lalique is the second of five decanters created for this partnership, and it broke the previous record of about $126,000 set in November at the auction of the first decanter. Making the new record that much more rewarding, all the net proceeds of the sale are being donated to The Nature Conservancy.

The newly-crafted decanter “is based on the original 11-litre demijohn from 1905,” according to Sotheby’s, “engraved with a name from one of the five van der Niepoort generations” — in this case Eduard Karel Jacob van der Niepoort — “and presented in a bespoke Macassar ebony wood cabinet with Lalique grape pattern crystal inlays created by Lalique Maison.” As for the wine inside, it’s “the exceptionally rare 156-year-old vintage Port created in 1863 by the first Niepoort generation, Franciscus Marius van der Niepoort.” The auction house later notes that critics James Suckling and Jancis Robinson have both given this Port a perfect score.

Courtesy of Lalique

“We are thrilled to achieve another landmark price for what is the oldest Port we have ever bottled, commemorating our remarkable journey over five generations,” Dirk van der Niepoort stated. “We only have one demijohn from 1905, which contains one of our first wines, 1863. It is an incredibly rare Port, the result of years of dedication and craftsmanship.”

Of course, the argument could be made that it was the new crystal decanter, not the wonderful Port inside, that truly catapulted this auction into record territory. But bids boosted by the bottle are actually quite common. For instance, though The Macallan 1926 has been getting all the credit for repeatedly smashing the record for most expensive whisky ever sold at auction, the artwork on these bottles — which is courtesy of either Sir Peter Blake or Valerio Adami depending on which one sold — is part of what has driven up the price.