A rare pipe of Fonseca 1963 vintage Port – one of the finest vintages in the history of the Douro Valley – will be coming up for auction at Bonhams in the new year.

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Fonseca 1963 auction set for February 2016

The pipe, a cask containing almost 60 cases or 700 bottles, was shipped to the UK in 1966 – costing only £252, or the equivalent of just over seven shillings (36p) for each bottle. The Port was then bottled and cellared at a family home.

Bonhams is to sell 468 bottles from the pipe in 12-bottle lots at its fine wine sale in London on 18 February 2016, with each dozen estimated to fetch £1,400-1,600. The family owners are keeping 200 bottles back.

‘The Fonseca 1963 is my reference vintage Port, made by my father Bruce,’ said David Guimaraens, technical director and head winemaker of Fonseca owner The Fladgate Partnership – and the sixth generation of the Guimaraens family to be involved in Port.

‘If any of the vintage Ports that I make during my career are as spectacular as this 1963 after 50 years, then I will feel satisfied with what I have achieved.’

Richard Harvey MW, Bonhams director of wine, added: ‘It’s very unusual to find a pipe of Port almost untouched. The fact that it is Fonseca 1963, one of the truly great Ports of the 20th century, is even more astonishing and will excite the interest of Port lovers everywhere.’

Exporting Port in pipes to the UK, where importers would then bottle the wine for their clients, was commonplace until 1974, with well-to-do families ‘laying down’ a pipe of Port for new-born children or godchildren.

The rules governing the production of Port now forbid any exports in bulk, however.