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Dear Dr. Vinny,
How much wine is in a pipe of Port? My friend Helen said she was expected to buy a pipe of Port for her son as a gift for his christening. She ended up buying six cases of Port (1963 Dow, not a bad selection) 40 or so years ago. Is this truly a pipe of Port? I think she might be a bit shy on quantity. Perhaps this is a "pip" of Port?
—James D., Boston
It was traditional in Victorian times to cellar a "pipe of Port" for your children. The term comes from the Portuguese word for barrel, pipa. A pipe is a large, lengthy barrel with tapered ends, and the sizes vary quite a bit—I've seen anywhere from 350 to over 600 liters. It seems the average pipe of Port is 550 liters (about 145 gallons). If your friend has six cases, that's 54 liters, or about a tenth of a pipe. Still, it's a sweet act. You can see why that tradition has faded.
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