What's the deal with these weird Port sipping pipes?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

Are you able to shed some light on the history of the small vessel used to drink Porto? Today, glass manufacturers make small glass vessels with a sipping pipe. I have read that this is a re-creation of a ceramic vessel that dates back to the 1700s. Is this true? What is the benefit of drinking Port from a Port pipe verses a standard tasting glass?

—Watty, Michigan

Dear Watty,

Port sipping pipes look something like large clear glass tobacco pipes. The “stem” of the pipe is like a straw coming from the bottom of the glass, which means you sip the Port from the bottom up. The idea is that you drink the Port that hasn’t been exposed to the air on its surface first, though I’m not sure I understand the logic behind that. I’ve seen that current manufacturers of Port sipping pipes claim, as you say, that the current models are based on glasses dating back to the 17th century, but I wasn’t there, so I can’t confirm.

While Port sippers seem like a nice gift and a harmless novelty, I’ve heard that the straw part of the glass is difficult to clean, and that they can be fragile and unstable. I’ve been around a lot of Port lovers, and I’ve never seen them pull these glasses out—they tend to have specialty Port glasses that look like smaller versions of wineglasses, or they just serve Port in small wineglasses.

There’s also something known as a “pipe of Port,” which has a completely different meaning than these Port pipe-like sipping glasses. If you’re interested in Port and all its mysteries, check out my Port primer.

—Dr. Vinny

Serving Wine Glassware Fortified Wines Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

I love screwcapped wines, but I had two stored on their sides that started leaking. Is that common?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains proper storage for wines with twist-off caps.

May 25, 2020

What are wine tasters trying to communicate when they describe “texture”?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the concept of "texture" in wine, and how …

May 22, 2020

Can I grow wine grapes in Ohio?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice and resources for anyone considering …

May 20, 2020

What’s the best way to keep an open bottle of wine at the ideal serving temp?

Wine Spectator 's expert Dr. Vinny offers some tried-and-true methods for cooling down a …

May 18, 2020

I think there's broken glass inside my wine bottle. How did that happen?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains tartrate crystals, a harmless and naturally …

May 15, 2020

What should I do with wine that's been open for a month?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains what happens to wine once the bottle is open, …

May 13, 2020