1980 Premiership Port – Harry Tinson

How much potential?

How much potential in a bottle of alcohol?  I have recently been pondering that question because of a bottle of 1980 Richmond Premiership Port.


The Premiership Port is the only bottle of port I own.  I have never bought a bottle of port and cannot recall the last time I had a sip of port.  I know very little about how Port is produced, other than it is red wine mixed with spirits.


The inscription on the bottle’s seal provided a few clues.  Richmond Premiership Port is 1978 “show” vintage port from Baileys Bundarra Vineyards, Glenrowan Victoria.


A quick internet search offered more clues.  Baileys of Glenrowan is still in business.  I contacted them.  Their current winemaker, Paul Dahlenburg, said the winemaker was a man named Harry Tinson.


Tinson was born in China where his father was a master mariner.  He lived in China until the Second World War.  He was interned during the war.


After being released, he travelled by boat with his wife and mother to Perth before settling in Sydney.  In 1951, he graduated with an honours degree in physical chemistry from the University of Sydney.  The following year he added a Master’s degree.


In the early seventies, Tinson was appointed Chief Executive and Winemaker with Bailey’s of Glenrowan.  He was described as a ‘big, heavy, dry red man’ based on the wine he made.


In 1978, when Tinson created the vintage port, he must’ve been about 50.  Two years later, Tinson’s port was bottled and marketed.  Some of those bottles ended up with a label, Richmond Premiership Port.


Tinson spent 15 years with Bailey’s of Glenrowan, working with aged wine stock to create magnificent fortified wine.  In that time, he helped Baileys of Glenrowan build a reputation as quality makers of red wine and fortified wines.  It is said he was more adventurous than many of his peers.


In 1986, Tinson retired from Baileys of Glenrowan and opened his own winery, HJT Vineyards, a few kilometres up the road.  Tinson died in 1995 but his winemaking legacy lives on through his daughter, Wendy Cameron, who was awarded the qualification of Master of Wine in 2015.

The unopened bottle of 1980 Richmond Premiership Port belonged to my grandfather, Pa (Bill) who followed Richmond.  His wife Rita also followed Richmond.


Rita and Pa lived seven houses down the road from us on Jacaranda Street in Oak Park.  Pa didn’t talk much.  Rita did his talking for him.  He seemed a man without animation.  He didn’t smile for free but was rarely grumpy.  He was about 180cm tall, with biceps like boulders and a chest like a barrel.  He had pale blue eyes that rarely betrayed his emotions.


I have fond memories of Rita and Pa.  Each Saturday and Sunday, my brother Nick and I would wander down the street for breakfast.  On Sundays we’d watch A Pleasant Sunday Morning on the ABC while eating breakfast.  Much of the talk was about sport.


Rita loved football.  She loved cricket.  Pa played football for years in regional Victoria.  Rita couldn’t watch football without shrieking at the television.  Pa was content to watch in silence.  He also liked listening to the football, building an old radio into a shelf in the kitchen, tracing speaker cable around the walls and mounting speakers so the football could be heard.


Richmond won the 1980 premiership against Collingwood by a then record margin of 81-points.  When Pa bought the bottle of Premiership Port, he proudly showed me, smiling and giving me a wink.  It made me feel good.


I remember looking at the bottle, wondering if he would ever drink it.  I never saw Pa drink alcohol.  Rita didn’t drink either.  I thought it was strange that he bought the bottle, but success can open anyone’s wallet.


Pa was 82 when he died in 1992.  As Rita aged, a doctor told her that she shouldn’t watch football anymore because it was no good for her heart.  Rita lived in the house Pa built until she died aged 99 in 2007.  After her death, Richmond lost six consecutive games.


Thanks to my father, Bill, and my aunt Pam, I inherited the bottle of Premiership Port.  I resolved not to open it until Richmond won another premiership.


For decades, Richmond has been hopeless, experiencing a number of ‘lost years’ and fruitless rebuilds.  It is said the club never recovered from losing the 1982 grand final to Carlton.  A succession of coaches and players has failed to restore Richmond to glory.


History has hated Richmond until now.  I have never hated Richmond, unless they’re playing North Melbourne.  It is natural that I have a soft spot for Richmond, based on my grandparent’s love of the Tigers.


At the weekend, when Richmond defeated Greater Western Sydney, I took the Premiership Port from its case, where it has lay with little disturbance for the past decade.  As I held it, I wondered how much potential it held.  A premiership, perhaps.


I have no idea how adventurous Tinson was when he made the batch.  Paul Dahlenburg filled in the gaps.  The type of grape used to make the Premiership Port is highly likely to be Shiraz, a dark-skinned grape grown the world over to produce red wine.


Dahlenburg said the Premiership Port was a special batch of vintage port released two years after production.  Vineyard records don’t reveal how many bottles were produced.  My bottle is number 17187.


It’s unclear what the bottle number signifies, but Dahlenburg is sure of the quality of the port, and who all at Baileys of Glenrowan are supporting in the grand final.


‘Needless to say we are all Richmond fans here at the moment, indeed our Cellar Manager will be at the game,’ Dahlenburg said.


‘Harry Tinson was one of Baileys most revered winemakers who loved making vintage ports.  The port should be fantastic if cellared well and the cork is in good shape.’


That is a relief, somewhat.  Unfortunately, the Premiership Port has never been cellared well.  In my grandparent’s house in Melbourne, it lay on a shelf in the lounge for 27-years.  The last 10-years it has resided in my house in Brisbane.  It has always been a victim to temperature.


It has been lying down mostly, so the cork should be fine.  The bottle was also sealed with a screw-top lid.  Nothing can get inside.


It’s the uncontrolled temperature that has me worried.  Queensland can get hot.  Melbourne can get hot too.


Regardless, Dahlenburg offered a few tips on how to drink it.


‘I would stand it upright later this week and after the Tigers win, decant it into a jug leaving bottom sludge/sediment in the bottle,’ he said.  ‘Rinse the sediment out of the bottle with warm water and tip sediment down the drain.  Allow the bottle to drip dry and pour the contents of the jug back into bottle and serve.’


The whole process should take me about 10 minutes.  The Premiership Port can then be poured into glasses and sniffed and sipped.


‘Celebrate it,’ Dahlenburg said.  ‘It is best consumed within 30 minutes of decanting. Would be good with some fine cheeses and quince paste.’


Now I know what to do with it and what to eat with it.  I need Richmond to win the premiership so I can drink it.  A few mates suggested I sell it to a Richmond fan because I am a North Melbourne supporter.


Dahlenburg suggested I might make a few dollars.  ‘It could be priceless to a long-suffering Tiger fan,’ he said.


Priceless.  A premiership would be priceless.  My cousin Pat is a Richmond fan.  He asked me to bring the bottle to Melbourne.  I can’t do that.  It has already travelled once by plane from Melbourne to Brisbane, emerging unbroken.  It is too great a risk to attempt it again.


If Richmond win the premiership, I will do as Dahlenburg said then drink a toast to Rita and Pa, and Pat and all the long-suffering Richmond fans.  I’ll also drink a toast to Harry Tinson and Baileys of Glenrowan.


Tinson was renowned as man of vision when it came to wine.  He created a batch of port that ultimately honoured a premiership.


It has been a long time between drinks…

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Brilliant.

    Thank you.

  2. george smith says

    Thanks for more memories of the 1980s. Those Baileys Premiership ports were opened one by one in 1990, 1996, 2005, 2007 depending on who you barracked for. I remember buying a Geelong premiership port for my uncle. Sadly he never opened it because he died in 1991. My Magpies premiership port was proudly opened for Christmas 1990. And my nephew, cellarmaster and proud Collingwood supporter, has got me another one recently, but it’s an Angoves, not a Baileys.

    Here’s hoping for a soon to be opened occasion for that port, in spite of Schrödinger’s coach…

  3. We have a bottle..
    we are debating to sell it or drink it
    Does anyone know how much they are worth?

  4. At our house? Better to drink it.

  5. matt watson says

    Hi Jane,
    There was a bottle on eBay two weeks ago with a starting bid at $70.
    Not sure how legitimate it was.
    I’m going to drink it. It’s worth more to me that way…

  6. Matt
    The stories behind these bottles are usually far better than the wine itself as your piece demonstrates.
    Coincidentally one of my few remaining bottles from my wine collecting days is a 1980 Baileys HJT Hermitage also made by the late Harry Tinson. As the top Bailey’s red at the time, the HJT was built to last and I decided some years ago to put it to the ultimate test – opening it only when Richmond won its next flag and finally putting the ghosts of 1980 to rest!
    I’m not hopeful that after 37 years it will be in great shape but when I retrieved it from under the house the other day I was pleasantly surprised that the level hasn’t dropped too much. So you never know… it will be uncorked in the near future at a special viewing of the GF when all the Richmond tragics of our family are together. I’ll provide my tasting notes along with the match report!

  7. Shayne M Mooney says

    Drank my Dad’s bottle on Grand Final night with my Dad, Mum, wife and my two sisters…was glorious!!!

  8. Grant Fraser says

    Matt I have kept my bottle of 1976 premiership port (same series, different beast on the label)…topped up frequently due to my good fortune to follow the brown and gold.

    The liquid always tastes oh so sweet every successful grand final night.

  9. Mark Connors says

    Great story Matt. Thanks.
    I have the same Richmond Port that I bought at a wine Auction at MW Wines. I went to the match and am going to open it with some Tiger friends when we watch the replay soon. Bottle number 10781.
    I also bought a Geelong one which is the 1980 vintage from Mildara Wines and a Saints one which I gave to a Saints supporter friend.
    Go Tigers!

  10. Darren cheeseman says

    Ive got a tigers 1978 club port unopened what the current value any idea? Regards darren

  11. matt watson says

    I’m not sure what it is worth.
    There are bottles of 1980 Richmond Premiership Port on eBay ranging from $71 to $1500.

    Stainless, my bottle is in preparation for opening!!

    Mark, I’m glad there are/were a few bottles getting around still!!

  12. Paul Young says

    I ordered a bottle of North Melbourne 1999 premiership Port and must have stuffed the order up because somehow ended up with two. One was signed by Mick Martin, the other signed by Denis Pagan.

    The “Mick Martin” I donated to the Kangarilla Football Club at a wine auction, two years ago and it went for $100 (from memory).

    The “Denis Pagan” I’m waiting for North’s next premiership before I open it.

    While Brad Scott’s there, at least it will get to age several more years……

  13. Kieran Magee says

    Will be opening mine tonight along with replay with some mates. Thanks for the info on how to decant and serve. Hopefully it has survived the journey in better shape than I have since 1980.

  14. Kieran
    See my report on the 1980 red (not Port) from the same winemaker. You should be in for a good experience!

  15. I have the complete set of 12 bottles of VFL premiership port, i have no clue what they could be worth.

    I also saw the Richmond bottle for say on eBay for $1500 – tell him he’s dreaming!!

  16. Goodness, when i saw the caption , 1980 Premiership Port, i could only conceive it was about Port Melbourne winning the VFA, 1st division flag. It was the first of a trifecta. They’ve been a tad sparse since, with only two more flags including 2017.

    I’d watched the premierships of 1974, 1976, 1977 on TV, but this was the first time i’d actually been there, part of a crowd of just over 22,000. Coburg had finished the season top of the table, Port Melbourne second. Only one side had beaten Coburg that year: Port Melbourne, winning both home and away clashes, then the second semi final. The grand final may have gone to Coburg,with Port Melbourne only kicking 2-9 in the first half, and still being 17 points down @ 3/4 time. However a big final term got us home by 11-15-81 to Coburg 10-10-70.

    That’s 1980 premiership Port to me.


  17. susan nowland says

    I have a limited edition. there wre only 1000 made from the Port Adelaide Magpies 100 club. the bottle has players names on it where they have played a miminum of 100 games and is signed by all. This bottle was 0153 when purchased. One of the early ones. I would like to sell it but not sure how much. It is unopened but the wind is nearly gone. Can anyone give me a idea

  18. What would a sealed bottle of 1964 Melbourne premiership port number 06422 be currently worth???

  19. Alicia Thomas says

    I have the wooden boxed 1984/1985 back to back Essendon port.
    I am currently debating what to do with it but I have no idea where to start and also no idea what sort of price it would sell for if it were to sell. If you can, can you please send me some information on the yalumba S.A port. It is in perfect condition and never opened. I can’t find anything online regarding them so have no starting spot for them. Thanks in advance and I look forward to hearing from you:)

  20. We have a full set of 12 premiership ports from 1980. Wondering about selling. Would anyone know where is best to sell them and what prices we would be looking at?

  21. Whilst I don’t own any bottles of port wine (although I suspect Mrs Fisho does) a friend of mine, Jim (now deceased) had a small collection of them. Included was a very expensive one ( worth at least $500 – possibly more then). Well he lived with his Auntie Mavis.

    One day, whilst playing golf, his Auntie had a friend over for a visit. On his arrival back home Jim was horrified to see that the two of them had drank almost half the bottle of that expensive bottle.

    Serves him right for not telling her about it. Jim didn’t say if they enjoyed it.

  22. PS That incident occurred between 30 and 35 years ago. In those days 5 grand was big biccies.

  23. I have a 1981 Swans premiership bottle is it worth anything?

  24. matt watson says

    Hi Nelly,
    I’m not sure.
    It would be worth something to a diehard Swans supporter.

  25. interested? Ackland says

    I also collected the 12 different vfl ports released in the 80,s.
    I have 2 complete sets and also wonder what they are worth.
    Anyone interesred?

  26. I’ve got the full set of 12 if anyone wants to make a serious offer :)

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