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News

COCKBURN’S MARKS BICENTENARY WITH 2015 VINTAGE PORT

Cockburn’s has declared 2015 a vintage year, announcing the release of a Port from its Quinta dos Canais and Quinta do Vale Coelho vineyards in the Douro Superior and simultaneously marking its bicentennial.

This is only the second Cockburn’s vintage Port made by the Symington family since it acquired the brand name from Beam in 2010, having bought the vineyards and cellars in 2006. Its declaration of a 2015 vintage Port is the latest in a number of innovations and investment to mark the company’s bicentenary, with the brand having been founded in 1815.

Up until the 1950s Cockburn’s was one of the Douro’s leading Port producers, with its Ports commanding some of the highest prices at international wine auctions. However its rapid expansion into the mass market in the second half of the century served to damage its reputation for fine wines.

 

Since 2010, the Symingtons have been working to restore some of its sheen, revamping the brand, investing in its vineyards and reassessing its historic collection of Ports to rediscover its past. After taking over the family conducted two research tastings with international experts, one in Porto in September 2012 that tasted back to Cockburn’s 1896, and another in London in 2015 that reviewed most vintages back to 1863. Both events identified the Cockburn’s 1908 as one of the greatest Ports ever made, and the Douro Superior as the birthplace of its finest Ports.

Off the back of these tastings, the family made significant improvements to Cockburn’s vineyards at Quinta dos Canais and Quinta do Vale Coelho, both located in the Douro Superior.

The inaugural vintage Port release from Cockburn’s, since Symington took over, was the 2011 vintage, which achieved 97 points in Wine Spectator, 18.5/20 from Jancis Robinson, 97 points from Wine Enthusiast, 98 points from James Suckling.

The conditions that contributed to the release of a vintage Port in 2015 were described as “dry with 31% less rain than average”, with a relatively cool July and August.

“The temptation was to harvest early after a prolonged period with very little rainfall, but the grapes were not ready,” said Symingtons in a release.

“Rain fell on 15th and 16th September and the best grapes at Quinta dos Canais and Quinta do Vale Coelho were picked from the 21st until 4th October; these were the 13 days when the finest Ports were made in the Douro Superior.”

While yields are always low in the Douro, 2015 saw even smaller crops than normal at just 1.01 kg/vine at Canais and 1.00 kg/vine at Vale Coelho.

Production of Cockburn’s 2015 Bicentenary Vintage Port will be limited to 3,500 cases of 75cl bottles, 660 Magnums, 99 Double Magnums and 50 Imperials, however an RRP or release date is yet to be confirmed.

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History

The story goes, that two British merchants travelling through Portugal’s Douro Valley in the seventeenth century came across the monks at a monastery near Lamego drinking a local wine with grape spirit added to it early in its fermentation so that the wine kept its natural sweetness. They decided to start shipping this wine back to Britain. The fortifying spirit helped to preserve the wine on its long sea voyage as well as giving it a unique sweet taste. This was embryonic Port. The same production methods are, more or less, still used today. In 1756 the Marquis of Pombal (Marquês de Pombal) drew the limits of the Douro region, creating the world’s first officially demarcated wine region. It is a region sculpted both by nature and by humans over centuries and is for this reason now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


In 1815, the Scotsman Robert Cockburn and his brother John, already successful wine merchants in Leith near Edinburgh, set up a branch of their firm in Porto: R & J Cockburn’s. They had many business partners through the years. And like all of the early Port companies the name changed. Eventually coming to be known as Cockburn’s & Co: the name that survives today. The Cockburn family continued to run the company until well into the twentieth century. Other families though joined the extended family of Cockburn’s & Co during this time. The Wauchopes, the Smithes, the Teages and the Cobbs were amongst them. The Cockburn’s & Co family thus gradually swelled to include some of the finest winemakers and Port tasters that the trade has ever known.

Together, the Cockburn’s & Co family built themselves a remarkable reputation for fine Vintage Port. The records at the London auction houses show that in the early twentieth century, Cockburn’s Vintage Ports commanded the highest prices of any Port house.

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Vineyards

Quinta dos Canais is our home in the remote Upper Douro Valley. Our mountain vineyards hug the slopes of the ridge running down to the river, surrounded by rocky crags, rushing waterfalls, wild scrub and flowers. It is our own small slice of paradise (well, 271 hectares, 670 acres, actually). Canais has been the heart and soul of Cockburn’s Vintage Ports for over a hundred years. All this beauty is the result of many years tender loving care. Senhor Orlando lives permanently at Canais with his family and the vineyards are their back garden. While Ricardo Carvalho, responsible for viticulture at Canais, lives just up the mountain side in a small neighbouring village. Ask Orlando what the secret to Canais’ success is and he will pick up a handful of the dusty, rocky earth and let it stream through his fingers. Then, dramatically, he will just say one word (and you’ll probably be a little shocked for a moment) – “Schist” – well, actually, he’ll say “O Xisto”!

 

The property’s 97 hectares (240 acres) of vineyard have been consistently given the top ‘A’ grade ranking by the Douro’s authorities, the I.V.D.P.. The Quinta itself (the Portuguese word for a farm or a vineyard estate) takes its name from the ingenious system of open stone canals that were constructed by hand in the nineteenth century. They carry water from the waterfall at the western part of the estate down through the vineyards in order to naturally irrigate the olive and orange groves, while also supplying the house with fresh water (and oranges!). These canals still run like clockwork today and we still quite often use them, for watering the orchard.

 

Because our vineyards are predominantly south facing, the grapes can sunbathe in the hot Portuguese summer sun, giving them their special ripeness and concentration. Every single vine is planted on terraces that have been carved into the hillsides that wrap themselves around the meandering Douro River, forming a natural amphitheatre around the Quinta house. It was these terraced vineyards, in the old days built out of stone, which won the Douro Valley its UNESCO World Heritage Status. When you see them, it will be obvious why. When the evening sun lights up the vines on these terraces they look like the steps of giant green and gold pyramids: it is a truly magnificent thing to behold.

 

All our grapes are picked by hand at Canais: it’s the only way on these steep mountain slopes. The demarcated region of the Douro Valley is the largest area of mountainous vineyard in the world. The majority of our vineyards are planted with the Douro’s finest varieties: Touriga Nacional (28 hectares, 69 acres) and Touriga Franca (31 hectares, 77 acres). We also take pride in the other varieties that we plant, which are less well-known but equally exciting for winemaking. These are Tinta Barroca, Sousão, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela and Alicante Bouschet. Sometimes older is wiser, so we also preserve a relatively high proportion of old mixed vines at Canais, which give added depth and complexity to our wines.

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Inside information

At Cockburn’s, we have a long tradition of passion, both for our wines and for our people. We pi­o­neered the move into some of the most re­mote sub-re­gions of the Douro Val­ley. To do this we built long-stand­ing re­la­tion­ships with farm­ers in one of the tough­est wine­grow­ing re­gions in the world.

Our Spe­cial Re­serve Port, first launched in 1969, was one of the most rev­o­lu­tion­ary moves in the Port mar­ket. Ours be­came the Orig­i­nal Re­serve Port – a Port of very high qual­ity, that was aged for longer in wood bar­rels to give it bal­ance and com­plex­ity but which was more widely ac­ces­si­ble than Vin­tage Port. In doing this Cock­burn’s cre­ated a sen­sa­tion. Pre­vi­ously Port was po­lar­ized be­tween Ruby and Vin­tage: there was no mid­dle ground. The ar­rival of Cock­burn’s Spe­cial Re­serve on the scene opened up a com­pletely new cat­e­gory, help­ing to trans­form the Douro and the lives of its peo­ple. It is part of our on­go­ing tra­di­tion to be for­ti­fied by some core prin­ci­ples.

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Wine Moments

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 Cockburn's  has news

COCKBURN’S MARKS BICENTENARY WITH 2015 VINTAGE PORT Cockburn’s has declared 2015 a vi  more ...

24d 18h ago

 Bob Thompson / Wine Writer, Pro (South Africa)  tasted  2 wines  from  Cockburn's . In a tasting of  36 wines 

“Niepoort Vintage Port 1997 - 98 points / The best of the 1997 vintage - Opaque, purple colour with very pronounced and intense nose of medicinal tones, anise, violets, licorice, dark fruits, blackberries and spices. Full-bodied, moderate acidity and big stalky tannins are dominating this youngster. There is a very intense ripe dark fruitiness and violet-like flavours combinied with spicy aromas. An immensly long and warming finish with great balance. Superb wine with great future.”

9m 3h ago

 Guo Ying / Sommelier, Pro (China)  tasted  1 wines  from  Cockburn's . In a tasting of  14 wines 

“Port Vintage 1975 tasting / A widely declared vintage, attractive, elegant wines, though not likely to be as long lived as the 70s or 77s. Remarkable as the first vintage to be bottled strictly in Portugal by regulation – the end of centuries of shipping in cask for bottling at destination by distributors.

Viticultural and Weather Conditions
The summer of 1975 was long, hot and dry. By late August development was looking pretty backward due to the lack of rain. It rained heavily in early September and prospects for quality appeared excellent. It became quite hot again, with just a little more rain at the end of the month, which cleared away on the 30th, and then continued hot and dry for the remainder of the vintage. Harvest began 29th September in Rio Torto and 6th October elsewhere. Graduations were lower than expected however musts showed very well.

11m 12d ago

 Mario Sculatti / Sleeping Lady Vineyard, Wine Maker (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Cockburn's . In a tasting of  10 wines 

“1945 Musigny Vogue. Oh my goodness, this wine is the most incredible creature I have ever encountered. Nothing has ever made me as emotional like this before in the wine world, or the actual world except for the feeling of love. I can literally feel the oxytocin pumping out from my brain as I forge a love bond with this vulnerable and elegant woman of a wine. The color is so light and watery, but that IS the magic of this wine, and why it must be a very pure-blooded red Burgundy as I get the first whiff... The breeding here is the top of the species; there is an energy at rest here in this glass that I have never smelled before. The aroma is only similar in excitement to pure gardenia flower or night jasmine, even though this is more of gently stewed rhubarb and strawberry compote it still arouses me like fine female perfume. And now the mouth....I could never have imagined what someone meant by a wine making you want to make love to an imaginary woman until this moment, This is a sexual, sensual experience because the mouth feel is a dancing and hovering volume that has lightness at the same time, how is this possible. Having a wine like this almost brings a tear to my eyes...because it represents all that is true and pure and fragile and beautiful about life. Wow! When Pekka shows that this is in fact the '45 Vogue Musigny in Drouhin bottling, we are all overwhelmed by the privilege of being able to taste this allegorical and mythical goddess of wine! ”

1y 7m ago

 Juha Lihtonen, Sommelier (Finland)  tasted  2 wines  from  Cockburn's . In a tasting of  14 wines 

“A great tasting at Dow's Quinta do Bomfim. Ports recent top vintages in line 2000 vs 2011. 2011 shows its significance with immense power and concentration – full of promise while superb and delicate 2000 which has always been intense and delicate in style shows already lovely drinkability! Graham's and Quinta do Vesuvio were the most impressive ones out of the Symington's vintage port knuckle.”

3y 9d ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Cockburn's . In a tasting of  30 wines 

“Noval Nacional 1997”

4y 4m ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Cockburn's . In a tasting of  17 wines 

“This 1935 Vina Real was the last and surprisingly, the best bottle for me at a vertical tasting of Viña Real. We had more than twenty vintages to go through with the friendly and openhearted winemaker Jesús Madrazo Mateo. It was an impressive line up of wines that proved the great reputation of C.V.N.E. was well deserved. The overall quality was impressive, and the best vintages were 1949, 1962 and this harmonious 1935.All the bottles came directly from the Bodega, and were in mint condition. Decanted for 2 hours. Beautiful, dark, a bit oldlookingcolor. Sound, full, fragrant and distinctly floral bouquet. Very rich and powerful. Warm, smooth but not without acidity. It was a harmonious and round wine. Lasting, gentle finish on the tongue. I had a great time with this one!”

4y 4m ago

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