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.
The epitome of bottle-aged Port.
Opulent wild blackberries, fragrance of violets, scents of flowers and wild herbs, rockrose, mint, hints of spice, bottled in their time capsule and left to mull over for years. The finish is long and persistent. It never really finishes, in fact, because just as it starts to, you’ll take another sip. We are not satisfied with anything less than perfection. And nor should you be. So, we only ‘declare’ a Vintage year when the weather has been idyllic and everyone is feeling very happy about things in general. Our reputation hangs on the quality of our Vintage Port: it is our pride and joy. So, we don’t take it lightly. Making Vintage Port is a serious business, but you don’t need to be serious to drink it, you only need to enjoy.
We search our best mountain vineyards for the grapes to make our Vintage Port. We measure and weigh the bunches of grapes individually as we prepare for the harvest to ensure each one is perfect. The grapes for our Vintage Port come from our home at Quinta dos Canais – a magical place, you have to see it – as well as Quinta do Vale Coelho, just next door and a little further east, and Quinta do Cachão do Arnozelo.
Vintage Port is the creation of the weather and of nature. We are at the mercy of the gods. We pick the grapes and tread them in our 'lagares' (treading tanks) that same night. Later we let the wines rest in wooden vats for no more than 18 months. We bottle them as they are: unfiltered, totally natural. And once they are in their time capsules, they slowly mature for many years. It is not unusual for one of our Vintage Ports to be in fantastic condition after 50 or more years in the bottle.
2007 was the year of the first Cockburn’s Vintage Port made by the Symington Family, winemakers in the Douro for over a hundred years. This family took over Cockburn’s in 2006. And what has the international wine community been saying? Pride restored.
How to Store
Vintage Port needs to lie down during its years of slumber after it has been bottled. Keep it in a cool, dark, dry place, where it can rest in peace. At about 15 to 20 years old Vintage Port will start to show the characteristics of slow ageing in bottle and it will taste really exceptional. By then it will have gained silky elegance and complexity. But you can enjoy it earlier, if you prefer a more intense, fruity experience. It will go on for many years after that too.
How to Serve
After years in bottle, Vintage Port throws a natural sediment in the bottle. There’s no need to worry about this. You just need to decant the wine before serving. Decanting is easy. Let us show you how. Vintage Port should be served in generous wine glasses, not the small thimble-like glasses in which most of the aromas and flavours are lost. Fine white wine glasses would do the trick, for example, or indeed specific Port glasses from Riedel. Serve it slightly cooler than average room temperature, but not chilled. It will stay at its peak for a few days once decanted, just like any other great red wine.