Decanter recently attended an event to mark the 200th anniversary of Cockburn's port, tasting not only the cask sample of the 2014, but also past vintages going back as far as 1863.
The London-based bicentenary tasting organised by the Symington family was accurately billed as a ‘once in a lifetime’ event. There was a palpable sense of reverence among the small group of seasoned professionals lucky enough to snag an invite, as they were served a procession of vintage Ports, each older than the last.
Starting with a cask sample of the as yet undeclared 2014 vintage, the wines got older and older, until the last bottles in existence of the 1868 and 1863 vintages were poured. The tasting also featured some of the few remaining bottles of the legendary Cockburn’s 1908 vintage, plus two vintage Ports that were never ‘declared’ by Cockburn’s, the 1934 and 1918. See Richard Mayson’s tasting notes from the night here.
Cockburn’s was bought by the Symingtons in 2010 following years of neglect under corporate ownership. Five Symingtons – Paul, Johnny, Rupert, Johnny and Charles – presented the wines, and explained the hard work involved in restoring the reputation of the house.
‘We found some horrors and some fabulous assets,’ said Charles Symington, who oversees winemaking across all Syminton estates. ‘It was like buying an Aston Martin which had been badly restored, then finding all the original parts in the garage and rebuilding it.’
‘Historically Cockburn’s had dominated the Douro and its Ports commanded high prices. We wanted to find out what had been behind its success and use this knowledge to help shape our 2011 vintage [also tasted],’ explained Paul Symington.
The success of this aim was evident, as orders were made for the 2011 vintage by leading UK merchants who hadn’t ordered Cockburn’s in half a century.
Written by Amy Wislocki