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Historic Tasting at the Cockburn Lodge

Posted 21 February 2024

by Vintage Wine and Port

Our MD Tony arranged a tasting of legendary vintages of Cockburn Vintage Port at the Cockburn Lodge In Villa Nova de Gaia.  Present were members of the Symington Family (owners of Cockburn) and friends from the Port Forum. The vintages covered were 1912, 1927, 1935, 1947, 1948, 1955, 1960, 1963 and 1970.  Sadly the mythical 1908 was smashed by airport handling despite being in a protective case! 

Cockburn has an interesting and rich history, founded in 1815 by the Scottish brothers Robert and John Cockburn.  Originally wine merchants in Leith, Scotland, their Port house was founded with the objective of securing a supply of excellent wine at its source in Portugal. The company became famous for producing quality vintage Ports and its golden era was undoubtedly from the late 19th Century to the end of the 1940's. In this time they produced some of the greatest Port legends.   

In 1962, the family sold the company to Harvey's of Bristol, which itself then became part of Allied Domecq until 2005 until sold to Pernod Ricard. 1969 saw the launch of Cockburns Special Reserve, bridging the gap between Vintage Port and Ruby Port. This product this proved a major commercial sucess and still is to  this day. However, production was at the expense of the Vintage Ports, whose reputation slowly subsided as a result of years of neglect. There was no "official" release of Cockburn in 1977, a year where every other producer declared and some of the ports produced in the 1980's were lamentable.  

In 2010 the Symington family brought the company and set about restroing its reputation.  Now in the safe hands of the Symington Family Estates, winemaker Charles Symington has worked successfully to restore its reputation as a premium brand. Recent releases have found favour with critics and public alike. Attractively priced below the level of the Dow and Graham, but not less in terms of quality, we consider that Cockburn is a brand to revisit and invest in. 

So back to our fabulous line up....  Here is what Tony thought.... 

Cockburn 1912. Tasted three times in the last 5 years, this was the weakest of the three bottles, but nevertheless a powerful and intense wine.  Opened the previous evening and decanted approximatley two hours before serving this was a dark tawny colour with good viscosity. Tobacco notes on the nose with a little iodine but high acidity to start with. Over the course of the next hour the acidity mellowed and the Port became smooth and well rounded with a moderate finish. Finally after another hour the Port began to fall apart losing its smoothness and flavours.    

Cockburn 1927. In the glass the Port presented an attractive rose tawny colour. The Port had good viscosity and nice tobacco notes on the nose. Definitely in the same style as the 1912. There was a smokey elegance about this wine that I enjoyed greatly. A long finsh.  

Cockburn 1935.  I love this Port which has brought so much pleasure over the years. The bottle showed well  having a deep red tawny colour. Beutiful nose of cherry and spices. Balanced and mature palate with a little marmalade. A lovely finish and aftertaste.

Cockburn 1945. War time vintages of Cockburn are hard to find and we are indebted to Anthony Symington for providing this from the cellars. We had this as an extra over lunch and this was a glorious wine.    

Cockburn 1947. Voted as the wine of the flight by most.  This is delightful port! Fully mature, big and powerful but having structure and elegance. Beautifully balanced with lovely cherry notes and with an immense finish this had us revisiting the bottle for more!   Intially when I approached this there was a medicinal note that I found distracting. A couple of hours later this note had gone leaving a fabulous smooth well rounded port. 

Cockburn 1948. Good deep colour however there were some dirty notes on the nose and some TCA on the pallate. Not rated.  

Cockburn 1955.  Lovely dark colour, balanced on entry with sweet fruit all over the palate.  Very different in style to the earlier ports. Notes of toffee and liquorice on the aftertaste. A very good Port that I rated very highly. 

Cockburn 1960. Red centre fading to pink edge. Unclean nose with some medicinal notes.  I struggled to get past some spirity heat on the palate some heat that lasted through to the end.  

Cockburn 1963.  Good bright red core. A little cherry and cinnamon spice on the nose Thick and lush on the pallate with a slight burn of the spirits.  Long finish.  A good Port that on its own would have scored well but overshadowed by its peers. 

Cockburn 1967.  Good bright red core colour. Tropical fruits, big velvet, heat mid-palate. Big, red-fruited, and heat very strong, somewhat dry. Tastes very mature.

Cockburn 1970. Probably the surprise of the tasting, showing well and surpassing expectations.  Lovely dark colour, good nose . 


A fantastic line-up  and a wonderful setting. The voting revealed the 1947 as the wine of the night closely followed by the 1955. The 1912, 1927 and 1970  all scored well.