Historically, Cockburn's has been more conservative than other producers in declaring vintages. Therefore, when Cockburn's declares a wine worthy of a vintage designation, the wine must be "great" and not merely "good."
1997 was truly an excellent year in the Douro Valley. The harvest was one of the longest in living memory. At the far eastern extremities of Upper Douro, picking began before the end of August and continued until the second week of October in the cooler areas of the Cima and Baixo Corgo. The crop was small and produced grapes with wonderfully concentrated flavors, providing outstanding wines with excellent structure and an intensely fruity aroma.
Vintage Port is a blend of the finest wine lots from the finest quintas. Grapes from Cockburn's vineyards in the Villariça Valley and from Cockburn's Quinta dos Canais Estate provided the nucleus of the blend. Over recent years, some 875 acres of Cockburn's Estate vineyards have been planted to varietal blocks, a method relatively new to the Douro and pioneered by Cockburn's.
Aged two years in (old) wood and bottled unfiltered, vintage port usually demands at least 10-15 years of bottle age to soften its powerful tannins and permit the robust fruit elements to marry and harmonize. Vintage port is usually considered fully mature after 30 years.