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Cockburn's Vintage Port 1997
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.
What sets Cockburn's apart from all other port houses is a rigorous quality control standard exercised on all aspects of production. Being the largest vineyard owner in the Port district also gives Cockburn's significant access to stocks of aged wines for its many fine blends.
Cockburn's family of ports includes Special Reserve, Vintage Port, Anno (Late Bottled Vintage) and Quinta dos Canais (Single Quinta Vintage), Fine Ruby, Fine Tawny, and 10- and 20-year-old Tawnies.
Best known for flavorful fortified wines but also producing excellent dry wines, Portugal is unique in that it relies almost exclusively on its many indigenous grape varieties. Bordering Spain to the west on the Iberian Peninsula, this is a land where tradition reigns supreme, perhaps due in part to its relative geographical and, for much of the 20th century, political isolation. Portugal is a long and narrow country, which makes for considerable diversity in climate and wine styles, with milder weather in the north and significantly more rainfall near the coast. With the exception of Port, most Portuguese wines have struggled to garner attention in the international marketplace, perhaps due to the unfamiliar and difficult to pronounce nature of most of its grape varieties and terminology, which means that there are many excellent values to be discovered here by the adventurous consumer. The country is perhaps better known for being the world’s leader in cork production than for its wine.
Port, made in the Douro Valley, is the fortified wine for which Portugal is most famous. The same region also produces full-bodied dry wines made from the same set of grape varieties, which include Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo). The nation’s other important fortified wine, Madeira, is produced on the eponymous island off the North African coast. Other dry wines of the mainland include the tart, slightly effervescent Vinho Verde of the north, the bright, elegant reds and whites of the Dão, and the bold, jammy reds of the Alentejo.
Blended from the most important red grapes of the Duoro Valley, Port is th e famous fortified wine from Portugal. Though it is based on the Touriga Nacional grape, there are officially over 80 varieties that can be used in Port production. Usually, in addition to Touriga Nacional, it is only four main varieties that typically finish up the blend: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and Touriga Francesa. Other wine regions of the world produce fortified wine of a similar style from the same grapes or others.
There are numerous styles of Port: Ruby, Tawny, Vintage, LBV, White, Colheita, and a few unusual others.
Ruby ports usually pack the most value and are ready to drink once bottled. Typical characteristics are ripe cherry and blackberry flavors with stewed plums, cocoa and dates.
Tawny ports are “tawny” in color and have flavors of toffee, caramel, toasted pecans, vanilla, dried apricot, citrus peel, green figs and roasted espresso. The age designation on a Tawny Port indicates the average year of the grapes in the bottle.
When Port is made with high quality grapes selected from a single notable vintage, it is called Vintage Port. Some of the best recent vintages are 2011, 2009, 2007, 2003, 2000, 1997 and 1994. Vintage Ports are complex and full-bodied with many flavors possible: concentrated blackberry, black cherry, raspberry and spice, smoke, coffee and chocolate.
LBV Port comes from a single-vintage Ruby Port and may spend six years in the barrel before being bottled. These are ready to drink upon release. Serve most Ports slightly chilled at around 55-65°F.