Cockburn 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 flavours, providing outstanding wines with excellent structure and an intensely fruity aroma.
Today, Cockburn's is the largest land owner in the Douro Superior, and maintains four vineyards, or Quintas - Quinta dos Canais, Quinta do Tua, Quinta do Atayde and Quinta de Val Coelho. Grapes are crushed and fermented at the Quintas before transport to the Cockburn's lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia and Santa Maria for aging, blending, bottling and shipping.
At harvest time, Cockburn?s exercises an enormous amount of quality control over both its own vineyards and those of contracted growers. Cockburn?s Quality Control Managers are present at all vineyard sources throughout the harvest to inspect all equipment and casks (known as "pipes") and to monitor fermentation.
Cockburn?s Vintage Ports are made both by foot treading in traditional open lagars, and in modern temperature controlled fermenters. Cockburn?s historically has declared vintages less often than other houses, selecting only those years that fit their more elegant style.
The production of port depends on a short fermentation with maximum extraction of color and tannin through continuous pumping over or treading. Once the juice, or must, is fermented down to the proper sweetness level, grape spirit is added to stop fermentation. Cockburn?s ferments slightly longer than other port houses, creating a less sweet style that allows the fruit and tannin structure to show. This is known as "grip" in the port trade.
Young wines destined to become Fine Tawny and Ruby are transferred to Quinta Santa Maria for faster maturation in the warmer climate of the Douro, the so-called "Douro bake." All others are brought down to Vila Nova de Gaia to age more slowly on the cool, moist seacoast.
Vintage Port is a blend of the finest wine lots from the finest quintas. Grapes from Cockburn's vineyards in the Villarioa 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 Cockburns. 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.
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