Owned by the Symingtons, Cockburn's has the largest port wine cellars in the historic Vila Nova de Gaia district
Cockburn's was founded in 1815 by Robert Cockburn, a Scottish soldier who served in Portugal during the Peninsular War. Over time, the Wauchope, Smithes, Teage and Cobb families joined the Cockburns family as partners and together, have built a remarkable reputation for Vintage Port. Records at London's auction houses show that Cockburn's practiced the highest prices of any Port wine in the early 20th century.
In the history of Port wine, it has always positioned itself as a pioneer company. It was one of the first companies to plant vineyards in the remote Douro Superior, fundamental to the resurgence of the iconic Touriga Nacional grape variety, and revolutionized Port wine in 1969, when they invented the Special Reserve, creating a new category. In addition, the brand has always revealed itself in an original way through advertising and markting, creatively and humorously, through posters and, in more recent times, through the legendary TV ads in the 70s and 80s.
In 2010 the Symington family bought Cockburn's, returning the brand to the business vivacity of yesteryear. The acquisition was followed by a historic tasting of cockburn's old Port wines, with the aim of understanding the essence of what made Cockburn's so special, as well as a fundamental review of all viticulture and winemaking practices. In the cellars, important steps were also taken as they were revitalised architecturally and rethought at the level of wine tourism.
The size of the cellars surprises the visitor. Not only because they are the largest in the historic area of the city (they hold 6. 518 barrels of Port Wine in stage, in addition to the equivalent of 10,056 barrels in balseiros) as they are very well organized and decorated. The warehouse recovery architecture project in recent years was in charge of Luís Loureiro and the interior design is signed by Nuno Gusmão, from P-06 Atelier. The respect for the architectural heritage of the buildings is clearly visible, both in the wine stock storage area, as well as in the space where the art of tanoaria is preserved and promoted (Cockburn's has the particularity of being the only Port wine cellar to maintain a fully equipped and operational workshop in Vila Nova de Gaia).
The visit begins with the museum, which covers more than two centuries of history with original documents of the families who made this house. Then, a central avenue crosses the basement where stands out the pavement of white and black Portuguese sidewalk, typically Portuguese, and also the company logo, a rooster and a crown, to emerge a little everywhere. Here are more spaces, corridors and nooks that don't seem to end. The pottery is also a special place where you can watch the team of great-old steam. Finally, the wine tasting, in a spacious tasting room where seven types of tastings are available, and which include 3 to 6 wines, at a cost of 15 to 50 euros per person, depending on the options of visitors. These tastings can always be complemented with snacks (cheeses, almonds, others) or chocolates. Before leaving, nothing like going through the store to take the favorite wine to later remember the visit and brighten the senses.
Through Cockburn's, Symington has received several awards, among which stands out the Best of Wine Tourism award 2019 in the category 'Art and Culture' of the Porto region. This was, moreover, the fourth time that the spaces of this producer received awards for the competition promoted by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network (the previous award-winning spaces were Vinum, in 2014, in the category 'Wine Restaurants'; the Cellars of Graham's, in 2015, in the category of 'Innovative Experiences in Wine Tourism'; and Quinta do Bomfim, in 2017, as 'Global Winner'.