Drink Review: Cockburns – Special Reserve

September 27, 2020
2 mins read

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This superior wine comes from Quintas which produce the great Cockburn vintages in the upper Doura Valley of the Demarcated Douro Region.

It has been aged in lodges and bottled in Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from Oporto, and softened into the smooth, mellow, distinctive character demanded by the discerning palate.

Cockburn’s Special Reserve is the world’s most popular premium port. Special Reserve is a medium dark ruby colour, with a deep garnet edge. The blend has a clean aroma, showing maturity and finesse, with a hint of dried plums. Off dry to medium sweet, Special Reserve has a rich, mellow texture and smooth tannin structure, with a long, satisfying finish. The classic way to serve Special Reserve is with aged Stilton cheese after dinner. Or enjoy with roasted almonds or walnuts and squares of rich, dark chocolate for a simple but elegant dessert.

Special Reserve is a “vintage character” port, intended to reflect a shipper’s Vintage Port style. Vintage Character ports are matured before release and ready to enjoy when bottled, without the need for decanting.

These offer the taste of a vintage port with about 5 years of bottle age. Vintage character ports are a blend of fine ruby ports from various years and vineyards, aged in large vats to retain their ruby red colour and bottled ready to drink after filtration.

Cockburns Special Reserve Port:


Cockburns Special Reserve Port is intense, fruity and rich. Beginning with a fruity nose filled with blueberries, cherries, and plums. It is redolent of dark chocolate and raisins. Underneath all of this is some ginger spice.

On the tongue, the drink offers much the same. The plums are there, as is the red berry fruitiness. As you continue to drink more of the drink, it is the chocolate that grows strong and bold, yet at the back of the drink there is that hint of cinnamon and pepper. It is in the finish that the drink makes its statement. The finish is long, intense, and warming. You will be hard pressed to find anything close to this on the market. For a Special Reserve, this may be the best one on the market. It has a brilliant complexity, from nose to palate to finish. It has the potency and complexity needed to wake up your tongue at any point of the day. It can function as a dessert wine to bring out the desserts in your life, or as a great aperitif to get the taste buds going. Try it with some dark chocolate covered raisins.

Cockburns is a great port for those that prefer older, more mature, heavier, higher quality ports than the blandness that is the Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port line of Special Reserves. It is a simply a knock out, with vibrant fruit, a long finish, and no grassiness to worry about.

Cockburns Special Reserve Port Review:

The Port: Wine Advocate 95 points – Always elegant, a beautifully aromatic Special Reserve, this is a blend of Tinta Barroca, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão vineyards. The 2005 Special Reserve is showing a few serious legs and reveals excellent opulence on the nose and palate. Muscular and vigorous, with good balance, fruit is still holding well with cherries, plum and spice dominating this sucker. 

Port Tasting Notes – Cockburns Special Reserve – A ruby red color dominates with a garnet rim. Above average legs are present. Aromatically this is bright with plum and raspberry notes. Violets and mocha follow. Those dried plum notes are infused with hints of chocolate. On the palate refinement is present. It is medium in body with very good tannin. Fruit and tannic bound together very well. It lingers long on the palate with the plums persisting and fading into notes of toffee and cherry cola. This is a pleasant wine on the palate.

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