There’s no denying that when bottles of 1983 Cockburn’s present clean and at their best, this Vintage Port may just be the top of the class from that now 30 year old vintage. Nevertheless, there’s no other Vintage Port that has globally shown such a high incidence of TCA.
Having personally opened a few dozen bottles of this particular Port, including one just a few weeks ago … from empirical evidence, more than 50% of the ’83 Cockburn’s I’ve encountered in the past 20 years have been corked. Miguel Corte-Real, the former winemaker of Cockburn’s who made this wine, admitted that that there was a “significant problem” with this particular vintage and he explained that there was considerable issues with the quality of corks used during the bottling process, which were only discovered after the fact. Attempting to recork many of the bottles left in the lodge did not make a lot of difference as the tainted corks had already been in contact with the wine.
Interestingly, as I typically prefer long decant times for young Vintage Ports, I have found that often times the TCA in this Port is not perceptible early on. As a “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to detecting TCA, (even at extremely low levels) empirical evidence has shown the corkiness to become apparent at around the three to five hour mark, in decanter. Then again with some bottles, the cork taint is obvious as soon as the bottle is opened.
During the past year, I’ve opened four bottles of this particular Port and experimented with just decanting them for sediment immediately after opening. In doing so and limiting the amount of aeration time, I’ve noticed that three of the four were extremely enjoyable and again, I’m not so sure that if these had been left to decant longer that they wouldn’t have eventually shown signs of TCA. But why wait? In a recent horizontal tasting of 19 different 1983’s, the Cockburn’s served in a “pop and pour” scenario, proved to be one of the very best of the bunch.
So, for those of you who still own bottles of this particular Vintage Port, I strongly suggest that you do not allow this wine to sit around in decanter. In this case you can hedge your bet by enjoying it as soon as it is opened and the sediment is removed. I can assure you, your odds of having a positive outcome are going to be greatly enhanced.