Ricardo is our Viticultural Manager at Quinta dos Canais. He is also a winemaker. “This is the way it should be. It’s like bringing up children”, he explained.
Ricardo follows the development of the vineyards through the whole year, making all of the most important decisions to ensure that beautiful grapes grow on the schistous terraces at Canais to make our Port. He is also responsible for the other vineyards in the same part of the Douro Valley that go into Cockburn’s Ports, namely, Quinta do Vale Coelho. He is in charge of a large team of pruners, pickers and farmers who work on the 271 hectares (670 acres) of Quinta dos Canais making sure that everything from scrub, trees, flowers, earth terraces to, of course, vines is in perfect order.
The Quinta’s Manager
Orlando has lived in the Douro at Quinta dos Canais with his family for 21 years together with his dog Fá. His wife and daughters work at the Quinta to welcome visitors with great meals.
He knows the Quinta like the back of his hand and the happiness of the place rubs off on him: he always has a smile on his face. Every Monday morning he gets up before dawn, on beautiful spring days as well as in the bitterly cold winter rain, to pick up his team of vineyard workers from their homes in the surrounding villages. He commands great respect from those that work with him.
For 40 years, Gil has been a Cockburn’s Cooper. Our Coopers are some of the most important people in the Cockburn’s & Co family.
All our Port is stored and aged in seasoned oak barrels or vats. This seasoned wood is at the heart of making great Port. But knowing how to repair it and care for it is no mean feat. Our Coopers make and repair barrels without using nails, only using dried reeds from the river banks, which they place between each oak stave to make the barrel Port-tight.
José Paradança joined the Cockburn’s team of Coopers 40 years ago, on the same day as Gil Moreira. Both of them have been working for Cockburn’s since their late teens.
The other Coopers tease him fondly because his name, Paradança, literally means, “stop the dance” in Portuguese. As he’s working, walking through the Cockburn’s Lodge, whistling or humming, he taps a light rhythm on the barrels as he passes. Although beautiful in itself, this is also to check if any of them have sprung a leak. His ears have become so finely tuned over the years that he can hear the difference in sound created by even the smallest leak.
Sometimes, while he works, his colleagues call, “ Para a dança”, telling him to stop dancing! But he carries on anyway.
The Cellar Master
Carlos has been working in the Cockburn’s and Symington Family Lodge for 30 years. He has a huge amount of experience, like most of the rest of the team.
Every month he goes through the Lodge drawing off small samples from each barrel of Port. He takes these to the Tasting Room for Manuel Rocha and Charles Symington to check how the wines are developing, what condition they’re in and decide on their future. Then he writes by hand in chalk on each barrel the date that the last sample was taken from it and Charles and Rocha’s verdict.
To be a taster, Manuel, usually known as Rocha says, you have to have a “good nose”. This requires training but also intuition. And this, he says, you can only achieve by inheriting the skills from your family.
Rocha’s father and grandfather were also tasters before him. At 5 years old, the young Rocha accompanied his grandfather as he worked. The good nose runs in the family, clearly. He has been working in the family Tasting Room since he was 19 years old. It is his job to select from many dozens of different samples available the few that will be used to make Cockburn’s Vintage Port or 20 Year Old Tawny.
The job of the Taster is challenging and loaded with enormous responsibility. Rocha is responsible for judging and blending the wines to ensure that every single one possesses Cockburn’s spirit of excellence.