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The port house in the Porto-Vila Nova de Gaia was founded in 1815 by the two Scotsmen Robert Cockburn and George Wauchope. In 1828, William Greig joined as the third partner. A year later, the founders' sons Archibald and Alexander Cockburn also joined the business and opened a branch in London. When brothers Henry and John Smithies joined in 1845, the firm was renamed Cockburn Smithies & Co. John Smithies married an Eleanor Cobb. The two families then remained in the business for many generations. Peter Cobb was the last to join in 1960 and ran it as a director from 1980 until 1999.

In 1962, it was taken over by the sherry house Harvey's, which had bought Cockburn competitor Martinez Gassiot a year earlier. Gordon Guimarãens (of the Fonseca Guimarãens house) took over as cellarmaster of both port companies. Cockburn then went under the ownership of Allied Domecq until it was finally taken over by the US multinational Fortune Brands in 2005. The estate includes Quintas do Tua, Quinta da Santa Maria, Quinta de Val Coelho, Quinta do Atayde and Quinta dos Canais, with a total of 1,000 hectares of vines. Port wines are produced in the usual styles, the flagship being the Vintage Special Reserve.

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