Posts Tagged : Madeira

News from Blandy’s

Text José Silva | Translation Jani Dunne

The launch took place in the new hotel, Porto Bay Liberdade, in downtown Lisbon, property of the Blandy family, and whose restaurant is branded by chef Benoît Synthon. The speakers were the president of the company, Chris Blandy, and the director for oenology, Francisco Albuquerque.

Given his renowned passion and knowledge, Francisco Albuquerque explained every wine presented.

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The Wines – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

He said that some of the wines being launched were still in casks; they are already showing limit-levels of concentration, and thus will soon be entirely bottled.

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The Wines – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

We began with Malmsey 1999, of a crystal-clear dark shade of amber. Very elegant on the nose while carrying a lot of intensity, with notes of tangerine peel, some nuts, and notes of old wood and roasting. On the mouth, the sweetness deliciously contrasts with the intense acidity. In addition, notes of jam and quince add to this very concentrated wine that has yet to evolve in the cask. In perfect shape, it will be put on the market once it’s completely bottled. Interestingly, for being the sweetest, Madeira wine is always the favourite, especially in the very important English market, and that is why there is less of it in cellars.

Next was Bual 30 years, a blend of several wines between 11 and 42 years-old, averaging at 32, their shade a crystal-clear medium amber. On the nose, it’s somewhat floral, very elegant, intense and a little refreshing. On the mouth, it’s very concentrated, slightly dry, displays strong acidity that conveys a lot of freshness, notes of tangerine peel, almonds, quite a complex drink with a long and flavoursome finish. The Verdelho 1979 boasts a very crystal-clear medium-dark hue of amber. A very refreshing nose, intense, light notes of nuts and jam. On the mouth, a lot of freshness; some salinity and powerful acidity constantly cleanse the fig and cinnamon notes. It is thoroughly complex. A lasting finish allows acidity to almost stroke your tongue…

The Terrantez 1977 is a reedit of an already well-known wine, whose variety is rarer and rarer on the island. Its hue is a very dark crystal-clear amber. Not easy to describe, this intensity bonds with the extreme elegance in this exotic, complex, refreshing wine with notes of walnuts and hazelnuts. There is a big contrast between the sweetness and the acidity. The brutal acidity almost burns your tongue; very intense, dry, light notes of roasting, a lot of elegance and a never-ending finish. A wine with character for connoisseurs.

Afterwards, we tasted Cercial 1975, in a very light crystal-clear amber, soft, elegant, some nuts, and somewhat exotic. Softly elegant on the mouth, it feels sophisticated, almost chewable, with balanced yet very noticeable intense acidity, engaging, with a long and delicious finish.

We ended the tasting with an amazing Bual 1966. A very dark crystal-clear amber. Very intense on the nose, overdone, notes of roasting, spices, curry, toasted almonds. Austere on the mouth, very intense, it sends out notes of sweetness while the acidity cleanses everything, creating a complex and delicious contrast. It is simultaneously elegant and sturdy, with an incredible finish. A wine to remember…

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Atlantis Rosé 2015 – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Atlantis Rosé 2015 – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

The Madeira wines by Blandy’s will be bottled into some magnum bottles (1.5l), some double magnum (3l), and three 18-litre bottles for storing purposes.

Over a very well-served lunch, we enjoyed another three new products: a table rosé, Atlantis Rosé 2015 (in a cask sample), made using the Negra Mole grape variety, which came out in an elegant salmon-pink, revealing red fruits and some jam on the nose, dry, refreshing and with excellent acidity.

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Ceviche – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

A lovely surprise that paid the ceviche great company. The lamb jarret (French for shin) with mashed potatoes and vegetables was served with Pombal do Vesúvio Red 2011.

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Sweet breaded quail – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Malmsey Harvest 2008 – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

Then followed a chef’s specialty, a somewhat sweet breaded quail with Asian sauce accompanied by another new product, Malmsey Harvest 2008, a more affordable, modern wine with the same features of a great Madeira, especially with regard to acidity, the dry notes, tangerine peel, and some nuts – a beautiful wine.

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Passion fruit wraps – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Colheita Bual 2002 – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

With dessert, very elegant and flavoursome passion fruit wraps, we drank the latest product, a Colheita Bual 2002, full of structure yet elegant, some notes of roasting, soft spices, and some freshness. On the mouth, it is intense, has freshness and, at the same time, a lot of sweetness, but with intense, fantastic, delicious, engaging acidity – a gorgeous wine.

After the meal, we took a stroll down Avenida da Liberdade, where it was starting to smell like Christmas.

Further south, Madeira Island awaits our visit…

Contacts
Tel: (+351) 291 740 110
E-mail: pubrel@madeirawinecompany.com
Website: www.blandys.com

Let’s Celebrate With Madeira

Text Ilkka Sirén

Lovebirds. The most delightful poultry of them all. Sparkling wine has been the lovey-dovey drink of choice since pretty much forever. Bubbly is almost synonymous with celebration and if love would be a drink it most definitely would be Champagne. But what if it’s not?

My sister-in-law recently got engaged and as usual a celebration was in order. Now, traditionally in Finland engagement parties are not a big thing. Usually after you have told everyone that you’ve gotten engaged, you might have some cake and coffee with your parents but that’s it. A big party is not very common. Still it’s wonderful news and should be celebrated. So, a small get-together was organised by my sister-in-law and her fiance.

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The Cake – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

There was a cake. Made by my sister-in-law herself, of course. It had more layers than an onion and tasted like a rainbow. There was Champagne and plenty of it. Speeches were made and gifts were given. Then, some more Champagne. I like bubbles as much as the next guy but I also think a well-made wine whether it’s sparkling wine, white, red or fortified is a good wine to celebrate with. Being a fan of Madeira I thought it would be nice to give some for the guests to taste.

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Wine Tray – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

As a wine Madeira is as festive as it gets. A complex slow sipper that is almost unparalleled in its seductiveness. I had a couple of wines from Blandy’s to try: 2002 Bual Colheita and 1973 Verdelho. I poured the wines into a couple of glasses and served them to the guests blind. It was interesting to hear their opinions about the wines without them knowing what they were tasting. It seemed that people enjoyed quite a lot the young Bual. Which was slightly surprising. Young Madeiras can be quite strong but I guess the slightly sweeter flavour profile of the Bual made it a bit easier to approach. For me the 2002 Bual was quite closed. It felt like it’s going through a phase and will most likely open up much more with some extra time.

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2002 Bual Colheita and 1973 Verdelho – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

The 1973 Verdelho on the other hand divided people’s opinions. Granted non of them are professional tasters but as consumers I was curious to hear what they thought of the wines. The wine was much more aromatic than the Bual. Opulent aromas of nougat and dried fruits. The 1973 seems to be in a beautiful age right now. Slowly reaching maturity but still having a long life ahead of it. For some the acidity in this wine was a bit of a shock which I completely understand. It’s an acquired taste. But for me this Verdelho was nothing short of amazing. Another classic example of the uniqueness and sheer power of the wines of Madeira.

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The Happy Couple – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

As a celebratory sip the long lingering aftertaste of Madeira makes it a very suitable drink for all kinds of occasions and let’s face it, Madeira is so much more versatile than people think. You can use it from apéritif to digestif and everything in between. It’s not as widely consumed as sparkling wine so it also gives a nice personal touch to your soirée whether it’s a birthday or an engagement party. I can’t think of a better way to congratulate the happy couple and wish them good luck on their journey together than toasting with a wine that can last for a lifetime.

Contacts
Blandy’s
Tel: (+351) 291 740 110
Email: pubrel@madeirawinecompany.com
Website: www.blandys.com

Madeira

Brevemente


  • Tour Description
  • Outline Itinerary
  • Travel & Accommodation
  • Book This Tour

An exclusive and intimate deluxe tour (max. 12 people).
Enjoy an unprecedented experience with the extraordinary and intellectual Madeira wine!

Madeira Island, also known as the “Pearl of the Atlantic”, is a true landmark of tourism in Portugal. The island’s sub-tropical climate, rich vegetation, tempting cuisine and astounding variety of hotels make it a destination of choice.

The island is part of an archipelago, which also encompasses the islands of Porto Santo, Desertas and Selvagens. Out of the eight islands, only the two largest (Madeira and Porto Santo) are inhabited.

Blandy's Wine Lodge © Blandy's | All Rights Reserved madeira Madeira Blandys Wine Lodge2 Text

This island was discovered by the Portuguese navigators Tristão Vaz Teixeira, Bartolomeu Perestrelo and João Gonçalves Zarco in 1419. They named it “Madeira” (wood) given the abundance of this raw material.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, wine was the main trend, which strongly boosted Madeira’s economy.

It is precisely this product that we wish to emphasize.

In the mid 16th century, the renowned English playwright William Shakespeare, in his play “Richard III”, mentioned the notoriety of the vastly exported Madeira “Malvasia” (Malmsey). This Drama ends with the death of the brother of England’s King Edward IV, the Duke of Clarence, who drowned in a barrel of this wine.

Madeira wine was actually quite exquisite for most European crowns. It was even used as perfume, applied to scarves of ladies of the court. In England, Madeira and Port Wine often fought for the first place in the crowns’ preference.

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The fame and prestige of this wine are supported by countless situations, such as the Celebration of Independence of the United States in 1776, which was toasted to with Madeira wine!

Many celebrities – namely statesmen – were charmed by this wine, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both connoisseurs of Madeira wine, or Winston Churchill, who in his various visits to the island had the opportunity to taste and enjoy the wine.

Sarah Ahmed © Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved madeira Madeira Sarah Ahmed

That is exactly what we are aiming to replicate with this tour: a journey of knowledge and pleasure, dedicated to the noble Madeira wine, and to its surrounding cuisine, culture and lush landscape.

With that in mind, we have chosen Sarah Ahmed to guide you. She is known as The Wine Detective and is now considered one of the main (if not the highest) UK authorities regarding Portuguese wines.

Her comprehensive knowledge of winemaking methods, of all the different producers and wines you will taste during the trip will make your experience all the more enriching and unforgettable.

We have great pleasure in providing you with a wide range of tastings, from Madeira 5 Years Old all the way to 19th century Madeira. You will visit and meet its main producers and winemakers and will taste wines from different degrees of sweetness, from dry to sweet, blended wines and single-grape wines, produced with the main grape varieties used in Madeira, such as Sercial, Verdelho, Terrantez, Bual and Malmsey.

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You will also join a masterclass, which will give you great insight into history and viticulture, as well as the methods of winemaking and wine aging, also characteristic of this unique noble and dramatic wine!

Your Madeira Wine experience would not be complete without an appropriate harmonization with the local cuisine. Therefore, we will present you with wonderful meals, ranging from the most typical to the most sophisticated, which you can find here. You will be given the opportunity to taste different table wines produced on the island, from which the whites made from the Verdelho grape variety stand out the most. They are fresh, mineral, salty and have already proven to age very well.

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To ensure that your trip is fully enriching, all the information we give you concerning wine will be complemented with insights into local culture and tourism.

You will stay in a lush 5-star hotel and will enjoy some free time to explore the island, namely the city of Funchal at your own leisure.

Pack your bags and join us for a once in a lifetime wine experience!

Video provided by the Madeira’s Institute of Wine, Embroidery and Crafts, IP – IVBAM

Day 1. Monday 5th October

Arrival in Funchal and hotel check-in.

Around the end of the afternoon, a short briefing session followed by the departure to our first enogastronomic experience.

Welcome drink on the Choupana Hills Resort balcony – where you can indulge in the magnificent view of Funchal bay – followed by a meal at Xôpana restaurant. A dream dinner awaits you; harmonized with local wines, along with the mythical sardines by Chef Júlio Pereira.

Day 2. Tuesday 6th October

After breakfast, we will visit the Madeira Wine Institute, where a masterclass will take place. During the explanation on this noble wine, you may taste the truly special Madeiras. This is a unique and rare experience.

We will have lunch in Funchal, an opportunity to grow more familiar with local cuisine.

After lunch we shall visit Blandy’s Wine Lodge and take part in a guided tour of the museum, the aging cellar and the old cooperage. The tour will end with a tasting of extraordinary wines, with special attention paid to 70’s, 60’s and 50’s Madeiras.

After the tasting, you may take your time to explore the area and escape to a restaurant of your liking in the city center.

We will provide top tips on restaurants, major monuments and other points of interest, to suit your personal tastes and needs.

Day 3. Wednesday 7th October

After breakfast, we will make our way to Câmara de Lobos, a small town near Funchal, and visit the producer Henriques & Henriques. We will tour through their facilities and taste a special range of their wines, known for their strong character and remarkable features.

At lunch we will taste the famous Madeira espetada (skewered meat). A vegetarian option is provided.

After lunch, our destination will be the very popular Cabo Girão and its breath-taking views. If you are feeling brave and do not suffer from vertigo, you can take the cable car down to see the Fajãs, a typical tilling method in Madeira, which is also used for growing vines.

Next, we will visit the modern winery of Barbeito wines. They have excellent new approaches to Madeira Wine, which we will of course be able to taste. The brilliant mind behind them is Ricardo Diogo, a very original producer who believes that tradition and innovation go hand in hand.

Lastly, in Funchal, a delicious gourmet dinner by the Michelin-Star Chef – Benoît Sinthon will be the perfect way to end the day.

Day 4. Thursday 8th October

This day will be dedicated to the center of Funchal, visiting classic producers of Madeira wines.

Our visit will start with H. M. Borges: a traditional, boutique winery, where you will taste special small-production wines.

Lunch will be served in the old part of town. This is the best place to enjoy fresh fish and shellfish of local sources.

We will spend our early afternoon with Pereira D’Oliveira, perhaps the most traditional producer known. He also owns the largest stock of old wines. A memorable tasting and a journey to the 19th century awaits for you.

After the tasting, you may once again explore the area in your own time and choose a restaurant of your liking.

Day 5. Friday 9th October

We have prepared a tasting of Madeira table wines for this morning, with special focus on whites made from the Verdelho variety of grapes. We have no doubt that you will be charmed with this variety, judging by its ability to produce great quality wines, and marked by the minerality and saltiness that only this island’s topography and winegrowing may brand.

The chosen accompaniment for this sampling is local tapas, for they harmonize with the table wines you will taste.

Your departure will take place during the afternoon. We hope that you begin your return trip as delighted as we are to be able to provide such a fantastic wine & food experience in Madeira Island.

Note:

*Minor alterations could occur on this itinerary.

Travel

The flights are not included on this tour. We are very happy to quote on the main scheduled airlines and to book these for you (the full price of the flight will be payable in advance along with an administration charge). Please note that, if we book your flight, the flight details cannot be changed and the flight cost and administration fee are non-refundable.

Accommodation
5* PESTANA CASINO PARK HOTEL – Funchal

The Pestana Casino Park is part of the most emblematic tourist complex of Madeira island. With the sea at its feet, the Pestana Casino Park Hotel is one of the most fabulous hotels in Funchal city centre. Here you will have the opportunity to make use of a series of services and activities available for all tastes, and soon after you arrive you will be able to relax outdoors, where you will find a swimming pool and luxuriant gardens.

Fact sheet – Madeira Wine Tour:
Price: € 1.800 per person   |   Sole Occupancy: € 300   |   Deposit: € 450 per person
Price includes:

– 4 Nights at 5* Hotel;
– 4 buffet breakfasts;
– 4 lunches (typical dishes with local wines – half a bottle per person);
– 2 dinners (gourmet and sophisticated);
– A journey to 19th century Madeira wines;
– All visits and tastings (during the trip more than 60 wines will be tasted);
– Air conditioned bus;
– Tour Manager: A Portuguese guide with generic knowledge on the region, monuments, local gastronomy, etc.;
– Wine Guide: The leading British Portuguese wine authority, Sarah Ahmed;
– Start and end point: Funchal;
– Visits will be in English language.

Not included:

– Travel (flights or boat) to the destination and back from your home location.
– Transfers from and to Funchal Airport or Harbour.

Note:

* You organise your travel to the destination yourself. If you want assistance with organising your flight tickets, transfers, etc, please contact us.

* Because it is not easy to transport wine on the plane, if you want to buy some of the wines tasted or any other, we will be happy to buy them and send them to your home. For this, a list of choice and notation will be made available where you can put your options to buy with respective quantities. Our buyers-partners will do it for you.

Booking: 

Bear in mind that there’s only 12 places available for this once in a lifetime wine experience. So, the applied policy is first come, first served.

Booking is confirmed on receipt of the booking fee/deposit. Full payment should be received at the latest one month before the departure date (see our terms and conditions). Details on how to pay will be sent to you when you register.

You book by contacting Blend | All About Wine:

Book this Tour


 
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Info: We will send you a copy of this mail. If you DO NOT receive this mail copy within a few minutes then something has gone wrong! Perhaps a spelling error in your email address? (Also check your spam folder.) Try again, or send us an email using the mail address in the booking info above. In most cases we respond to emails within 24 hours.


TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • 4 Nights at 5* Hotel
  • 4 Lunches (typical or local dishes)
  • 2 Dinners (gourmet & sophisticated)
  • All visits and tastings (during the trip more than 60 wines will be tasted)
  • A journey to 19th century Madeira wines
  • Wine Guide: Sarah Ahmed (the leading British Portuguese wine authority)
  • Price € 1.800

Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door

Text Sarah Ahmed

There cannot be many places in the world where you can buy a bottle of 19th century wine over the counter direct from the producer.  Correction.  Eight 19th century wines over the counter.

Photo Credit Sarah Ahmed Pereira d'Oliveira wine list Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door Photo Credit Sarah Ahmed Pereira dOliveira wine list

Pereira d’Oliveira wine list – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

Pereira d’Oliveira’s cellar in Funchal, Madeira is that place.  What a hoard of treasure it is too, crammed with bottles and barrels!  A hoard takes a hoarder.  How come Pereira d’Oliveira has such a marvellously abundant back catalogue, a veritable embarrassment of riches?

Part of the explanation lies in the fact that Pereira d’Oliveira is an amalgamation of six Madeira firms: João Pereira d’Oliveira, João Joaquim Camacho & Sons, Júlio Augusto Cunha & Sons, Vasco Luís Pereira & Sons, Adegas do Torreão and, very recently (October 2013), Barros e Sousa.

Photo Credit Sarah Ahmed Filipe & Luis Pereira d'Oliveira Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door Photo Credit Sarah Ahmed Filipe Luis Pereira dOliveira

Filipe & Luis Pereira d’Oliveira, 6th and 5th generation madeira producers – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

But this is not the principal reason.  With his brother Anibal, Luís Pereira d’Oliveira represents the fifth generation of his family to run the business which was founded in 1850 by João Pereira d’Oliveira. Responsible for sales, he tells me a story which has a distinct ring of familiarity (I’m thinking about Caves São João’s million bottle cellar in Bairrada). He reveals that the company only started to export 30 years ago because the third and fourth generation – his father, uncle and grandfather – simply had no interest in exporting.  All three preferred exclusively to sell their wines on Madeira and the Portuguese mainland, which explains why Pereira d’Oliveira has some 1,600,000 litres of madeira which is more than 20-30 years old.  Wow!

Photo Credit Sarah Ahmed Pereira d'Oliveira deformed Moscatel bottles Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door Photo Credit Sarah Ahmed Pereira dOliveira deformed Moscatel bottles

Pereira d’Oliveira deformed Moscatel bottles – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

Although these days the company exports madeira to 16 countries, it would seem that old habits die hard.  When I ask Pereira d’Oliveira (Luís) about the acquisition of Barros e Sousa, he tells me it was for one reason only – to extend their 600 square metre cellar door/lodge (already one of three Pereira d’Oliveira lodges in Funchal).   With 1030 square metres, Barros e Sousa’s neighbouring lodge will help ease the pressure on space and maintain Pereira d’Oliveira’s long-held tradition of bottling wines on demand (there are no plans to set aside new wines to perpetuate the Barros e Sousa brand).

This practice (bottling on demand) accounts for the elixir-like concentration and intensity for which the company’s madeira is renowned.  Take the 1927 Bastardo, first bottled from cask in 2007, 60 years after the 20 year minimum which is required of top Frasqueira (vintage) madeira!

With its pacy lick of “vinagrinho,” the über-complex house style is also informed by another long-held tradition.   Pereira d’Oliveira madeira is cask-aged in very old wood (mostly over 60 years old, some over a century old) and on ullage (i.e. with no topping up to refresh wines).  A process which, when skilfully done over many years, allows the subtle interaction of wine, wood, heat and oxygen slowly to tease out myriad layers.

The modern world worships speed, but there’s no place for it here.  Or as Pereira d’Oliveira puts it, “we don’t like to go fast because then something can happen which is not interesting.” Though the context of his remark is about staying a small, independent family business, it resonates profoundly with the winemaking philosophy here.  A philosophy which has remained firmly intact since sixth generation winemaker Filipe joined his father, Anibal.

Photo Credit Sarah Ahmed Filipe Pereira d'Oliveira behind the counter Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door Photo Credit Sarah Ahmed Filipe Pereira dOliveira behind the counter

Filipe Pereira d’Oliveira behind the counter – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

The “steady as she goes” approach is a blessing for tourists too, especially those who are regularly decanted from the many cruise ships which visit the island and have no car at their disposal.  Pereira d’Oliveira is adamant about staying in the heart of Funchal and, located at number 107 Rua dos Ferreiros, the atmospheric 17th century cellar (originally a school) is just a stone’s throw from the port, to the north of the city’s cathedral.

While the selection of madeira on tasting impresses, it pales into insignificance compared with what you can buy over the counter.  With 56 single vintage (Colheita and Frasqueria) madeiras on sale, you can celebrate just about any anniversary you care to mention.  However, take note, you should contact The Guinness Book of Records if your birth year coincides with the eight oldest wines, which span 1850 to 1895!

Here are tasting notes on my top seven from number 107 (prices are cellar door)

Photo Credit Sarah Ahmed A fine selection of Pereira d'Oliveira Frasqueira madeira Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door Photo Credit Sarah Ahmed A fine selection of Pereira dOliveira Frasqueira madeira

A fine selection of Frasqueira wines – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

Pereira d’Oliveira Sercial 1971 (Madeira)
Mahogany with red glints.  Terrific varietal character with its drive of grapefruity acidity, a sweet hint of tangerine and guava too.  Very smoky, long and fine.  Concentration with line and length.  €94/bottle

Pereira d’Oliveira Terrantez 1971 (Madeira)
Deep amber with a complex nose and palate.  Richer than the Sercial with rounder, riper, orangey acidity (not grapefruit).  Yet drier, more savoury, with a lovely fine backbone of tobacco, cedar and dried spice.  Very persistent with a mineral/iodine undertow to its long finish.  €110/bottle

Photo Credit Sarah Ahmed Pereira d'Oliveira Bastardo 1927 Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door Photo Credit Sarah Ahmed Pereira dOliveira Bastardo 1927

Pereira d’Oliveira Bastardo 1927 – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

Pereira d’Oliveira Bastardo 1927 (Madeira)
This particular bottle was taken from cask in 2014; the 1927 is Pereira d’Oliveira’s only Bastardo, so it’s extremely rare .  The deep hue reminds you that Bastardo is a red, not white grape.  Sure enough, it has more body, fruit and sweetness to its mid-palate of tangy sweet and sour medjool date fruit.  Juicy acidity is nicely integrated, mingling and extending the fruit through a long, dark spicy finish with black cardamom seed and milder, smoother café crème cigar lift.  The finish is a mite dusty, but the fruit is generous enough to keep any wood astringency firmly at bay.  €300/bottle

Pereira d’Oliveira Verdelho 1912 (Madeira)
The house is renowned for Verdelho. Filipe Pereira d’Oliveira tells me he is a fan of its medium dry style (and so, like me, a firm fan of Terrantez too).  This has an exceptionally lively palate for a 102 year old.  Do not be fooled by its mature mahogany hue – appearances can be deceptive.  It reveals friskily fresh guava and tangy, fleshy date chutney with sour tamarind spice and grapefruit peel bite.  Fabulous length and precision.  A marvel.  Hope to be this sprightly if I get to 102!!  With the Terrantez 1880, my wine of the tasting.  €330/bottle

Photo Credit Sarah Ahmed Pereira d'Oliveira Moscatel cask Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door Photo Credit Sarah Ahmed Pereira dOliveira Moscatel cask

Pereira d’Oliveira Moscatel cask – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

Pereira d’Oliveira Moscatel 1875 (Madeira)
I’ve had the good fortune to taste very aged, fine rare Moscatel before – 1928 Morris Muscat from Rutherglen and José Maria Fonseca Apoteca Moscatel de Setubal 1902. Both were viscously intense.  I’d not encountered Moscatel in Madeira before but the island’s hallmark acidity really distinguishes and transports this Moscatel – I’d say it’s the best of these very aged examples I’ve tasted. So although it’s a very dark mahogany colour with a correspondingly super-intense concentration of Demerara sugar, dark, slightly bitter, dusty spices (black cardamom, tamarind), Camp Coffee and molasses, its very even, well integrated  acidity lends a certain precision, not to mention impressive length.  No viscosity here, which gives this wine great energy and glow.  €760/bottle

 

Photo Credit Sarah Ahmed Pereira d'Oliveira - the oldest madeiras tasted Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door Pereira d’Oliveira, Madeira – Putting the Cellaring into Cellar Door Photo Credit Sarah Ahmed Pereira dOliveira the oldest madeiras tasted

Pereira d’Oliveira madeira – the oldest wines tasted – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

Pereira d’Oliveira Terrantez 1880 (Madeira)
Relatively pale, as seems to be a Terrantez trait.  But ever so interesting but, above all, it has incredible elegance, length and integration for its age.  A fine spine of delicate spices and sweet tobacco brings lift and line.  Beautiful balance and composure.  With the Verdelho 1912, my wine of the tasting.  €780/bottle

Pereira d’Oliveira Sercial 1875 (Madeira)
It’s hard to believe that this Sercial is nearly 100 years older than the first of my magnificent seven wines, also a Sercial!  The family resemblance in terms of variety and house style is very marked. Guava, grapefruit peel, even fresh cut apple notes sing beneath its veil of smoke and minerals.  Its distinctly volcanic whiff, iodine and kelp serve as a palpable reminder of the island’s very peculiar terroir of mountains, ocean and volcano.  Incredible length, persistence and finesse.  I think this just might be another joint favourite….€760/bottle

Contacts
Rua Ferreiros 107
9000-082 FUNCHAL
( )
Tel: (+351) 291 220 784
Fax: (+351) 291 229 081
Site: perolivinhos.pai.pt

J.Faria & Filhos, in the Tinta Negra’s Kingdom

Text João Pedro de Carvalho | Translation Bruno Ferreira

Of strong implementation in Madeira’s regional market, J. Faria & Filhos, Lda. only started to commercialize Madeira wine in 1993 despite being founded in 1949 where the main activity was the manufacture of traditional and fruit concentrated liquors. With the regional market growth the company expanded its products range and started to commercialize liquors, cane sugar “Aguardente” (Madeira’s Rum), Brandy, Madeira wines and fruit concentrates.

Blend_All_About_Wine_JFF_Logo J.Faria & Filhos, in the Tinta Negra's Kingdom J.Faria & Filhos, in the Tinta Negra's Kingdom Blend All About Wine JFF Logo

J. Faria & Filhos, Lda. © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

J. Faria & Filhos Madeira wine production has as its base the Tinta Negra variety which originates a large range of wines with a special focus to the 5 and 10 years. Generally speaking they are wines made to please and easily findable in markets. A recent producer without all that historical emphasis we’re used to find in other places. So I’ll jump to the wines that I liked the most during the tasting.

Blend_All_About_Wine_JFF_5_Anos_Medium_Sweet J.Faria & Filhos, in the Tinta Negra's Kingdom J.Faria & Filhos, in the Tinta Negra's Kingdom Blend All About Wine JFF 5 Anos Medium Sweet

5 years Medium Sweet © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

5 Years Medium Sweet
The most balanced of the 5 years’ range with a slight growth in the glass, consensual, plenty of dates and honey cake hints, slight freshness in the background holding up the set. In the mouth sustains the same rendering, simple and direct, slight complexity in a simple and uncomplicated set.

Blend_All_About_Wine_JFF_10_Anos_Seco J.Faria & Filhos, in the Tinta Negra's Kingdom J.Faria & Filhos, in the Tinta Negra's Kingdom Blend All About Wine JFF 10 Anos Seco

10 years Dry © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

10 Years Dry
It was the wine I enjoyed the most from the tasting. Again Tinta Negra setting the tone though the set shows a bit more of complexity and freshness, hints of dried fruit, slightly salty and a medium finish.

Contacts
Travessa do Tanque, 85/87
9020-258 Funchal
Tel: +351 291 742 935
Fax: +351 291 742 255
E-mail: info@jfariaefilhos.pt
Site: www.jfariaefilhos.pt

J.Faria & Filhos, in the Tinta Negra's Kingdom

Text João Pedro de Carvalho | Translation Bruno Ferreira

Of strong implementation in Madeira’s regional market, J. Faria & Filhos, Lda. only started to commercialize Madeira wine in 1993 despite being founded in 1949 where the main activity was the manufacture of traditional and fruit concentrated liquors. With the regional market growth the company expanded its products range and started to commercialize liquors, cane sugar “Aguardente” (Madeira’s Rum), Brandy, Madeira wines and fruit concentrates.

Blend_All_About_Wine_JFF_Logo J.Faria & Filhos, in the Tinta Negra's Kingdom J.Faria & Filhos, in the Tinta Negra's Kingdom Blend All About Wine JFF Logo

J. Faria & Filhos, Lda. © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

J. Faria & Filhos Madeira wine production has as its base the Tinta Negra variety which originates a large range of wines with a special focus to the 5 and 10 years. Generally speaking they are wines made to please and easily findable in markets. A recent producer without all that historical emphasis we’re used to find in other places. So I’ll jump to the wines that I liked the most during the tasting.

Blend_All_About_Wine_JFF_5_Anos_Medium_Sweet J.Faria & Filhos, in the Tinta Negra's Kingdom J.Faria & Filhos, in the Tinta Negra's Kingdom Blend All About Wine JFF 5 Anos Medium Sweet

5 years Medium Sweet © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

5 Years Medium Sweet
The most balanced of the 5 years’ range with a slight growth in the glass, consensual, plenty of dates and honey cake hints, slight freshness in the background holding up the set. In the mouth sustains the same rendering, simple and direct, slight complexity in a simple and uncomplicated set.

Blend_All_About_Wine_JFF_10_Anos_Seco J.Faria & Filhos, in the Tinta Negra's Kingdom J.Faria & Filhos, in the Tinta Negra's Kingdom Blend All About Wine JFF 10 Anos Seco

10 years Dry © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

10 Years Dry
It was the wine I enjoyed the most from the tasting. Again Tinta Negra setting the tone though the set shows a bit more of complexity and freshness, hints of dried fruit, slightly salty and a medium finish.

Contacts
Travessa do Tanque, 85/87
9020-258 Funchal
Tel: +351 291 742 935
Fax: +351 291 742 255
E-mail: info@jfariaefilhos.pt
Site: www.jfariaefilhos.pt

Blandy, a Dynasty Connected to Madeira wine

Text João Pedro de Carvalho | Translation Bruno Ferreira

Blandy’s story starts with the arrival of John Blandy to Madeira. Two centuries of a traders’ dynasty whose important connection to the Madeira wine began in 1811 with wine exportation when the company got established. He bought the estate where today lies the old winery in Funchal – Blandy Wine Lodges. After the exportations’ decline due to the devastating plagues, first the Oidium Tuckeri in 1851 and then the Phylloxera in 1872, from the association of several wine exportation companies, in 1913, the Madeira Wine Association is born with the purpose of relieving the business’ associated costs. It was around then that a lot of those companies weren’t able to resist the less favorable times and ended up closing and selling their stocks to Blandy’s. In 1925 Blandy’s joined M.W.A. which in 1986 changes the name to Madeira Wine Company SA.

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Blandy Wine Lodges © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

A remarkable story of a family that has played a significant role in the development of Madeira wine whereas at the same time expanding its activity to various other sectors such as banking, insurance, ship repairing… Two hundred years later Blandy’s remains a family business where Michael and Chris are the 6th and 7th generations to work in the business.

If in a previous article I stated that Henriques & Henriques were the first great Madeira wines that I had the chance to taste, Blandy’s were certainly those which through the years settled my liking and enthusiasm for Madeira wine as oenophile. Visiting Blandy’s was one of those special moments. Really, just being sat there in that amazing tasting room is worth a Madeira trip. The tasting was in charge of one of the greatest worldwide oenologists, Francisco Albuquerque. It was a privilege to be able to have there a great lesson about Madeira wine with an included tasting.

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Francisco Albuquerque © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

It’s still interesting that Madeira wine is a wine that nourishes over time, needs time to grow, not months or days but years, and the more the merrier, meaning more complexity and magicalness. Obviously, the focus goes to some of the tasted Vintage/Frasqueira:

Blandy’s Malmsey 1988
One of the great wines I had the chance to taste was the Malmsey 1988. This wine spent about 25 years in casks before the releasing of 1600 bottles to the market, in 2013. Stands out for the set’s freshness and exquisiteness as well as the precision and incredible detail which present well-defined aromas. Huge complexity and balance, candied orange from the get-go, fig, dates, tobacco, lots of spice, flowers with dry fruit in the background, the wine unfolds in layers. Conquers the palate with class, curry hints followed by raisins, fig raisins we can almost bite harmonizing perfectly with the nose. Great balance between acidity/fruit/sweetness.

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Blandy’s Frasqueira Wines Tasting Room © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

Blandy’s Terrantez 1976
Again and as usual, what stands out here is the fantastic elegance of the whole set, this piece of work as precise as watchmaking is the brand’s calling card. In this case it’s a Terrantez 1976 showing itself quite more elegant than the Terrantez 1977 when were tasted side by side. This wine’s complexity is astounding, all very delicate yet deep and complex, with curry hints in a chocolate and orange scrapes set, dates, slightly balsamic, toasted caramel, nuts, all wrapped up in a great acidity which joins an aroma of polished old furniture. In the mouth it’s a polite monster, slightly sweet on the way in, and then breathtaking with a freshness which invades the whole palate. Renews the nose’s sensations, has that bittersweet touch which tills the tongue until the very end, harmonizing perfectly with the fruit and acidity.

Blend_All_About_Wine_Blandys_4 Blandy, a Dynasty Connected to Madeira wine Blandy, a Dynasty Connected to Madeira wine Blend All About Wine Blandys 4

Blandy’s Verdelho 1973 Sample Bottle © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

Blandy’s Verdelho 1973
The following wine is a perfect exemple that the Madeira wine needs and demands time. A Verdelho 1973 which is only now being released to the market. Another great wine of this house, initially restrained but a lot of complexity, unfolding in thin layers, cigar, passion fruit, freshness and liveliness in a set with plenty of harmony. The liveliness of the aromas stands out. The set impresses with the dryness in the palate along with a mix of a very slight unctuosity/sweetness which gives it a whole new dimension and puts this Verdelho in this house’s hall of fame.

Blend_All_About_Wine_Blandys_3 Blandy, a Dynasty Connected to Madeira wine Blandy, a Dynasty Connected to Madeira wine Blend All About Wine Blandys 3

Blandy’s Bual 1920 © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

Blandy’s Bual 1920
It’s a stunning wine at all levels, it’s complicated for me to describe such enclosed emotion in a bottle every time I have in front of me, be it in the glass or the bottle. We’re talking about the mother of championships, this Bual 1920 has the rare ability to simply shut us up. We can be chatting but when it’s this 1920’s turn, people stay quiet, stare, smell the glass… stop, re-spin and smell the glass again, and with a smile start to ramble. The bouquet is some kind of amazing, concentrated, fresh, sinful, and again of a huge elegance. Starts with hint of lacquer, opens and then gives joy. Toffee, nuts, box of cigars, aromas wrapped in a fresh and slightly unctuous cape filled with dates, figs and candied fruit. All of this transpires to the palate which comes in at full steam, unctuous, lickerish to then show itself with great elegance, freshness and a very long and persistent finish. Unforgettable.

Blend_All_About_Wine_Blandys_2 Blandy, a Dynasty Connected to Madeira wine Blandy, a Dynasty Connected to Madeira wine Blend All About Wine Blandys 2

Blandy’s Verdelho 1887 © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

Blandy’s Verdelho 1887
In 2011 it was identified a Verdelho which was laying in demijohn of 50 liters, a Verdelho 1887 that would end up being bottled in 2013. Stands out by its tone, with those beautiful emerald green edges which indicate a respectful age. The aroma is a huge party, starts with a hint of lacquer and then calming down and awakening to its fullness. A touch of old wood along with candied fruit, English cake, fig and apple-pie in a never-ending number of aromas the wrap it in a whirlwind of emotions. Stunning mouth, large, deep, tense and mysterious. Very good fruit presence regarding the nose, still clean and fresh. This is an 1887 wine that we’re talking about. Complements itself with caramel, orange peel scrapes, green coffee beans in a mix that combines the initial slight sweet and fruity touch with the dry and unctuous ending.

Contacts
Blandy’s Wine Lodge
Avenida Arriaga 28,
9000-064 Funchal,
Madeira – Portugal
Tel.: (+351) 291740 110
Fax: (+351) 291 740111
Site: www.blandys.com

Wizards of Madeira

Text Ilkka Sirén

The wine industry is well-known for its hospitality. In general people are very welcoming and friendly. When people share the same kind of enthusiasm towards a certain thing, in this case wine, they are more connected and it almost feels like you know the person even if you don’t. Of course there is always a few bad apples but still, I consider the wine industry to be a very pleasant area of business. But that’s just me.

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Barrel of Malvasia – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Take Barbeito for example. The first time I visited them on Madeira I was on vacation. I was traveling with my wife and her family. It was a pretty typical tourist trip: sightseeing, pool, Coral (beer), “bolo do caco” garlic bread, “espetada” meat skewers, wine, dodging drunken senior citizens, sleep, rinse and repeat. I did however try to organize a bit of extracurricular activities and went to visit Vinhos Barbeito. Finding the winery turned out to be nearly impossible for the taxi driver but after several pit stops he did manage to locate the premises. During that visit we tasted wines dating back 1875! I mean this was a very casual visit with my in-laws but still they were kind enough to show us these great wines. It was quite amazing, and a good example of the generosity in the wine business.

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Handrail/wine pipe – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Vinhos Barbeito is located in an industrial zone high upon a windy hill. While some of the Madeira wineries are quite rustic, the winery of Barbeito has a modern feel to it. Not flashy, just very practical. You could get the sense that someone with a vinous mind has designed the layout of the facilities. Even the handrail in the parking lot is actually a pipe to move the wine from the vinification area to another building that has the bottling line and barrel room. How cool is that!

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Wine lab – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Vinhos Barbeito was founded in 1946 which is in Madeira-wine-years quite a fresh project. Since then the estate has established itself as one of the most exciting wineries in Portugal. The winemaker Ricardo Diogo seems to be a bit of a wizard when it comes to blending wine. Some call him the “Gandalf of Madeira”. Well, I don’t know if they do but they really should. Not saying that Barbeito wines are perfect, nothing is, but they are rapidly becoming synonymous with remarkably high quality wine.

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Labeling machine – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

On my recent visit to the winery the mission was very simple: taste as many wines as humanly possible. Mission accomplished! We tasted through dozens of samples in a line-up that was nothing short of epic. Starting with some younger Tinta Negras, Bastardo, 5-yeard-olds and 10-year-olds. All the way back to the vintage 1834. Let me say that again, 18-frigging-34! That’s old. It’s the year when the Spanish Inquisition ended. Intense. Some wines can’t be accurately described, so I won’t even try. Just going to say that it was beyond awesome.

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Old Guard – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Here are my picks from the wines:

Barbeito ‘Ribeiro Real’ Verdelho 20 Years Old
A wine made from Verdelho and a touch of 100-year-old Tinta Negra wines from the legendary Ribeiro Real vineyards. Fragrant aromas of spices and a certain delicate intensity that if you’re not careful makes you forget your nose in the glass for a very long time. From the moment the wine touches your tongue it takes you on a ride. The word ‘lingering’ doesn’t even start to describe the longevity of flavours in this wine. It just goes on and on. Fantastic.

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Barbeito ‘Ribeiro Real’ Verdelho 20 Years Old – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Barbeito ‘Mãe Manuela’ Malvasia 40 Years Old
An old blend of Malvasia. A bit of a floral kick, herbs, sweet liquor and hints of dark chocolate. Rich and delicious mouthfeel which is immediately lightened by vibrant acidity which makes the whole experience extremely pleasant. A complex wine that will make you yearn for a glass even weeks after tasting. Definitely one of the most beautiful wines I’ve tasted this year. Superb.

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Barbeito ‘Mãe Manuela’ Malvasia 40 Years Old – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Contacts
Estrada da Ribeira Garcia
Parque Empresarial de Câmara de Lobos – Lote 8
9300-324 Câmara de Lobos – Portugal
Tel: (+351) 291 761 829
Fax: (+351) 291 765 832
Email: info@vinhosbarbeito.com.pt
Site: www.vinhosbarbeito.com

Henriques & Henriques

Text João Pedro de Carvalho | Translation Bruno Ferreira

For many years the Henriques’ family was the largest owner of Madeira wine, having the first vines been planted by order of Infante D. Henrique in the year 1425. Founded in 1850, by the hands of João Gonçalves Henriques, it went from a family tradition to an enterprise. After his death in 1912, a partnership was made between his two sons, Francisco Eduardo and João Joaquim Henriques, giving birth to the name Henriques & Henriques.

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Henriques & Henriques Wine Lodge & Shop © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

In 1968, with the death of the last of the Henriques, João Joaquim Henriques, aka “João de Belém”, and the fact of not having any successors, the company was inherited by his three friends and collaborators: Alberto Nascimento Jardim, Peter Cossart (which has performed 53 harvests in the company) and Carlos Nunes Pereira.

In June 1992, a huge investment was made in the construction of new facilities in Câmara dos Lobos as well as new vinification center in Quinta Grande where in 1995 a new 10 hectares vineyard was planted. This makes H&H one of the few Madeira’s wine producers to own its own vines.

Peter Cossart’s son, John Cossart, was the one who took hold of the company’s management but would end passing away in 2008. Recently the French multinational La Martiniquaise (Justino’s Madeira owner) became the main shareholder of H&H. The former now holds 70% of Madeira wine total production and Dr. Humberto Jardim is still a C.E.O. in H&H.

Some of the oldest Henriques & Henriques’ wines were in the first group of great Madeiras that I had the chance to taste and which aroused in me the interest for Madeira wine. Oddly they were all Boal, for example the Old Wine Boal 1887, the Solera Boal 1898 or the Reserva Velhíssima W.S. Boal which is a part of a “Fantastic Four” whose diminished quantities don’t permit it to be tasted anymore.

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Canteiro’s Barrels of Henriques & Henriques © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

After the visit, I had the chance to taste several wines, a quick highlight for the simple Monte Seco Extra Dry 3 Anos, made of Tinta Negra, full of Fino de Jerez’s reminding touches, without the characteristic flower’s touch, suggesting us that it’s an ideal pal for appetizers, with a simple approach, direct and quite dry. Other wines have already been properly approached by Olga Cardoso in a previous article.

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H&H Verdelho 20 Anos © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

H&H Verdelho 20 Anos
The recently marketed Madeira 20 anos have the particularity of an ever-changing lot as well as minimal quantities availability’s. For that, some editions are indeed exclusive and one of a kind. In this case a Verdelho, a variety that’s capable of maintaining its aromas and fruity flavors for a long time, a feature that quite stands out on this well-shaped wine. Tropical fruit with fresh passion fruit, pineapple in syrup, spices, old wood, lacquer, honeyed and complex, emanating a harmony between freshness and concentration. Matching mouth, present acidity with an initial fruit taste that opens into an unctuous and concentrated set, some dry fruits as a complement, long and persistent ending.

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H&H Century Malmsey Solera 1900 © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

H&H Century Malmsey Solera 1900
One of this producer’s emblematic wines which has lost in time the Solera’s age that originated it, probably from the XIX century . The rest are only details which only enrich and sharpen the will to have it on our glass and behold such precious liquid. A wine that transpires in complexity, old cask’s wood, dried fruits, fig raisins with nuts, honey and a nose warmth conferred by an unctuous yet fresh sensation at the same time. Cigar box, unfolding in thin layers of aromas and flavors, velvet mouth marked by freshness, concentration and a tremendous elegance. Some wines are unforgettable and this is certainly one of them.

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H&H Verdelho Reserva Ribeiro Real N.V. © Blend All About Wine, Lda.

H&H Verdelho Reserva Ribeiro Real N.V.
This wine and the moment that involved its tasting are the very essence of Madeira wine, something unique, enthralling, and I would say impossible even, of happening anywhere else in the world. To understand why, keep in mind that the person in charge of leading the taste, never in her 19 years of work in H&H had tasted said wine, such is its rarity. Lost in time is the record of its true age, though it all points to the second half of XIX century.  From vineyards located in the area known as Ribeiro Real, the more than fifty years it spent in “Canteiro” made it concentrated, glyceric, also gaving it an exquisite and profound bouquet. To the naked eye it’s perceptible a beautiful green crown. The rest is a true monument to the Verdelho variety, bottled in 1957, with the aroma of the old wood where it aged. Lacquer, splashes of candied orange/grapefruit, iodine, plenty of freshness and elegance in a deep and mysterious set. Perfectly synced mouth, mid-dry, tasteful concentration compensated with a dragged minerality along a palate revitalizing acidity. A repeating grapefruit touch right at the ending. Remarkable, unforgettable.

Contacts
Sítio de Belém 9300-138
Câmara de Lobos
Madeira – Portugal
Tel.: (+351) 291 941 551/2
Fax.: (+351) 291 941 590
E-mail: HeH@henriquesehenriques.pt
Site: www.henriquesehenriques.pt

Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira

Text Sarah Ahmed

The Declaration of Independence of the United States, signed in 1776, was celebrated with a glass of Madeira.  But it’s not America’s third president (author of the Declaration), Thomas Jefferson, who springs to mind when I meet Paulo Mendes.  Rather, I’m reminded of Barack Obama’s campaign slogan ‘yes we can’.

Blend_All_About_Wine_Madeira_Vintners_Yes_We_Can Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Blend All About Wine Madeira Vintners Yes We Can

“Yes, we can” in onlifesuccess.net

The most difficult business

Mendes, the tenacious CEO and architect of that rarest of breeds, a new Madeira firm, has had to be resourceful, unorthodox even, since, as he is the first to admit, “Madeira Vintners has a huge handicap – no old wines.”

Though Mendes is referring to the handicap of recreating Madeira’s stylistic profile from young stock (where Madeira is largely a marriage of old and young wines), this lack of old wines almost proved fatal from a legal perspective (about which more below).  The law provides that even new companies must possess 120, 000 litres of Madeira.

Blend_All_About_Wine_Madeira_Vintners_Paulo_Mendes_in_full_flow Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Blend All About Wine Madeira Vintners Paulo Mendes in full flow

Paulo Mendes in full flow – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

All in all it was hardly an encouraging start for this highly experienced management consultant who confesses, “at first I was the arrogant consultant who thought everyone was doing everything the wrong way.”  When it dawned on him that “the wine business is one, if not the most difficult business I had ever seen in my life,” the man with a curriculum vitae as long as your arm went back to school between 2010-2012, completing MBAs in Wine Marketing & Management at Bordeaux Business School and in Wine Marketing and Winemaking at University of California, Davis.

Still, he must have taken heart from his successful turn-around of Co-operativa Agrícola do Funchal (“CAF”), the supplier of agricultural and garden products which has been managed by the keen Madeira-born strategist since 1999.  It was a cash surplus generated by this “profound” turn-around which encouraged CAF’s diversification into Madeira wine in 2008 (Madeira Vintners is an independent division of CAF).  Mendes clearly thrives on challenge.

Between a rock and a hard place

Naturally, Mendes’ plans initially revolved around either buying mature stocks of Madeira wine or acquiring an established firm so that he could comply with the minimum stock-holding regulations and produce Madeira wine from the off.   Unfortunately, he tells me, none of the existing firms would sell him stock and “we lost all the acquisition bids,” most recently to Pereira d’Oliveira who acquired Barros e Sousa last year.  It left him between a rock and a hard place.

However, thanks to a bounteous vintage in 2012, Madeira Vintners was granted a special exemption from the stock-holding requirements for new companies; its first harvest that same year was processed at Barbeito’s winery.  With a heavy sigh, Mendes says rumours then circulated that Madeira Vintners was a state-owned vehicle created to buy up grape surpluses.  Rumours which must have been frustrating where, leaving aside the fact that Madeira Vintners (and CAF) is privately owned, they fly in the face of a key plank of Madeira Vintners’ strategy for success.  Madeira Vintners is highly selective about grape sourcing.

Rubbish in, rubbish out

Blend_All_About_Wine_Madeira_Vintners_Paul_Mendes_with_30kg_(small)_harvesting_boxes Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Blend All About Wine Madeira Vintners Paul Mendes with 30kg small harvesting boxes

Mendes pictured alongside small 30kg boxes into which the grapes are harvested – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

Elaborating on this strategy Mendes explains that he is betting on the quality and provenance of his raw material in a bid to differentiate Madeira Vintners from the competition.  Alive to the stark reality that “either we have above average quality, or we are dead” it certainly makes sense where, with only young wines to sell, Madeira Vintners will be targeting entry level consumers whom Mendes believes are currently not well served.  Dismissing many of the tourist circuit entry level 3 Year Old Madeiras as “not suitable for drinking, only culinary use,” he believes it is imperative for the island to raise the threshold of basic quality wines if new consumers are to explore the category and not to be put off by it.

For this reason he has abandoned the traditional spot market in order better to control grape quality. In Mendes’ opinion, because the island’s predominantly small growers (many of whom are gardeners or farmers, not viticulturists) want to sell their grapes at the first opportunity and the agents who operate the market are paid by the kilogram, there is little incentive to let grapes hang until they have attained the correct sugar acid balance. Too many grapes, he says, are picked at the minimum ripeness level (9% potential alcohol) and, for Mendes, who frowns on “Madeira that looks like Port,” these high acid grapes require unnecessarily high sugar additions.

Cutting out the middle man, Madeira Vintners deals directly with larger, contracted growers who tend to be more professional.  Still, Madeira Vintners works with them year-round to ensure that the vineyards are properly looked after and the grapes picked at the optimum time.  In return for later-picked, riper grapes, Madeira Vintners guarantees it will buy all the grapes and pays its growers an above average rate.

It’s not the only financial incentive for quality.  Mendes also pays growers more if they keep down gluconic acid levels, whose formation is associated with botrytis cinerea (a mold).    Too much and Madeira Vintners won’t even harvest the grapes.

Blend_All_About_Wine_Madeira_Vintners_Sorting_Table Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Blend All About Wine Madeira Vintners Sorting Table

Sorting Table – Photo provided by Madeira Vintners | All Rights Reserved

The rigorous selection process continues at the company’s shiny new winery where, Mendes boasts, Madeira Vintners is the only firm to sort grapes on reception as well as in the vineyard using a sorting table.  He says there is a quantum difference between sorted and unsorted grapes; the former have fruitier aromas and none of the earthiness associated with mold.  Estimating that 5-10% of hand harvested grapes are discarded he admits, “it’s a pain and expensive but we believe that if we sort the grapes, we’ll have pristine grapes.”

Terroir matters

Blend_All_About_Wine_Madeira_Vintner_different_growers_different_terroir Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Blend All About Wine Madeira Vintner different growers different terroir

Different growers, Different terroir – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

This year, Madeira Vintners bought 110 tons from just 20 growers whose production averaged three tons – a sizeable amount by Madeira’s standards.  It allows Madeira Vintners to process each growers’ harvest separately (the winery is equipped with relatively small format fermenters, between one and ten tons).  “Why spoil the wines by blending” he asks, “when you can reflect the grower, the soils and the weather?”

By adopting this small batch approach, Mendes is deliberately creating a point of difference from the competition. As he pragmatically puts it, “to survive and bring complexity we are working with as many lots as possible in the vineyards,” including Listrão (a.k.a. Palomino) and Caracol from neighbouring island, Porto Santo, whose calcareous soils differ from Madeira’s volcanic terrain.  Keen to court a new audience where, he concedes, traditional connoisseurs are not his natural constituency, Mendes is aiming “to bring to the Madeira enthusiast a new approach where ‘terroir’ matters.”  He is even considering labelling wines by the grower and/or the vineyard.

Madeira’s Small Hadron Collider

Large_Hadron_Collider_news_discovery_com Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Large Hadron Collider news discovery com

Large Hadron Collider in news.discovery.com

Terroir-driven complexity is one thing, but what about the unique age-derived intensity and complexity of premium Madeiras (Five Years Old upwards)?  These characteristics (traditionally the function of years of oxidative cask-ageing) define Madeira and are a pre-requisite to obtaining the Madeira Wine Institute’s seal of approval. Will time remain Mendes’ enemy until he has accumulated stocks of old wine?

While asserting “just because we’re a new company doesn’t mean we don’t believe time is key,” Mendes believes he has found a work-around – his very own Madeira wine particle accelerators.  Essentially, it involves “using lots of different processes in the winery” which, if all goes to plan, will help attain the complexity and profile of five to ten year old Madeiras in just three years.

Blend_All_About_Wine_Madeira_Vintners_Tinta Negra_fermented_on_skins_versus_free_run_juice Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Blend All About Wine Madeira Vintners Tinta Negra fermented on skins versus free run juice

Tinta Negra fermented on skins versus free run – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

During fermentation, these techniques include cask fermentation, cold maceration, passing by flotation, full fermentation on skins and malolactic fermentation.  It made for a novel tasting of 2013 wines which showcased how these methods can alter the profile of Madeira, sometimes dramatically.

Cask fermentation introduced greater wood and cognac derived complexity (the barrels were sourced from Remy Martin).  The bigger the barrel (they range from 350 litres to 600 litres), the better the oak integration.

Blend_All_About_Wine_Madeira_Vintners_Old_&_new-small_format_tanks_&_Remy_Martin_casks Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Blend All About Wine Madeira Vintners Old  new small format tanks  Remy Martin casks

Small format tanks versus Remy Martin casks – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

Cold maceration on skins for three days before fermenting produced a darker, spicier, textural, rounder, seemingly more developed Malvasia.  A 2014 vintage Caracol fermented on skins is much darker and more intensely fruity and spicy.

It was also fascinating to see the difference between wines fermented with temperature control (20 degrees Celsius) or without.  The former produced a much better balanced wine with more fruit and fragrance to balance the alcohol.

Blend_All_About_Wine_Madeira_Vintners_with_temperature_controlled_fermentation_vats Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Blend All About Wine Madeira Vintners with temperature controlled fermentation vats

Mendes with stainless steel temperature controlled fermenters – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

While up to 10% of wines are being conventionally canteiro (cask) aged for the minimum five year period, Mendes has departed from tradition when it comes to the estufagem process of heating the wines in tank (traditionally wines are held for three months at 45 to 50º Celsius).  His more differentiated approach seeks to introduce greater complexity – different blending options – via different estufa sizes (40.000 litre, 10.000 litres and 1.000 litre) and heating the estufas to slightly lower temperatures than the norm, with slower temperature variations over longer periods.  The aim is to mimic the cargo hold ageing of old when Madeira was shipped across the equator and back to achieve its signature scorched earth (madeirised) tang.

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Micro-oxygenation during estufagem – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

Mendes is also banking on the use of micro-oxygenation during the estufagem process to replicate traditional cask oxidation.  Of those 2014 samples we tasted, those which had received oxygen management were rounder – more precocious.

No guts, no glory

With no wines yet to show for his efforts the question on everyone’s lips is can this underdog swim against the tide of tradition, or will Mendes risk becoming a beleaguered messiah like the current US President? Only time will tell but, as they say, no guts, no glory.

Blend_All_About_Wine_Madeira_Vintners_variety_is_the_spice_of_life Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Yes we can: Madeira Vintners – A new approach to Madeira Blend All About Wine Madeira Vintners variety is the spice of life

Variety is the spice of life – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

I’m looking forward to tasting Madeira Vintner’s first releases.  They are currently scheduled for 2016 provided that Mendes (and select customers) think they are ready.  Where fortified wines struggle to remain relevant to generation X and Y, Mendes’ fresh perspective on Madeira – terroir-driven, complex but clean wines with balanced but lower alcohol (18 degrees maximum), lower sugar and acidity – is surely a welcome development.

Contacts
Cam. Sao Martinho, 56 Funchal
Madeira 9000-273
Portugal