My recent Maderia Wine notes
A month or so ago a lovely little ‘cesto de vindima’ (vintage basket) came my way from the Madeira Wine Company with samples of four new wines being launched in 2021. These included an unusual Listrão from Blandy’s, the last cask from one of the last harvests at William Leacock’s vineyard at Porto Santo.
The BFT (Big Fortified Tasting) is one of the big events in the tasting calendar. It is a showcase for fortified wines from all over the world. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic the event has been taking place ‘at home’ for the last few weeks with little bottles of wine sent very efficiently by the organisers on request.
This was my Christmas bottle of Madeira in 2020, from an unknown shipper but labelled ‘of Zino, Caves do Torreão’. Adegas do Torreão were partidistas who supplied other shippers and were taken over by Pereira d’Oliveira in 2001. The ‘of Zino’ refers to the Zino family who are a respected family on the island.
Madeira's annual Wine Festival is timed to coincide with the start of harvest (a long, stop-start affair that usually lasts from August to October, given the number of different grapes and meso-climates on the island).
Blandy 1980 Sercial ****
The following wines are new vintage releases from the Madeira Wine Company, first shown at the Madeira Wine Festival held on the island at the start of September 2018:
Miles 1997 Tinta Negra ****
Lomelino Malvazia 1906 ****/*****
The Tinta Negra grape (formerly known as Tinta Negra Mole) accounts for nearly 90 per cent of the production of Madeira wine and yet only since 2013 has it been permitted as a varietal on the label.
I am grateful to Christopher Blandy for sending me these samples to taste. The 1968 Sercial is a stunning example of just how good this variety can be after spending half-a-century in cask.
Blandy's Verdelho Colheita 2000 ****
I am very grateful to Edwin Vos, Head of Christie’s Wine Department in Amsterdam for inviting me to this enticing pre-sale tasting of old madeiras shipped from a number of private cellars on the island.
The following wines were sent to me in 20cl sample bottles by the Madeira Wine Company (MWC), producers of Blandy and Cossart Cordon madeiras (among others). They are all wines that have been bottled over the last two years and recently released for sale.
This is the fourth in a series of tastings that I have attended focusing on one of Madeira’s leading grape varieties, this time Sercial. The tasting was put together by Mannie Berk and Roy Hersh, both madeira enthusiasts and I am especially grateful to them for their research into the background of many of the wines.
The following wines were all served though a dinner organized by Bordeaux Index (now officially called BI) at Pied-a-Terre in London. I arrived with all the symptoms of a really heavy cold but, being madeira, the wines managed to penetrate this.
I was invited many years ago by the late Bill Baker to attend one of the Madeira Club’s tastings but I was sadly unable to accept. Another invitation followed from member David Courtney-Clack and this time I was able to attend a tasting and lunch at the Clifton Club in Bristol.
This is the third in a series of tastings that I have attended focusing on one of Madeira’s principal grape varieties. This year was is the turn of Malvasia / Malmsey (with Bual and Verdelho having been covered in the previous two years.
These are the latest releases from Blandy’s range of Colheitas, a category that is increasing in significance by presenting a dated wine well before the twenty years required to qualify for frasqueira (vintage). The wines come from the 1998 harvest which, I am informed, was was defined by the pruning date.
These are the latest releases from Blandy’s range of Colheitas. The wines come from the 1998 harvest and it is encouraging to have been given some background information about the growing conditions, something that has not been very forthcoming from Madeira in the past. The year was apparently defined by the pruning date.
This is a retrospective of five Malmseys, tutored by Chris Blandy the new man at the helm of the Madeira Wine Company and includes a new vintage / frasqueira wine from 1988.
This is the third varietal tasting organized by Roy Hersh (For the Love of Port) and Mannie Berk (The Rare Wine Company) and the second that I have attended.This year’s chosen grape is Bual (Boal), following on from Terrantez and Verdelho.
I am grateful to Michael Schuster for inviting me to co-present this tasting of Madeiras from Blandy, Cossart Gordon and Leacock. Of the eight wines in the tasting I had only tasted three before and the 1940, 1952, 1920, 1977 and 1916 are entirely new to me.
I attended a magnificent tasting in Christie’s boardroom in advance of a major sale of Madeiras on Thursday 12th December 2013. Included in the sale are a number of wines from Blandy’s that have been bottled from demijohn especially for the event. These wines span the period 1954 – 1887. Sadly none of these wine were available for tasting.
I have written before that I would travel the earth to attend one of Patrick Grubb’s tastings. This was billed as his last so I made an extra special effort to attend, moving commitments at the Decanter World Wine Awards in the process.
Blandy’s Bual 1969 *****
This was a truly international tasting of wines made from what is one of Madeira’s greatest grapes. It was organized by Roy Hersh (For The Love Of Port) and Mannie Berk (The Rare Wine Company) and drew in twenty madeira aficionados from all over the world, each of whom brought along a bottle.
Blandy’s 10 Year Old Bual ****
Mid-amber; lovely smokey aromas, gentle, refined and above all clean, none of the rancio of yesteryear; soft initially, dried apricots followed by lemon and lime marmalade, long and clean with a fine streak of acidity running all the way through. 17
The silence on my website has been deafening over the past few weeks, at least to me. I have been busy finishing the third edition of my book Port and the Douro which is due to be published in the autumn. With nearly all the i's dotted and t's crossed I can go back to posting tasting notes on my website.
Patrick Grubb’s annual tasting of old madeiras is unmissable. It didn’t take place last year so when he invited me to taste a dozen wines going back nearly two centuries I jumped at the chance. The following wines are listed in the order that I tasted them accompanied, where relevant, by some of Patrick’s own background notes:
Cossart Gordon Bual 1961 ****
I previously billed this as a ‘tasting of a lifetime’ and so it turned out. Never again will these rare Vintage Madeira wines be tasted together and it is likely that I will never see some of them again.
The Blandy family are celebrating their 200th anniversary on the island of Madeira this year, John Blandy having established his business there in 1811. My wife is a member of the Blandy family and used to work for the family firm. Her cousin Christopher now represents the 7th generation to be involved with the company.
I was fortunate to spend a morning with Ricardo Diogo at Barbeito’s new adegaabove Câmara de Lobos. It was the day of the Big Fortified Tasting in London and some of these wines were on show there but it is even better to taste them in situwith the winemaker.
All five Madeira shippers managed to attend the BFT 2010 which was held in London earlier this year and I made a special effort to taste their wines. Of the 55 Madeiras on show these are the wines that impressed me the most (listed by shipper).
I have a vivid memory of the 'Acciaioly' Madeira sale hald at Christies on 15th June 1989. It was the pre-sale tasting that was a revelation as it was the first time that I had tasted these amazing 19th century wines. I was taken aback at just how fresh and alive the wines were after spending so long in cask and glass demijohns.
Patrick Grubb generously uncorked 12 bottles of very fine madeira wine for his unmissable annual tasting at the Honourable Artillery Company in London. Where relevant I have included background information on the wines as well as the price per bottle (provided more than one bottle was available).
IVBAM, the body now responsible for the control and promotion of wine, embroidery and handicraft held their annual tasting at the Portuguese Embassy in London. There were nearly 40 wines at the tasting so I made a selection of the best and most interesting wines:
Opened to celebrate my daughter Isabella's Christening:
I always marvel at Patrick Grubb’s Madeira tastings for two reasons. Firstly they take place at Armoury House, with its historic rugby and cricket field besieged by the gawping modern office blocks of the City of London. Secondly, every year Patrick Grubb generously uncorks bottled history.
19 - 20 An outstanding wine (*****)
17 – 18 An excellent wine in its class, highly recommended (****)
15 - 16 A good wine, with much to recommend it (***)
13 - 14 An enjoyable but simple, straightforward wine (**)
10 – 12 A very ordinary wine without faults but with no great merit (*)
8 - 10 Disagreeable (no stars)
Below 8 Faulty