Madeiras from Six Shippers

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:

Blandy’s Alvada ***

A blend of Bual and Malvasia: mid-mahogany, amber rim; soft, easy going aromas of raisins and dried figs; clean, fresh acidity, quite light in style, fruit cake flavours, rather one dimensional but elegant and very approachable. 15.5

Blandy’s Bual Colheita 1983 (Lodge 2, Cask no 14011) ****

Blandy’s very welcome response to the single cask wines initiated by Barbeito. From numbered casks, the bottles carrying the signature of Michael Blandy: pale green tinged amber; fine, lifted, incisive aromas, gentle yet quite expressive; fine, bitter-sweet lime marmalade character, pronounced citrus streak but gentle too with a lovely clean finish. Delicious. 17.5 

Blandy’s Malmsey Colheita 1990 (Lodge 1 Este, Cask no 16094) ****

Pale mahogany, green tinge; rich but not particularly expressive figgy aromas; lovely weight on the palate, showing the concentration of age, a touch of treacle yet clean and incisive (not in anyway soupy). 17

Blandy’s Bual 1920 *****

Red-tinged mahogany, olive-green rim; lovely, lifted leafy aromas, high-toned, expressive, varnish but in a really beautiful sense – this is Chippendale! Very fine, delicate leafy flavours, powerful yet poised with a wonderful, rich butterscotch flavour offset by crisp acidity. Perfect balance. 19.5

Henriques & Henriques 10 Year old Sercial ***

H&H have long been producers of some of the best 10 & 15 year olds and these wines did not disappoint although the 15 year old wines are a big step up: pale amber colour, not all that expressive on the nose, rather simple dusty, nutty aromas; clean, savoury cashew nut character on the palate with a good streak of acidity. Dry but not too austere in style. 16

Henriques & Henriques 10 Year Old Verdelho ***

Pale mahogany; gentle, savoury-sweet aromas, a touch raisiny; quite rich in style for Verdelho with acidity cutting in, satisfying fruit cake character. 16.5 

Henriques & Henriques 10 Year Old Malmsey ***

Mid-deep mahogany; rich, raisiny aromas, a touch lifted and quite expressive as a result; raisiny flavours, very clean and well balanced but not very complex. 16

Henriques & Henriques 15 Year Old Verdelho ****

Mid-amber/mahogany, slight green tinge; light, delicate, high toned and very refined; lovely lime and grapefruit character, delicate, off-dry with lovely length. 17.5

Henriques & Henriques 15 Year Old Bual ****

Mid-amber/mahogany; fine, rich, smoky aromas, gentle richness on the nose and palate; savoury, touch of toffee, complex with a wonderful finish. Very good. 18

Henriques & Henriques 15 Year Old Malmsey ****

 Mid-deep, red tinged mahogany; lovely smoky, raisiny aromas; sweet, rich, raisins, figs, prunes and toffee, all offset by a fine streak of acidity. Beautifully balanced. Full, rich, complete. 18 

Henriques & Henriques Bual Harvest 2000 ***

All the grapes are from the company’s own vineyard at Quinta Grande: mid-deep amber colour; dried fruit cake character on the nose; ripe, concentrated figgy sweetness, quite sweet in style for a Bual, nicely balanced but not very exciting. 15.5 

Justino’s Old Reserve, Fine Rich 10 Years Old ***

Made from a field blend of grapes (mostly Tinta Negra Mole), consequently red-mahogany in colour; fragrant, pungent tea leaf character; well defined, fresh bitter-sweet marmalade character, clean and quite elegant. Good. 16.5

Justino’s Bual 10 Years Old ****

Mid-deep red tinged mahogany; lovely tawny marmalade character, open and expressive; rich, slightly singed spicy fruit, good depth with an incisive marmalade tang and bitter-sweet length. 17

D’Oliveira’s Boal Colheita 1983 (bottled 2003) *** / ****

This just qualifies as vintage so I don’t know why it has been classified as a colheita: mid amber / mahogany; forthright, pungent aromas, with the tang of thick-cut marmalade; rich with lovely weight and texture, smoky sweetness with a dry edge to the finish, clean initially but with a hint of rusticity. 16.5

D’Oliveira’s Boal 1908 (bottled 2008) ***

Very deep, dark mahogany colour, thin green rim; powerful, pungent, high toned, rather soupy and old fashioned in style; powerful bitter-sweet flavours with the concentration of age but without much elegance. Singed flavours. Molasses. Long rich and leathery. A wine to respect more than a wine to enjoy. 16 

Barbeito 10 Years Old ‘Old Reserve’ Verdelho ****

Pale – mid amber; very alluring savoury aromas, toasted almonds, quite incisive; savoury off-dry character, almonds and hazelnuts with a touch of citrus. Gentle sweetness apparent on the finish. 18 

Barbeito 10 Years Old, Malvasia *** / ****

Mid-amber, pale for a Malvasia (Barbeito admit that they have given up using caramel for colouring); fairly rich figgy aromas with a savoury character underlying; fine citrus fruit character, tawny marmalade with savoury-sweet length. Lovely acidity to balance the richness. 16.5

Barbeito 30 Years Old Malvazia **** / *****

An unusual wine as most madeira of this age is bottled as vintage: mid-deep, golden amber colour; very expressive leafy aromas – autumn leaves on a clear day; pungent, powerful and concentrated, dried fruit (figs and apricots) offset by citrusy acidity. Lime and lemon. Very complex with an expressive finish. 18.5 

Barbeito VB Reserva Meio Seco (Cascos 12d and 46a) ****

A blend of Bual and Verdelho from two casks and the 2001 and 2003 harvests respectively: mid amber; lovely savoury – smoky, hickory aromas, complex for a fairly young wine; gentle apricot sweetness with grapefruit-like acidity with a brazil nut character. Finely balanced and very, very good. A brilliant wine from a brilliant wine maker. 18

Location: The Portuguese Ambassador's Residence, London


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