A Dozen Vintage Madeiras - back to 1790

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).  

Sercial 1790 (Araújo Family) *****

This wine comes from the private reserves of the Araújo family who still own vineyards at Quinta do Jardim da Serra: mid-nut brown / mahogany, olive tinge; fragrant and delicate, very fresh, floral (jasmine) aromas, very fine; dry, savoury, nutty character (brazil nuts and almonds), very delicate, plays on the tongue, crystalised fruits (Elvas plums) on the finish. Remarkable for its age. (£2,200) 19

Perreira d’Oliveira, Verdelho 1905, Reserva ***

Mid-deep mahogany, green tinged rim; a rather coarse, meaty rancio nose, verging on rancid; quite rich for a Verdelho, fresher on the palate than on the nose with good weight and texture and a thick cut marmalade tang. (£260) 15 

 Barbeito, Verdelho 1895 **** / *****

Mid-red tinged mahogany; fine, savoury toasted character, toasted almonds and cashews; very fine, well poised, lime and lemon marmalade, great finesse, very clean with lovely nervy, fruity acidity. Remarkably fresh. Fantastic.   (£230) 18.5

Blandy, Bual 1911 ****

Red tinged mahogany; fragrant, sings from the glass, quite pungent autumnal aromas, autumn leaves, teal leaves and a hint of white pepper; light, delicate, flavours, crisp and quite dry for a Bual, clean as a whistle, long, fine and still very fresh. (£215) 18

Cossart, 1868 Solera *****

Island bottled and shipped to one of Denmark’s best wine merchants. Grapes from Cama de Lobos. An excellent year for Bual. Pale amber with a green tinge; very toasty and appealing, savoury aperitif style, toast and peanut butter on the nose; fine delicate, saline flavours akin to a bowl of mixed salted nuts, almost no sweetness but with lovely poise and gentle length. A crème brulée finish. Very impressive (£233) 19

Bual Barbosa c1820 **** / *****

From the label: ‘Owing to the absence of the owner grapes were picked almost as raisins. Grown at Quinta Stanford. Vintage about 1820, in wood for 65 years, demijohns for 50 years, bottled around 1935’). Quinta Stanford was located just to the west of Funchal in between and behind the modern-day Pestana Carlton Hotel and the Reid’s Garden apartment complex. It was also known as Quinta Pitta (sic), the name of which lives on in the Rua Dr Pita. The label, observes Patrick Grubb is reminiscent of the late Dr Grabham’s collection which was passed on to the Blandy family. Mid-amber/mahogany, olive green rim; delicate, high-toned aromas with a touch of varnish and polish; powerful, thick cut marmalade and barley sugar flavours, long, rich and gripping, very powerful with fine concentration and a big finish. (£600) 18.5 

Barbeito, Malvazia 1916 ***

Mid-deep mahogany, olive green rim; very pungent, rich, baked and slightly coarse in this company; rich and caramelised on the palate, the richness offset by citrusy acidity. Savoury-sweet length. Very satisfying. (£180) 16

 Blandy, Malvasia Velha 1862 ****

Mid-amber with a green tinged rim; delicate honeyed aromas, not very expressive but very fine, acacia honey; lovely rich, honeyed flavours, Manuka honey, very fine, rich but not pungent, long. Liquid honey. (£510) 18

Blandy Terrantez 1969 ** / ***

One of the last vintages of Terrantez before the grape was driven to near extinction by commercial development west of Funchal. Mid-nut brown colour, olive rim; rather baked, savoury, slightly cheesy aromas, not really reflecting the grape variety but quite appetising nonetheless; rich bitter-sweet flavours (typical of Terrantez), gentle flavours, dried apricots, not especially long in this company but with a fine savoury-sweet finish. (£150). 14.5

Believed 1862 Terrantez H.M.B. Purchased by Leacock. *****

HMB stands for H.M. Borges who were important stockholders of old vintage wines who sold the wine on in demi-john or bottle. This wine probably originated from one grower, João Alexandrino Santos. Michael Braodbant is a huge fan of this wine and awards it 6 stars in his Vintage Wine book. I can't get quite so excited: lovely old golden-green colour; very fine, delicate aromas akin to an old amontillado Sherry, a hint of coffee; dry, delicate (bitter-sweet), very clean and focused, like a good old amontillado but without the same tang, candied peel with a touch of toffee and butterscotch with a slightly casky finish. (£1150) 17.5

W.W. Casa dos Leilos. ***

From the family of Dr Fredercio de Freitas: mid-pale amber; lovely gentle, savoury aromas, hint of butterscotch with casky overtones; fine, dry, delicate in style, dried fruit (figs) with fresh acidity, gentle length. 16

Very Old Madeira, Fearon, Block and Smith * / **

Bought by Patrick Grubb from a fellow wine merchant about twenty years ago. The wine came from a deceased customer’s reserves after World War II when proof of ownership was impossible because so many of the firm’s records had been destroyed in the blitz. Pale amber with a green tinge; slightly burnt, singed grapey fruit on the nose; dry attenuated, savoury-nutty flavours, rather earthy and soily on the finish. Rustic. A rather disappointing end to a tremendous tasting. 12.5 


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