Two Hundred Years of Blandy's (Part I)

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 have been privileged to take part in the preparations for the celebrations in London where I will be chairing a tasting of Madeira wines back to 1811 on 9th June.

The following wines are those that have already been shown by the family at commemorative tastings in San Francisco and New York. Due to the very limited stock of some of the older most historic wines, these wines will not be shown in London. I was tasted them with Francisco Albuquerque, Blandy’s wine maker, at the Madeira Wine Company's lodges  in Funchal. Where the information is available I have including some notes on the background of the wines.

Part II of this tasting will be posted after the London tasting has taken place on 9thJune. Having been given a preview of the wines I can say,  without doubt, that it will the tasting of a lifetime!

Blandy’s Bual 1968 ****

Mid-mahogany, green tinge to the rim; lovely, lifted and expressive on the nose, figs and walnuts and wood smoke; very clean, piercing fruit, crystallised fruits, long and sinewy with good poise, length and concentration of flavour. 17.5  

Leacock’s Sercial 1950 **** 

Mid amber-orange, green rim; lovely lifted, floral aromas, green and leafy too, freshly crushed leaves, gunpowder tea; quite delicate; very clean yet gentle grassy character, off-dry with a powerful savoury finish (salted nuts) but not too punishing or austere. Very fine Sercial. 17.5 

Blandy’s Bual 1948 ****

Mid-deep mahogany, thin green tinge to the rim; rich, savoury (almost cheesy - (apparently this wine didn’t show well at one of the US tastings due to a certain amount of bottle stink) with good depth and intensity; lovely rich, savoury-sweet flavours, big, full and concentrated with a lovely expansive finish, giving the impression of being savoury rather than sweet. 18

Cossart Gordon Verdelho 1934 (bottled March 2006) *****

Mid-mahogany, thin yellow rim; lovely smoky, nutty aromas, hazelnuts, gentle and delicate; similarly gentle toasty flavours, almonds, lemon and lime acidity, very fine balance and poise. Salted nuts on the finish. 19  

Blandy’s Terrantez 1899 (Bottled into demi-john1921, re-bottled 1986) *****

Deep mahogany in colour, thin yellow-green rim; penetrating and concentrated on the nose, savoury, wood smoke and nuts; wonderfully rich in texture, thick, powerful and intense with a pronounced thick-cut marmalade and orange peel character balanced by beautiful zesty acidity, very powerful peacock’s tail of a finish that goes on and on. Not typical of Terrantez (perhaps due to its relatively early bottling) and therefore quite difficult to mark but a fabulous wine. 19  

Blandy’s Bual 1874 *****

Produced at the height of phylloxera, possibly from grapes grown at the famous Leacock quinta (Quinta de São João) which was one of very few properties producing anything at the time; mid-deep mahogany, thin green rim; fine and scented, damp autumnal leaves and decaying woodland flowers, haunting and very expressive; lovely rich citrus peel tang, very powerful, rich and intense with a big, full, expressive finish. Very complex and long. 19 

Blandy’s Terrantez 1870 (Bottled 1921 and re-corked in 1986) ****

Mid-deep amber –mahogany with a red glint and yellow green rim; very fine, lifted perfume, garden flowers with a touch of wood varnish; bitter-sweet candied peel, clean, med-dry in style, gentle but lithe, very fresh and alive. Delightful wine, just pre-phylloxera. 18 


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