New Madeira Colheita and Vintage Releases: four outstanding wines.

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). This year looks like being a promising harvest, especially for Verdelho and Bual but one where demand is constrained by the Covid pandemic and the decline in numbers of tourists visiting Madeira and Porto Santo. Given the continuing uncertainly and the fact that stock levels are currently high, wine producers are reluctant to buy up grapes this year. This does however present an opportunity for those shippers in a stronger financial position to buy in high quality grapes and increase their stock of vintage wines, looking many years into the future. There is a sense of history repeating itself as Chris Blandy explained when presenting the latest bottling of Blandy’s remarkable Bual 1920, a wine that just keeps on giving. 

Chris Blandy and wine maker Francisco Albuquerque both on hand to present four recent bottlings timed to coincide with the Festa das Vindimas which, in 2020, looks likely to be rather low key. The wines, on the other hand, speak for themselves:

Cossart Gordon 2008 Colheita Verdelho (bottled 2020) ****
Pale golden-amber colour; lovely lifted lemon and lime marmalade aromas with just a touch of savoury complexity, very fresh, precise and beautifully clean; tropical fruit on the palate, ‘chutney’, medium dry (68 g/l residual sugar), just a touch of salinity, all backed by a lithe streak of acidity which continues through onto a lovely pure, defined finish. 18 

Blandy’s 1976 Verdelho (bottled 2020) *****
Mid-deep mahogany with a copper-red tint; wonderfully lifted, pungent spicy aromas (ginger?) with a touch of toffee and greengage fruit (ameixa rainha santa) underlying; powerful, freshness immediately apparent with lovely greengage reemerging on the finish, long, a touch bitter sweet (86g/l residual sugar) and beautifully poised. A magnificent expression of Verdelho. 19

Cossart Gordon 1975 Terrantez *****
Terrantez is as rare as hen’s teeth and this dates from a time when it was grown on some of the best south-facing sites close to Funchal that have now been lost to urban development. Mid-deep red-tinged mahogany; quite exotic on the nose, butterscotch and spice with a just touch of wood smoke; unusually rich and suave initially, dried fig richness and intensity (95 g/l residual sugar) offset by characteristic steely acidity cutting through leading to a delightfully fresh, long, utterly precise finish. Glorious: as good as it gets. 20.     

Blandy 1920 Bual *****
The 1920s were not very kind to Madeira. Still recovering from the twin plagues of oidium and phylloxera, the island last two of its main markets after the Russian Revolution in 1917 and Prohibition in the USA from 1920 onwards. Blandy’s were in a relatively strong position at the time and bought up large quantities of 1920 Bual which has subsequently been bottled as both Cossart Gordon and Lomelino, both of which became part of the Madeira Wine Association. Last bottled to commemorate Blandy’s bicentennial in 2011, it has been bottled again for the wine’s centenary. Transferred from vat to glass demi-johns in 2017, remarkably are still another 840 litres left for future bottlings. So to the wine: deep mahogany in colour; rich pungent, thick cut tawny marmalade on the nose, huge complexity, scented, slightly floral and singed around the edges; powerfully concentrated candied orange peel with a touch of malt, rich (110 g/l residual sugar), intense and savoury too, wonderfully long and complex, just a touch burnt around the finish (a phenomenon that Francisco Albuquerque puts down to the oxidation of alcohol). I have tasted this wine from different bottlings on a number of occasions and it never ceases to amaze. 19.5     

Scoring

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