Bastardo & Moscatel: The Tasting 1927 – 1830


On April 22, 2017, I attended my third amazing Madeira event Bastardo & Moscatel – The Tasting in New York City. This was the sixth in a series of definitive annual Madeira tastings organized by Mannie Berk (The Rare Wine Co.) and Roy Hersh (For The Love of Port).

Unlike the previous two events I have attended, I did not write an article for the tasting booklet.  Bastardo and Moscatel were produced in such small quantities that I have yet to come across references in the correspondence of our Founding Fathers, historic newspaper advertisements, and even 19th century auction catalogs. For this post I explore the history behind the Bastardo we tasted.

Noel Cossart writes that even before phylloxera the production of Bastardo was so small that it was not kept separate, instead it was pressed with other grapes.  Cossart Gordon typically pressed their Bastardo and some other varieties with Verdelho.  They did replenish their 1844 Camara de Lobos Solera with Bastardo according to Henry Vizetelly.  So scare are descriptions that the 1970 advertisement by Sherry-Lehmann for 1875 Shortridge-Lawton, Bastardo is the earliest I know of in an American paper.

The rarity of Bastardo is evidenced by Mannie Berk’s determination that the only pre-World War II vintages are 1830, 1836, 1858, 1870, 1875, 1876, and 1927.  As far as post-War vintages, it became extinct until Ricardo Freitas convinced a farmer to plant a small vineyard in 2004.  Today there is just over 1 hectare of Bastardo planted on the island.  Bastardo has always been scarce and bottlings of it even more so.

It is incredible then that we sat down to 12 different bottles of Bastardo at the tasting.  It might even seem impossible that of these selections, nine bottles were organized into three single-vintage flights: 1927, 1875, and 1870.  These groupings become understandable if the wines originally came from the same source, i.e. single pipes of each vintage.  Thus the important task of the tasting was to ascertain if each flight originated from a mother wine.

There have been three commercial releases of 1927 Bastardo and we tasted all three: the D’Oliveira, Leacock, and Blandy.  There is a fourth known Bastardo, the two casks sitting at Henriques & Henriques but it has not been released for sale and Mannie Berk was unable to obtain a sample for our tasting.  We know that the D’Oliveira came from Adegas do Terreão which they purchased in 2002 including this Bastardo in barrel.  Of the five known wines from this vintage there are at most four different sources.

For the 1927 and 1875 vintages I feel reasonably certain that two wines in each flight came from the same source.  The 1927 Leacock, Bastardo and 1927 Blandy’s, Bastardo Demijohn Selection I found similar.  The Blandy was recently bottled from demijohn and the Leacock was in bottle much longer given the dusty nose.  Despite differences in bottle age, both wines still share a pungent flavor that is remarkably similar as is the acidity.  This similarity narrows down the potential sources to three.  Without tasting the 1927 Henriques & Henriques I cannot specify further.

I found another strong commonality with the 1875 Cossart Gordon, Bastardo and 1875 Shortridge-Lawton, Bastardo which both show a similar copper color and bear a citrus flavor.

The comparisons fall apart with the weaker 1870 vintage.  The bottle of 1870 Blandy’s, Bastardo is fully mature, the 1870 Unknown, Bastardo is round, sweet, old and the  1870 Favila, Bastardo fresh, floral, and elegant.

Phylloxera

Physical map of the Island of Madeira. London : E. Standford, [1856]. ETH-Bibliothek Zürich via Old Maps Online.

The answer as to why I could find commonality with the 1927 and 1875 vintages and not the 1870 might have to do with the spread of phylloxera during the 1870s.  Phylloxera arrived on the island in 1872.  It took over a decade for its spread to be largely contained.  Over the first three years it was devastating to a few particular areas, significantly impacting the diversity of vineyards on the south side of the island.  If Bastardo was grown in vineyards throughout this side, phylloxera would have the effect of reducing the number of separate Bastardo vineyards thus increasing the chance that later vintages came from the same source.

The scarcity of Bastardo even prior to the arrival of phylloxera means we do not have a clear picture on where it was grown.  However, contemporary sources reveal there are at least two areas where Bastardo was grown during the 1870s.  Those are Camara de Lobos and Sao Martinho.   According to Noel Cossart, the 1870 Avery’s Bastardo came from Henriques’s Camara de Lobos vineyard.  He also writes of Cossart Gordon having an 1875 and 1876 Bastardo as coming from the Doria family vineyard Quinta do Salao at Camara de Lobos.  According to Ricardo Freitas, the 1870 Favilia Bastardo came from Sao Martinho as the wine belonged to Manuel Jose Vieira who had substantial vineyards in that area.

There are no detailed maps or timelines regarding the spread of phylloxera on Madeira.  We can form a general understanding on the impact on these two regions by reviewing O Archivo Rural Jornal de Agricultura (1876), Victor Fatio’s Etat de la question phylloxérique en Europe en 1877, Henry Vizetelly’s Facts about Port and Madeira (1878), Francisco d’Almeida Brito’s Le phylloxera et autres epiphyties de la vigne en Portugal (1884),  Alfredo de Villanova de Vasconcellos Correia de Barros’ Relatorio ácerca dos serviços phylloxericos em 1887 (1887), and Dwight Morrow Jr.’s Phylloxera in Portugal (1973).

Phylloxera was first introduced to the island in 1872.  The importation of vines through the port of Funchal was regarded as the source.  Curiously enough, the phylloxera first bypassed nearby Sao Martinho, instead showing up in the revered vineyards of Camara de Lobos.  This was the first area affected and it was in serious state through 1875 and 1876.  At the time of Henry Vizetelly’s visit in 1877, phylloxera had destroyed nearly all of the vineyards in Camara de Lobos.  The production ranged from 8,000 pipes in 1871 to 300 pipes in 1877 with an estimated 100 pipes for 1878.  The region was considered completely destroyed by 1887.

The vineyards of Sao Martinho were only slightly affected in 1876 and 1877.  This could be due to the orientation or generally higher elevation.  Sao Martinho would see significant devastation by 1887 but for the period of our interest it was a viable source for fruit.

1875 Cossart Gordon and Shortridge-Lawton

Cossart Gordon produced an 1875 and 1876 Bastardo from Camara de Lobos during the most devastating period for the region.  It seems counterintuitive at first but then their vineyard was located at Quinta do Salao in Estreito de Camara de Lobos.  The phylloxera first affected vines at lower altitudes of Camara de Lobos.  The unaffected vines were located at several thousand feet in elevation in the Estreito parish.  Henry Vizetelly writes that this area was untouched as of 1877 which explains why Cossart Gordon could produce the 1875 Bastardo that we tasted.

As for the Shortridge-Lawton, we can infer its history due to the Madeira Wine Association (MWA).  The MWA was founded by Blandy’s and Leacock in 1925 with Cossart-Gordon joining in 1953.  Shortridge-Lawton joined as well eventually becoming just a brand.  Our bottle of 1875 Shortridge-Lawton, Bastardo is labeled as being selected for Sherry-Lehman by the MWA during the 1970s.  The MWA pooled wine from its various members so it is reasonable that the Shortridge-Lawton is really the same as Cossart-Gordon’s Bastardo from Estreito de Camara de Lobos.

1875 and 1870 Blandy’s

While the number of existing vineyard sites reduced from the 1870 to the 1875 vintage, the Cossart Gordon vineyard in Estreito de Camara de Lobos and Vieira’s vineyard in Sao Martinho survived for the 1875 vintage.  I doubt these are the sources for our bottles of Blandy’s based on taste and history.  I found both wines savory and different from the other wines I tasted.

The origins of the 1875 and 1870 Blandy’s Bastardo at first appear somewhat of a mystery. Noel Cossart writes that the 1870 Avery’s Bastardo came from the Henriques Camara de Lobos vineyard.  The Henriques family owned vineyards at the lower elevation Pico da Torre in Camara de Lobos as well at the higher elevation of Estreito de Camara de Lobos.  If Noel Cossart is being specific then the 1870 Avery’s came from Pica da Torre which would have been destroyed by the 1875 vintage.

Alex Liddell writes in Madeira (1998) that the 1870 Blandy’s, Bastardo is originally from the cellars of Padre Henriques, vicar of Estreito de Camara de Lobos.  It is possible that Blandy’s grew Bastardo at both Estreito and Pico da Torre.  However, given its scarcity I suspect they would have grown Bastardo just at Estreito.  This leads me to believe that the 1870 Avery’s is from Henrique’s Estreito vineyard just like the 1870 Blandy’s.  If the 1875 Blandy’s Bastardo came from Henriques as well then it had to come from Estreito and not Pico da Torre because it was destroyed by phylloxera by the 1875 vintage.

Conclusion

That I found commonality between wines from the 1875 vintage and not the 1870 vintage is due to our sample size.  At first I thought Bastardo vineyards which existed in 1870 were destroyed by 1875.  However, Bastardo was grown at higher-elevations on the south-side of Madeira.  These areas remained untouched for both the 1870 and 1875 vintages.    The known Bastardo vineyards for these vintages are Cossart Gordon’s Doria family vineyard Quinta do Salao at Estreito de Camara de Lobos, Padre Henriques’ vineyard at Estreito de Camara de Lobos, and Manuel Jose Viera family vineyard at Sao Martinho.  This of course leaves one last wine, the 1870 Unknown, Bastardo.  While it tasted like no other wine, I doubt it is pure Bastardo so I cannot confirm a fourth source.  Please find my tasting notes below.

Bastardo Tasting Notes

1927 D’Oliveira, Bastardo
Bottled from cask in 2014. The lightest color of the trio of 1927s. A pungent nose that is balsamic then with air enjoyable aromas of sweet confection and brown sugar. This liquidy, puckering, and salivating wine had a drier finish. The most gentle of the three, there is a shorter finish followed by a gentle wave of flavor in the aftertaste. ***.

1927 Leacock, Bastardo
This is the darkest of the trio with more brown hints. The low-lying musk mixes with old dusty books then brown sugar. The nose likely affected by a long time in bottle. There is a sweeter and rounder entry with wood box flavors and a fine vein of acidity lurking. The pungency returns in the end as does some searing acidity. I enjoy the integration of wood flavors. ***(*).

1927 Blandy, Bastardo Demijohn Selection
Bottled from demijohn in 2013. Francisco Albuquerque states this came from the best 40-50 liters owned by the family. This is the most aromatic of the trio with pungent note, aromatic musk, and an attractive animale quality. The wine is sweet as well as immediately pungent with round flavors, a spicy middle, and compelling liveliness on the tongue. The flavors stand out on the tongue moving to a drier finish that is fresh and powerful with citric hints, and wraps up both savory and saline. With additional air this pungent wine retains its grip in the mouth and persistent aftertaste. ****.

1875 Cossart Gordon, Bastardo
A moderate level of aromas that are deep with supporting pungency. There is a savory start on the tongue tip before the wine builds both pungency and power that is soon joined by searing acidity. The body has weight up front, the finish is dry but some sweetness clings to the gums in the aftertaste. Additional complexity comes from lemon citrus and bitters. This is more powerful than the Shortridge & Lawton. ****.

1875 Shortridge-Lawton, Bastardo
One of 120 bottles reserved for Sherry-Lehman of New York. This nose is subtle and gentle. The watering start brings a bit of a separate sweet aspect. There is weight to the wine as well though more noticeable up front. At first it is less balanced in the finish with residual sugar in the aftertaste but upon revisiting, it comes together well. It mixes with orange and lemon citrus with bitters. ****.

1875 Blandy’s, Bastardo
Bottled 7 of 180. There is, perhaps, a hint of citrus on the nose. The savory, dense powerful start moves on to a mature, red-wine like middle with old wood flavors. There is body with plenty of grip in the savory, citrus coating finish. **.

1870 Blandy’s, Bastardo
The nose is low-lying with sweet musk aromas. The round entry is not assertive, rather savory with fine complex flavors that become gentler as the wine progresses ultimately fading away in the aftertaste. There is a tobacco note as well. This is certainly less vigorous than the 1875s. ***.

1870 Unknown, Bastardo
This is the darkest of the trio of 1870s, in fact, almost cola like. The nose is stinky. In the mouth this taste of sweet, old, poor pruned clunky fruit which lacks acidity to support it. The round, sweet, and savory wine tastes past prime which is ultimately too distracting. What is this? Poor.

1870 Favila, Bastardo
The reddest and brownest of the trio. There is a minty, fresh hint to the nose with a delicacy that marks it completely different than all other wines. The flavors are sweeter and rounded with fresh, floral tea flavors woven throughout. There is fine balance to this elegant wine. ***.

1858 Leacock, Lomelino, Bastardo
Rebottled 1900. The nose offers subtle tobacco and subtle fruit. The flavors are tobacco infused with low-lying custard sweetness and eventually some bitterness. There is a thick, mature wine like middle before the bitter finish of licorice and tobacco. Perhaps musty in the aftertaste. **.

1836 Leacock, Lomelino, Bastardo
Rebottled 1926. The nose offers fine wood notes and perhaps licorice. In the mouth this is a fine and elegant wine with a zip of acidity supporting the rounded body. This is ultimately a bit sweeter in flavor than acidic. It is certainly an older wine but it still sports a bit of racy character. ***.

1830 Welsh Bros, Bastardo
There is a pungency to the nose that the other wines do not have. The nose is strong and decent but on revisiting it is smelly. This is a salty wine with less body and drier than the nose suggests. All of the power is up front, the wine is not balanced. It is dry, bitter, and the alcohol is noticeable. **.

Moscatel Tasting Notes

1900 D’Oliveira, Moscatel
This wine is very dark and the nose is sweaty and pungent. It is round, sweet, and racy in the mouth. The residual sugar is certainly present up front and in the aftertaste. A wood note adds complexity. There is power throughout with the wine sharpening up in the finish as more acidity is brought forth. ***.

1900 Leacock, Moscatel
Rather dark. The nose is subtle compared to the D’Oliveira but the pungency does come out. There is plenty of sweet such that you can practically feel it. The start is higher-toned with some lift from acidity. A bit of tea and pungency add complexity. ***.

1900 Avery’s, Moscatel
This is an oak color with a touch fruitier nose. This is lively from the start with flavors of black, sweet tea and ripe texture. It does not have the level of sweetness that the D’Oliveira and Leacock posses. It is an interesting old-school type of wine. **.

1890 Barrous e Sousa, Moscatel
In bottle for 60 years. A little stinky. This is thick with integrated sweetness and texture. There is an interesting, odd flavor in this weighty wine that drapes over the tongue. Dried fruit develops in the soft middle with textured sugar in the finish. There is both less sweetness and acidity but the wine is balanced. ***.

1875 D’Oliveira, Moscatel
Bottled in the 1970s. This is the darkest along with the 1870 Blandys. There is less sugar up front but the balanced start conveys sweetness and pungency. There is an attractive mineral, racy vein as the wine reveals density and tea flavors. It is concentrated but not too much. ***(*).

1870 Manuel Jose Vieira, Moscatel, Camara de Lobos
This is the lightest color. Wow, this is an acidity driven with minimal sugar, old perfume, and thin body. It is old-school but volatile. *.

1870 Blandy’s, Moscatel
The sweetness comes from textured brown sugar. The wine has power and some searing acidity near the finish but the residual sugar drapes over the acidity. In the end this is satisfying with good flavor from the baking spices. **.

1856 Barbeito, Moscatel
A medium color compared to the others. This is pungent and acidity driven like a non-Moscatel Madeira. The acidity builds and is persistent but not offending like the 1870 Vieira. The body has glycerin. The driest wine of the flight. Is it pure Moscatel? ***(*).

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