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William Coombe’s “The manner of drawing pipes of wine on a sledge” from 1821

February 2, 2018 Leave a comment

“The manner of drawing pipes of wine on a sledge” [1]

The image in this post is one of 27 from William Coombe’s book A history of Madeira (1821).  I selected the image because the pipe is branded “N G M” for Newton, Gordon, and Murdoch.  William Coombe (1741-1823) is a writer famous for his Dr. Syntax series of verse illustrated by Thomas Rowlandson.  This familiarity with satire perhaps explains the soft, somewhat jovial facial expressions common in the Madeira illustrations and certainly explains the accompanying verse.

Coombe first comments that the oxen pulling the sledges are “a very beautiful race of animals” with the additional  benefit that “the meat is excellent”.  Or from his own verse:

And now it is the oxen’s task,
To drag along the liquid cask,
Filled with the juice that aids the treat
When they’re cut up, and turned to meat.


[1] “The manner of drawing pipes on a sledge” from William Coombe’s A history of Madeira (1821). Bayerische Staatsbibliothek URL: http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/0010/bsb00103983/images/

Bastardo & Moscatel: The Tasting 1927 – 1830

January 20, 2018 Leave a comment

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? ***(*).

The 1869 Lomelino, Boal first sold in 1882

January 18, 2018 Leave a comment

The 1869 Lomelino, Boal. Picture taken by Eric Ifune at the Beauty of Bual Tasting (2014).

The global Great Depression and international financial crisis led to difficult years for many Madeira shippers during the early 20th century.  In 1925 Leacock joined forces with Blandy’s to form the Madeira Wine Association (MWA).  Over the next several decades every major Madeira shipper joined the MWA.  Under the MWA management was centralized.  Members continued to sell under their own labels but old stocks of Madeira were brought together for use by all and new vintages were bought collectively.  Thus a shipper’s name could act simply as a brand with the wine itself having come from another member firm.  A recurring question for consumers of old MWA labels then is which firm was the source of the Madeira in the bottle?

The question arose at The Beauty of Bual Tasting (2014) with regards to the 1869 Lomelino, Boal.  Lomelino joined the MWA where its name was eventually used as a brand beginning in the 1930s.  As a result it was suspected that the 1869 Lomelino, Boal served at the tasting did not contain actual Lomelino wine. Just two other 1869 Boal wines are listed in Noel Cossart’s Madeira the Island Vineyard (2011) the Blandy’s and an unknown producer.  The vast majority of the bottles sold appear under the Blandy’s name.

We may never know the actual source of these wines but we now know that beginning in 1882, Lomelino sold an 1869 Boal from Campanario.  We know this because Commander Tarquinio T. da C. Lomelina advertised his wines in the French periodical Revue de Vins et Liquors from 1880 through 1892.[1] Whether the bottle tasted in 2014 is the same wine as that sold 125 years earlier remains a mystery but the possibility exists!

Here is the wine list from 1882, in descending cost, including the prices in French Francs per dozen bottles ex Madeira.

1821 Sancto Martinho 350
1821 Campanario 350
1821 Camara de Lobos 350
1835 Campanario, Malvasia 269
1838 Campanario, Malvasia 230
1838 Campanario, Boal 230
1844 Sancto Martinho 140
1844 Camara de Lobos 140
1848 Campanario, Boal 115
1847 Campanario, Malvasia 115
1848 Camara de Lobos 115
1848 Sancto Martinho 115
1850 Campanario Boal 80
1850 Sancto Martinho 80
1850 Camara de Lobos, Malvasia 80
1865 Camara de Lobos, Boal 70
1870 Monte, Moscatel 70
1851 Campanario, Sercial 70
1851 Sancto Martinho 70
1869 Campanario, Boal 55
1872 Campanario, Malvasia 55
1868 Sancto Martinho 55
1868 Camara de Lobos 55
1870 Quinta da Paz 50
1870 Sancto Martinho 50
1871 Sancto Martinho 45
1871 Quinta da Paz 45
1873 Santo Roque 40
1873 Campanario 40
1876 Camara de Lobos 35
1877 Sancto Antonio 30


[1] Revue des vins et liqueurs et des produits alimentaires pour l’exportation. 1882. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb410434488

“[A] real revelation for France”: Tasting notes for Lomelino Madeira wine at the 1882 Bordeaux International Wine Exhibition

January 17, 2018 2 comments

Lomelino Madeira label with medals from Paris Exposition 1878 and Bordeaux Exposition 1882.

From time to time, bottles of Lomelino Madeira have been tasted at the annual Madeira events organized by Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., and Roy Hersh, For The Love of Port.  My first experience came at the Bastardo & Moscatel – The Tasting (2017).  Here I tasted the 1858 Tarquinio T. da C. Lomelino, C. de B., Bastardo and 1836 Tarquinio T. da C. Lomelino, Bastardo.

According to Noel Cossart Madeira The Island Vineyard (2011) Tarquinio Torquato da Camara Lomelino took over the old firm of Robert Leal and started shipping Madeira under his own name in 1820.  For such an old firm I could not help but wonder if any old tasting notes survive.

Fortunate for us, Lomelino submitted a number of wines at the 1878 Exposition Universelle or third Paris World’s Fair.[1]  It is here that Commander Lomelino won the grand prize for his Madeira wines, an achievement for which he was awarded the Legion of Honor.[2]  He deservedly drew attention to his submissions at the Bordeaux International Wine Exhibition of 1882 at which the Revue des Vins et Liquers  took notes.  Lomelino exhibited wines from the 1802 to the 1877 vintages.  Of these the Revue commented on the following:

1802 Serial – “very dry with an exquisite perfume and delicacy”
1812 Verdelho – “dry and with a superior bouquet”
1824 and 1830 Boal – “medium sweet very agreable and full of body”
1830 Malvasia – “soft mellow delicat, and the most delicious one can imagine”
1844 Martinho – “dry and very fine”
1844 Camara de Lobos – “medium dry, remarkable for their exquisite bouquet”
1848 Boal, Sercial, and Malvasia – “irreproachable”
1868 Camara de Lobos and Sao Martinho – “recommend them selves by their delicate aromas”
1870 Quinta da Paz – “leaves nothing to be desired in the way of perfume and delicacy”

Though a number of these very same Lomelino vintages have appeared at recent auctions, these specific wines themselves have not, preventing the comparison of notes from across the centuries.


[1] –  Revue des vins et liqueurs et des produits alimentaires pour l’exportation. 1882. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb410434488

[2] Lomelino received a Gold Medal and the Island of Madeira received a Diploma of Honor equivalent to the Grand Medal.  See Catalogue officiel : liste des récompenses / Exposition universelle internationale de 1878, à Paris ; Ministère de l’agriculture et du commerce.  1878. URL: http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb33385079f

The wicker capsule on the 1880 CVM Malvasia Madeira

January 15, 2018 1 comment

The 1880 Companhia Vinicola da Madeira (CVM), Malvasia Madeira served at my Introductory Madeira Tasting was sealed with a decades old wicker capsule.  According to Alex Liddel’s Madeira (1998), wickerwork expanded on the island during the 1870s as a result of the phylloxera.  It is not clear when bottles were first sealed with a wicker capsule but some shippers did use them widely.  The practice faded out by the 1980s.  This particular bottles bear a Junta Nacional do Vinho da Madeira (JNC) paper seal under the capsule so it was applied between 1937 and 1979.

 

The wicker capsule is composed of a partially woven top which covers the opening of the bottle and a single piece, spiral wound around the top of the neck.  The end of the spiral is tucked into itself.  It may be unwound.

Upon unwinding the spiral piece of wicker, you can see how the legs of the top wicker piece lay underneath.

The top piece comes right off revealing a thin paper covering.  It was certainly fragile and a bit stuck to the bottle but I soon peeled all of the pieces off.

The paper JNV seal is revealed covering the opening of the bottle and the cork.  Once I removed the JNV seal I extracted the cork using my Durand.  This bottle was sealed with one of the notoriously short, yet effective, corks.

An introductory Madeira tasting: 1971 Terrantez back to 1880 Malvasia

January 12, 2018 2 comments

This past weekend I hosted a Madeira tasting in answer to requests I have received from my friends.  With a sizeable selection of wines made available to me by Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., I settled in on what I consider an introductory tasting.  Over the course of 10 bottles I presented such wines as a recent Historic Series blend, a 19th century Bual solera, Bastardo, Tinta Negra, young Terrantez, and Malvasia Candida from Faja dos Padres.

I deployed all of my matching stems, some 72 of them, so we tasted the Madeira in two flights of five.  The extra dozen stems were required for Champagne, of course.  Each flight was largely designed to move from drier and more acidic to richer with the ending wine of each flight being old.  The two oldest bottles were decanted five days prior to the tasting then rebottled after one day in the decanter.  The other bottles received similar treatment one to two days ahead of time.

One guest surprised the group with a bottle of 1937 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira which was inserted into the first flight so we could compare it against the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira.  Thus you will find eleven tasting notes below.

The wines all showed very well with enough variety to encourage comparison.  It is definitely one of the most satisfying tasting I have been to as of late.  Given the loud volume of everyone towards the end of the tasting coupled with their individual comments, they agreed to!  For each flight I presented a short history of the wines which was well received.  I was excited for this tasting to occur, not just to experience the aromas and flavors, but to convey the individual stories of the wines.  Please find these wine histories appear below.  They are far more important than my tasting notes and ratings.

The histories are largely compiled from correspondence with Mannie Berk, The Rare Wine Co., and  Ricardo Freitas, Vinhos Barbeito, as well as the private publications of Mannie Berk Terrantez: The Transcendental Terrantez Tasting (2012) and Bastardo & Mostcatel – The Tasting (2017).  I also relied on the books Noel Cossart’s Madeira The Island Vineyard (2011) and Alex Liddell’s Madeira (1998).  Of course some bits are of my own research.  The map reproduced above comes from Isole Canarie from Vincenzo Coronelli published in 1697 and available at the David Rumsey Map Collection site.

Flight #1

NV Rare Wine Company, Historic Series Library Company Madeira
Released in 2015 to honor the Library Company of Philadelphia which is the oldest successful library in America, having been founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731. Henry Hill was a successful Madeira merchant who lived in Philadelphia and also knew Benjamin Franklin. As a partner in the firm Hill, Lamar, & Bisset, he sold Madeira to wealthy Americans including financier Robert Morris, signers of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll and John Hancock, and George Washington. Many of the business letters sent to Henry Hill reside at the Library Company. Bottled 2015.  The honied nose is followed by luscious, honied flavors of fig.  There are both tea and tobacco notes in the end.  This is fully mature now with just a vein of structure apparent in the finish followed by a bit of bracing acidity.  A fine value with flavors clearly evocative of old bottles of Madeira.  ***(*).

1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira
Pereira D’Oliveira was founded in 1850 as a producer of wines. It operated as a partidista until the mid-1970s when it began to market wines under its own name. Over the years D’Oliveira has acquired other firms thus expanding its stock of old wines. This particular wine was acquired in barrel when D’Oliveira purchased the Adegas do Terreão collection in 2002. Terreão was founded in 1949 by Vasco Loja who also operated as a partidista supplying the major wine companies particularly during the 1960s and 1970s. D’Oliveira keeps their wines in barrel until they are bottled for sale on an annual basis.   This means that different bottlings come from different barrels having seen wood for different durations. Bottled 2017.  A highly aromatic and articulate nose of citrus and tobacco, profound and of unique complexity.  The dense, explosive start has very fine acidity which soon builds to rapier sharpness.  Overall, this is a lighter weight, saline wine with an expansive, lighter finish, and pervasive pungent aftertaste. ****(*).

1937 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira
Shipped by David Turner Air Cargo.  Imported by Vineyard Road Inc.  From old family stocks at D’Oliveira. See notes for the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira. Bottled 2012.  There is a low-lying, dark nose.  The rounded start transitions to a berry core by the middle.  There is acidity present but it does not finish with much acidic strength.  I found more weight throughout the palate given impression of length but ultimately it is not as exciting nor complex as the 1928.  ***.

NV Henriques & Henriques, Inauguration Wine Madeira
From the back label, “To inaugurate Henriques & Henriques’ new winery in 1994, winemaker Luis Pereira searched the firm’s stocks of old wine to find something truly extraordinary. The wine he chose had been vinified and blended in the 1950s by his mentor Peter Cossart—the father of John Cossart. Though the wine’s origins were uncertain, Pereira believed it to have the character of a great verdelho or bual. It was a wine uniquely worthy of commemorating this important event. Pereira produced 800 bottles which were given to dignitaries attending the inauguration. This left a small amount to age in cask. In October, 2006, 144 bottles were drawn out, and then in April, 2008, the final 168 bottles were drawn out, each time for The Rare Wine Co.” This is the 2006 bottling of which it is numbered 66 of 144.  The nose is robust with mature hints and caramel.  Further investigation reveals articulate and sweet aromas of brown sugar, Christmas spices, and tobacco.  This is a zippy wine with piercing acidity soon coming out then building to the piercing finish.  There are good, sweet and weighty flavors that drape over the tongue with a ripe, orange flavors core, and mineral finish.  This ia very powerful wine with a long, textured aftertaste.  ****(*).

1971 D’Oliveira, Terrantez Madeira
Terrantez, long regarded as the finest variety in Madeira, was largely wiped out of existence with the phylloxera of the 1870s.  Being low-yielding and difficult to grow, it was not replanted.  In 1921 it was considered “extinct or almost extinct.”  The situation had hardly improved by 2004 as there was less than one hectare of vines in existence.  This scarce wine was acquired in barrel when the Adegas do Terreão collection was purchased in 2002. See notes for the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira. Bottled 2017.  A complex nose of fruit, marmalade, and sweet aromas.  In the mouth is a controlled start, vibrant middle, and sweet kick at the end.  The mouth feel reminds me of marshmallow combining sweetness and airy weight into one sensation.  This is a gentle, young wine of elegant strength and seamless integration.  ****.

1845 Cossart Gordon, Bual Solera Madeira
The 1845 Bual became a solera in 1875 in response to the shortage of wine following the Phylloxera epidemic. It eventually became the first Cossart centenary wine marking the anniversary of the founding of Cossart Gordon in 1745. After Cossart, Gordon joined the Madeira Wine Association in 1953, the soleras in wood were moved to stores at Rua Sao Francisco and no longer topped off. There were many bottlings of this solera both in Madeira, with red and black text, and in England. This bottling is by Evans Marshall & Co. who became Cossart’s agents in London in 1956. Bottled after 1956.  A very mature nose still with some bottle stink.  The sweet start soon focuses on flavors of sweet black tea with wood notes in the middle, and flavors of sweet cinnamon and baking spices in the textured finish.  This is the most advanced wine of all with a mellow nature and slight separation of acidity and residual sugar.  It becomes  vinous in the aftertaste with a hint of acidity.  ***.

Flight #2

NV Unknown, Padre Madeira [da Silva Collection] 
The oldest known dated bottles of Madeira once belonged to Braheem Abdo Kassab who famously initialed his wax seals with BAK.  This Padre wine was in bottle for a long time, discovered in the laundry room of the home of a Kassab relative on the island. This is believed to be all Tinta Negra from the early 20th century.  Approximately three dozen bottles were aired in demijohn for a few months then rebottled. Bottled 2016.  The pungent, sweeter nose steps out of the glass with aromas reminding me of old Madeira.  There is a round, weighty, vinous start with ripe orange citrus flavors, good acidity, and grip.  The middle is assertive and the finish powerful with hints of dense fruit, I suspect this wine needs further time for integration.  ***.

NV Barbeito, Bastardo 50-year-old Avo Mario Madeira
Barbeito was founded in 1946 which is today run by third-generation, Ricardo Diogo Vasconcelos de Freitas. Bastardo was completely extinct in Madeira until 2004 when Ricardo convinced a farmer to plant it.  Today there is just over 1 hectare of vines.  This wine is an homage to Ricardo’s grandfather and is a blend of Bastardo wines Ricardo made in 2007 and 2009.  These are the first two successful harvests for there was bad weather in 2008.  At the time, there was no living memory on how to make the wine so Ricardo set out on his own.  He mixed these wines with some old Bastardo in demijohn that belonged to the Favilla family and 36 bottles of old Tinta Negra from 1950 that was bottled in 1997.  The 50 year old category was only introduced in 2015.  Bottled 2017 of which it is #326 of 550.  A sweet and floral nose is similarly followed by a sweet, gentle start.  Of good flavor, it mixes herbs and cedar box in an easy to drink manner.  The balance is impeccable making it compelling to drink.  ****.

1929 D’Oliveira, Tinta Negra Medium Sweet Madeira
Dated bottles of Madeira from the late 1920s through early 1930s are scarce.  The effects of the Great Depression was felt on an international scale and locally it wreaked havoc on Madeira.  The Portuguese Minister of Finance sought to mitigate the effects on Portugal by centralizing the importation and milling of grain in January 1931. The price of bread and other common goods quickly rose as a result. A few months later a revolt on the island of Madeira took place with control of the island temporarily seized from the government.  The spread of the European financial crisis coupled with the political instability on Madeira impacted the banks on Madeira the same year of the revolt.  By the end of the year banks suspended all payments and in the course of restructuring the banking system in 1932, many private banks failed.  This is the period when the influence of the partidista rose.  These merchants purchased wine at vintage then sold it off to shippers as they needed it.  It is likely that during these financially difficult times much Madeira was sold off for ready money rather than kept around as single vintage lots tying up capital.  This wine is from old family stocks at D’Oliveira. See notes for the 1928 D’Oliveira, Sercial Madeira. Bottled 2016.  With ripe aromas this wine offers attractive aromas of age which I look for in older bottles.  There is a weighty, round, dense start with good body and juicy acidity.  The flavors are more mature with moderately sweet bakings spices, strong acidity, and some brown sugar in the finish.  The strength of the acidity builts into the finish leaving a piercing citric edge.  ****.

1986 Barbeito, Malvasia Faja dos Padres Madeira
Malvasia encompasses several different grapes with Malvasia Candida the most sought after. It is a difficult grape to grow and prefers particular locations. One of these locations is Faja dos Padres which was originally cultivated by the Jesuits centuries ago. Located on the south side of the Island it lies at the bottom of a 900 foot cliff which, until recently, was only accessible by boat. For centuries, this site was considered as producing the best Malvasia Candida wines. The Malvasia Candida was nearly wiped out by phylloxera in the 1870s.  When the site was sold in 1919 it was believed that no Malvasia Candida vines existed. But in 1940 a single Malvasia Candida vine was found surviving at Faja dos Padres. It was cloned then planted at Torre. In 1979 the same vine was cloned again then planted at Faja dos Padres. An additional vineyard of 0.4 ha was eventually established. This is the first commercial bottling of Malvasia Candida from Faja dos Padres since 1921. It was raised in 800 liter casks aged by the canteiro method. Bottled 2012 of which it is #172 of 654.  The nose is young and fruit with complexity from wet tobacco.  The wines is young and rounded with clearly defined sweet black tea flavors.  There is a delicacy to the wine that makes it stand apart, with delicate berry fruit and a fresh finish.  With impeccable balance this wine highlights the flavors of Malvasia.  ****.

1880 Companhia Vinicola da Madeira (CVM), Malvasia Madeira
Founded in 1870, CVM was eventually associated with Justino Henriques. The company was closed in 1984 and much of the stock was sold off. This bottle bears a paper Junta Nacional do Vinho seal underneath the wicker capsule. The JNV seal would have been applied between 1937 and 1979.  The nose is slightly pungent with sweet, yellow citrus.  There is a gravelly start of brown sugar, wood box, and flavors of age.  The wine is completely balanced with no hard edges.  Backed by residual sugar this is dense and even racy in the finish with a hint of spiciness to perk up the long, gentle, sweet aftertaste.  ****.

Two particularly fine wines from 2017

December 31, 2017 Leave a comment

For my favorite wines of 2017 I chose two bottles that are of particularly fine flavor.  The first wine stood out during the Madeira at Liberty Hall tasting held by Mannie Berk on April 23, 2017.  It is the second time I have tasted an excellent Acciaioly Madeira.  The Acciaioly history is oft repeated being an old Florentine family having descended from the Dukes of Burgundy.  When they arrived at Madeira during the early 16th century they are said to have introduced the Malvasia vine to the island.  Accordingly to Mannie Berk, when the last Acciaioly passed away in 1979, his wines were divided into two lots.  The second lot went to his sons who consigned them to Christie’s in London.  Some 135 lots of Accaiaioly Madeira were auctioned off in 1989 including more than 14 dozen bottles of the 1839 Acciaioly, Special Reserve Verdelho one of which we tasted.  It was an exciting wine during the tasting and when I was able to enjoy a small glass from the leftovers I felt it was a wine I could have drunk all night long.

1839 Acciaioly, Special Reserve Verdelho
Shipped by Reid Wines.  Imported by Vieux Vins.  A proper nose that is pungent with herbs. In the mouth this is sweet with grip, lovely balance and presence. The wine builds in flavor through the middle as marmalade flavors come out which linger through the aftertaste leaving sweet notes in the mouth. The acidity weaves in and out. Top-notch. ****(*)

For my second bottle, I naturally include an old red wine, this time from Italy of which I have tried to drink from with more attention this year.  The vine in Piedmont dates back to the Roman times.  The great Alto-Piemonte producer Antonio Vallana pays tribute to this history with their Campi Raudii label.  It is in Northern Piedmont that the Romans suffered one of their greatest military losses in 105 BC to invading Germanic tribes.  Nearly 100,000 Roman troops perished.  Four years later, in 101 BC, Consul Caius Marius defeated these tribes at Campi Raudii.  This decisive battle ensured peace in the region and accordingl to legend, allowed the cultivation of vineyards.

The decades of the 1950s and 1960s are held to be the best for Vallana.  The Wasserman’s attribute some of this to the inclusion of Aglianico from Basilicata.  They also hold that the Campi Raudii and Traversagna are the best wines.  Mannie Berk shares this same view which is why we drank a bottle together at a small table in an Indian restaurant.  It was no less than the 1955 Antonio Vallana, Spanna Campi Raudii Catuli Ara Riserva Speciale which he had imported and laid down long ago based on the green strip label.  Double-decanted to separate off the sediment it was at its glorious, nearly perfect peak when we sat down.  The few old bottles of Vallana that I have tried bear remarkable body and a certain sweaty, sweet concentration.  All the elements came to bear in our bottle and no doubt inspired a blur of conversation.

1955 Antonio Vallana, Spanna Campi Raudii Catuli Ara Riserva Speciale
Imported by Vieux Vins.  Alcohol 13%.  A light to medium bricking garnet color.  The nose is deep with sweet fruits and damp soil.  The sweet, concentrated flavors are immediately complex.  Notes of old leather mix in the racy and flavorful wine that swirls through the mouth.  Animale like earthiness exists through the aftertaste where it picks up a touch of attractive pungency and sweatiness.  It wraps up with fresh acidity. ***** Now but will last.