To follow on from the previous day, and post, that was all golfing and fun we woke early to get checked out and head on over to the Blandy’s wine lodge for a look at the wine making and tour of the Canteiro lofts all follow by a brilliant tasting. I am not going to turn this into a blog about how Madeira is made because that is best left to the experts and there are many good sites on line that cover this including Blandys very own. I’ll split this into two halves, the tasting and then a gallery of pictures with a few captions.

Before launching into what was an incredible 29 wine tasting I must just say, in my defence, that the vocab you use for this is difficult, it is so easy for any aroma or flavour that someone mentions to just suddenly appear. These wines are amongst the more complex anywhere and writing about them is, for me at least, difficult so prepare for repetition and unscientific notes. I drink a fair bit of madeira anyway and love the wines which arguably makes them even more difficult to analyse, anyway enough excuses.

This was one of the most enjoyable and informative tastings for some time. Everything was tasted from ISO’s and at room temperature. Cask samples are complete wines but incredibly young and obviously will have much time ahead of them for the fortification to meld into the wine etc. The Vindima wines are pre-fortification and from 2014 (coming into the winery as we tasted). For the actual tasting I reverted to an old scoring system of up to three ticks of varying lengths, for this I will try to translate that to “out of 20” with 10 being good to 15 very good and beyond. There are no scores for the Vindima and casks. Right, enough waffle:

Unfinished “wines”:
Sercial cask sample – very high acid, piercing even, clean and green with little length.

Verdehlo vindima wine – grapefruit and lemon/lime, very intense, acid high.

Verdehlo cask sample – peary but also oxidised. Very interesting it not yet at a stage where it can be called enjoyable.

Bual vindima wine – grapefruit but with some brown sugar on it, pineapple almost, a touch of pear tannin, good.

Bual cask sample – has a nose of half spirit, half wine, delicious in a savoury complex way, peaty with a saline edge can see why they use this for the whiskies that have a “Madeira cask” finish.

Malmsey vindima wine – pear tannins again but wit a little honey apple acidity, a certain dryness on the finish.

Malmsey cask sample – really needed to meld together, almost the most incomplete now that the spirit is there, a grape of such richness obviously needs time.

Tinta Negra before Estufagem – dates and dry wood aromas almost a little nuttiness, drier palate than I expected.

Tinta Negra after Estufagem – coming together, delicious for the dates and figs then a little odd on the finish.

The Wines:

Alvada – very good, has enough savoury richness to go with the sweetness, fruit is bruised dates and figs has good volume – 14.5.

Sercial 10yr old – lovely nose of nuts but clean and crisp, not heavy, a little white fruit. lovely long dry, tangy finish, impressive – 15.

Verdehlo 10yr old – such a lively and moreish nose, has a lovely bit of dry grip on the palate that is counterbalanced by just enough sweetness. really very good – 16.5.

Bual 10yr old – very classical Madeira, by which I mean archetypal in terms of what ones thinks of Madeira as. A nutty core but with bruised fruits – 15.5

Malmsey 10yr old – not overly sweet on the palate which is good, I might have gone for bual if tasted blind, more dates and figs than any nuts – 15.5. 

Bual 15yr old – concentrated but calm and complete nose, nuts and certainly hazelnuts in the main come to the fore. Very complete – 16.

Malmsey 15yr old – hedonistic, an almost “high” note the the nose, some peatiness as well lush dried fruit intensity, an elegant finish, very good wine – 16.5

Terrantez 20 yr old – tangy, oranges and saline, lovely enticing nose. The palate has a dry energy but this is also a “fruity” wine. Nuts but dark fruit everywhere. It’s different somehow but I love it. Herbal even – 17.5  

Sercial 1998 – clean, fine and concentrated, delicious, bright, fresh with a few nuts but more an unctuous “flor” character, could sip this for hours, so different from the previous wine but not better or worse -17.5

Verdehlo 1998 – very bright and lively with an almost citrus fruit, nearly just drank this there and then, high but lovely acidity that keep this so persistent, very focussed and very very long, finish had a nutty tangy my side note just says “great work!” – 18.25. (this may also have been the time when i realised that if, god forbid, I was only allowed one grape from Maderia it would be Verdelho)

Bual 2002 – decadent richness without being overly sweet, a little peat in the middle, potent acidity is good, rich with poise, palate was more open than the nose – 17.25

Malmsey 1996 – some pine resin and a lovely Speyside note here along with sweet fruit on the nose. Texture is rich but not sweet, keeps it’s focus well – 17.25

Malmsey 1988 – very fine nose, very complex, hard to describe actually. Yeasty unctuousness with a honeyed element, really very good. I loved the lively and persistent finish that made be think of Verdelho – really pretty special – great all-round Madeira – 18.25

Terrantez 1976 – One of the favourites amongst the team. No lack of interest or complexity, that’s for sure. Eucalyptus, medicinal nose, quite herbal, palate similar but lifted, a really tangy acidity, a little smokiness and a slightly degraded animal finish – undoubtedly good, unique…17(+) 

Sercial 1975 – complex, old nose, dry and moreish if a little muted, all about the palate here. The tongue loves this wine, there is a grape tannin and pithy lemon about it my summary is: nose is ok, plate is delicious – 17.5 (first Madeira I’ve had from my birth year)

Verdehlo 1973 – wow, just beautiful nose, very very complex, hard to describe, tangy on the palate and so lively, then crisp and long a dash of light nuttiness but more a set of dry honey, so good – 18.75-19

Bual 1969 – almost a dash of toffee, very fine, has a nose that suggests even more air would be good (I love the fact that they say with Vintage Madeiras that a day per decade is the best guide for decanting), not too savoury on the nose, Richness on the palate but such a lightness of touch also, very precise the finish is splendid, very high but very good acidity – 18+

Verdehlo 1968 – great nose, almost worthwhile just or the aromas, the finish is then perfect, energy and acidity are brilliant, an incredible vibrancy to this wine, very young and very very tangy, brilliant – 18.75-19

Bual 1920 (bottled 2006) – rich mahogany, has such amazing depth and energy, Nose is decadent, some dates, figs and dark sugary fruits, some savoury edge but mostly real dark energy. there is a brooding and serious side too where Bovril and almost stock appears but then live again, delicious for wallowing in – 18+

Verdehlo 1887 – this was served totally blind and there were a few guesses. I was pleased with my “stab” of Verdehlo 1905. There was a tangy edge that made you unsure if this was sweet or not. Saline is there and such moreishness, very real focus to this, amazing given the age but not amazing for Madeira! Herbal citrus may be the tag line here – 18.5

After this amazing tasting we went to the north of the island to look at vineyards, and with over 400 producers supply the Blandy’s team there are a lot of them. The views and countryside is incredible. A great lunch of chicken rice and cabbage with a refreshing Croal beer rounded things of perfectly…it was a real shame to leave the island. Many thanks to Mr Girling, but especially to Chris Blandy and his great team!

Trucks of grapes arrive for inspection and pressing in Funchal
Older vintages, all stood up – the acidity would go through the corks otherwise.
If I remember correctly this is Malvasia.
Nice big barrel of Verdelho.
One of the Canterio lofts, just like the deck of a ship.
Labelled barrels all going through ageing.
Wines resting in demi-johns – sadly under lock and key.
On the north side of the Island – not the worst spot!
The head man – Chris Blandy – inspecting a newly planted vineyard.