Last week we had the agents for D’Oliveras Madeira bring some wonderful samples into the office. I am a big fan of Madeira, I love the flavour profile, the acidity the complexity. A two day trip to the Island with Blandy’s for a tour and some Golf further peaked my interest. I didn’t know the D’Oliveras wines well (can only find one reference on the blog from a Ridge dinner) before this tasting, I had always heard the style was a little drier than the other houses and the acidity a tad more persistent.

D’Oliveiras is one of the greatest of the classic Madeira shippers, and one of the few to survive from the pre-phylloxera era. Founded in 1850, and an amalgamation of firms dating back to 1820, it is today housed in cellars that date from 1619. This small jewel of a company has always be owned by the D’Oliviera family, who were once highly important growers in the parish of São Martinho.

So the wines. They were tasted in flights by variety. I scored out of 20, more for my own info than anything. I find tasting notes for Madeira amongst the most difficult to write, apologies for any oddities:

1875 Sercial – Bovril and acidity strikes, superb, lovely rasping acidity then a little “sweet” marmite, so long, dry, luscious complexity. 17 (+)

1862 Sercial – More mellow, broader than the above, more oranges appear a little more complete. 17.5

1912 Verdelho – Wood and brightness, some nuts, lovely energy, good zip. 17.5

1905 Verdelho – Serious, quite raisined, lively, good, mellow on the palate but with energy. 18

1890 Verdelho – Special, lovely, somehow both precise, lively dry and sweet. Archetypal Madeira for me, splendid. 19 (+)

1850 Verdelho – Bovril, heavy, viscous, oranges and citrus appear, wonderfully rich, a little different too, unique. 18 (+)

1903 Boal – Richness, has a lovely peppery acidity, drier than many, such amazing life. 18-18.5

1908 Boal – Good balance, not too much of anything, a little less complexity on the nose but well balanced and good. 18

1875 Malvasia – Such focus, a masterclass in acid complexity, elements of this remind me of old Nebbiolo. Wonderfully bizarre. 18

1901 Malvasia – Superb nose, such life, especially classy. This is like an exceptional Boal to me, special. 18.5-19

1907 Malvasia – Such richness, viscosity, delightful wine, amazingly lush. 18 (+)

1895 Malvasia – Almost saline, superb, really fine, rich and fruity, may be the pick? 19 (+)

1875 Moscatel – Less zip, good but in this company just not my sort of thing. 16

The thing that really struck me from this tasting – and a few minutes per wine is NOT enough here – is that the Malvasia’s in particular were amongst the best I have tried. Ordinarily I am a Verdelho and Boal man but the slightly drier interpretations of D’Oliveiras seems to work well to my palate.

One final point, the tasting room was still smelling glorious 48hours later, these little wines are “pocket battleships” of aroma, quite amazing…