A tasting of aged and vintage Madeiras at Blandy's Wine Lodge, Funchal - including a rare vintage Terrantez
Madeira is a fortified, "cooked" wine made by exposure to both heat and air on the Atlantic island of the same name.
Madeira must be aged for a minimum of three years; somewhat confusingly, for blends the age indication is stylistic rather than literal, whereas vintage Madeira is actually from a single year.
At the end of a very well-run tour through the Blandy's Wine Lodge, we were recommended to compare the blend against the vintage for each style. In all cases, the vintage wines were more complex than the blends.
The older wines were also more nuanced and complex than the younger wines.
The revelation of the tasting, however, was a Terrantez 1976 - a rare, almost-extinct grape, it is "the Pinot Noir of Madeira" producing elegant, elusive, sherry-like wines.
Dryness is a relative term in Madeira - with very high acidity levels, all wines contain residual sugar, so indicated sweetness levels are more perceived than actual.
Sercial 10 Amber mahogany, aromatic and refreshing with roasted nuts and caramel; lingering finish.
Sercial 1998 Colheita less aromatic and more complex; fuller, plumper and more balanced on the finish
Verdelho 10 Years more up-front, more immediate and less complex
Verdelho 1998 plumper, rounder; more assured, complex and balanced
Semi-sweet - match with Madeiran molasses cake
Bual 10 rich fruitcake and freshness
Bual 2002 Colheita more complex, balanced and harmonious; very long and intense
Terrantez 1976 from a great year; balsamic and tobacco with cigar box, less aromatic but still fragrant, more sherry-like; fresh acidity, roasted spices and pepperiness. Very harmonious and mellow; elegant and deftly muscular.
Verdelho 1973 declared as a vintage earlier this year; incredibly concentrated and intense; long and complex with roasted spices on the finish .
Other related articles
On Madeira - The Tasting
On Madeira - The Background
On Madeira - The Low-Down