Madeira: latest dated releases from Blandy’s & Leacock’s
Visceral, yet ethereal. Such is the contradiction of fine Madeira, especially for Frasqueira or Vintage examples, which must be aged in cask for at least twenty years. Invariably more, as is the case with Blandy’s latest releases (2017 bottlings) and Blandy’s Terrantez 1980, one of my December Wines of the Month (2016 bottling).
Cask age pays huge dividends vis a vis complexity and concentration (the ethereal bit), while Madeira’s signature high acidity (the visceral bit) keeps it fresh. Frisky even. Long (and skilful) cask-ageing inevitably impacts on price point too (along with the scarcity of Madeira’s leading grapes). The good news is that top notch Colheita or Single Harvest Wines like Blandy’s Verdelho 2000 come pretty close to the Frasqueira or Vintage mark. Indeed this exceptional wine, which remains firmly etched in my mind, was only bottled after 17 years (well over the mandatory minimum of five years).
Here are my notes on the latest three Vintage/Colheita releases from Blandy’s, plus a new Single Harvest Tinta Negra from Leacock’s, a sister-label in the Madeira Wine Company’s portfolio. I tasted these Madeiras over four days this month.
Blandy’s Verdelho Colheita 2000 (Madeira)
Really fleet of foot. Sweeter honey-kissed apricot and barley sugar notes are mercilessly teased out by mouthwatering, pithy, ripe grapefruit, which runs away with the finish. With fresh, rapier-like acidity and a nutty/pithy (gently textural) spine, it has tremendous persistence. Finely drawn, this is a truly scintillating Verdelho. 74.5 g/l Residual Sugar, 20% abv. Suggested RRP – £55.00-60.00 (50cl)
Blandy’s Sercial 1968 (Madeira)
With almost 50 years in cask, this Sercial is a topaz hue with green glints. It has a pungent, salt-streaked palate with nutty, iodine, smoky notes, the whole tightly focused and fuelled by searing acidity. A discernible (just) sweetness on day one keeps it the right side of austere and, over the next few days, complexing wood, malt, caramel, nam pla and grapefruit notes emerge. Whilst they hardly flesh out the palate, they bring depth and layer. Long and energetic with classic iodine/sea salt notes. Perfectly bracing, as good Sercial should be. 59g/l Residual Sugar, 21% abv RRP £170.00/bottle. Available in bond at Farr Vintners, BI Wine & Spirits at £1,035.00 for 6x75cl bottles.
Blandy’s Bual 1957 (Madeira)
Sugar and spice and all things nice, but not too ‘nice.’ Bual is my favourite of the four classic white grapes of Madeira. It produces wines which have a finely tuned sweet/sour character (hence not too ‘nice’), thanks to Bual’s richness/sweetness being adroitly balanced by tangy acidity and lifted spice box notes. This conker brown ’57 is no exception. Deep, woody and spicy, with a rich and mellow nose and palate cut with lively, saliva-inducing (but never sharp) tamarind chutney. Lovely, juicy, fruity, rolling, persistent acidity carries wave after wave of sweet citrus (caramelised oranges), dates, dried fig, singed apple tarte tatin and chocolate malt notes, with lingering undertones of spice. All the best puddings in one glass! Rich, moreish and very complete, this is an intensely pleasurable Madeira with delicious spice from tip to very long and toothsome toe. 102 g/l Residual Sugar. 20% Suggested RRP – £210.00/bottle; £1,165.00 6×75 in bond at BI Wine & Spirits, Farthinghoe Fine Wine & Farr Vintners (who also have magnums at £395.00 in bond).
Leacock’s Tinta Negra Colheita Doce/Rich 2001
This bright ruddy release from Leacock’s is a different kettle of fish altogether. Made from the more ubiquitous red grape, Tinta Negra, it doesn’t have the precision or line of the whites, which makes for more emphatic sweetness (even given this is a Doce/Rich style). Lots of vanilla and sweet café crème to nose and relatively smooth, round palate, which appealed to my audience at Portuguese Wine School at Taberna do Mercado’s fortified masterclass. There’s a herbal character too, which dredged up some seriously old (teenage) memories of Dubonnet! Redbush tea too. I must confess, it wasn’t my cup of tea, but horses for courses. 19% Suggested RRP – £40.00-45.00 (50cl)