The Madeira Wine Company

The Madeira Wine Company

The Madeira Wine Company has come a long way since it was formed in 1913: today, it accounts for around 35% of the island's total Madeira production.

It began as the joint venture of two producers who wanted to survive a bleak economic period by pooling their resources and reducing costs. They formed the Madeira Wine Association, and over the years several other companies joined them to brave the increasingly competitive and costly market.

One of the most notable additions was Blandy's, who came on board in 1925, at the same time as Leacock's. Along with Cossart Gordon and Co, who joined in 1953, and Rutherford and Miles, these four companies today make up the main brands associated with the company's premium Madeira production.

Blandy's is the company that has had by far the most involvement in the running of organisation, perhaps due to its significant experience: the only remaining Madeira company that is still family-run, in 2011 it celebrated 200 years of production, having made a considerable contribution to the history and development of Madeira.

John Ernest Blandybecame chairman of the Madeira Wine Company in 1925. His right-hand man was a previous Blandy's manager, Thomas L Mullins, who instilled in the union a spirit of keeping each company true to its own style while reducing overheads. This ethos exists to this day, which is perhaps why the organisation has lasted as long as it has.

The Madeira Wine Association didn't become The Madeira Wine Company until 1981. By this point, although Blandy's were still running the company, it knew that even its wealth of experience wasn't enough to achieve the worldwide distribution it needed. The team sought the help of renowned port brand Symington's, with whom the company formed a partnership 1989.

It wasn't just the Madeira Wine Company's distribution needs that Symington's met - they also advised the various producers involved on their branding, and brought production methods at the company's winery to modern, state-of-the-art standards. In 2000, the Madeira Wine Company completed a huge renovation project to improve its blending and storage facilities.

Although Symington's is still involved with the company, Blandy's took control again in 2011, with the appointment of Chris Blandy as chief executive. Since taking over again, Blandy's has overseen the purchase of the company's first vineyards: although, as is the norm, most of its grapes come from selected growers across the island, the company now has a few select plots of its own.

The wine is all made at the company's winery in Mercês, where the team also have a cooperage to make all its own casks. Winemaking is overseen by the award-winning FranciscoAlbequerque, who expertly manages to produce each of the four leading brands in their respective individual styles.

When it comes to maturation, the company ages a large portion of its oldest wines using the traditional canteiro system, whereby wines are gently warmed in the lofts of the winery. Although this natural method isn't suitable for younger wines, such as The Society's Full Rich Madeira, it is perhaps a testament to how dearly the company holds its rich and long heritage.

Grower profile: updated 22/10/2013

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