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The fortified wines produced on Madeira all have a huge streak of acidity and have been heated during their maturation to temperatures that would destroy other wines. That they have survived to produce examples such as this is remarkable. Produced from the verdelho grape, this is a medium-sweet wine with hints of caramel and coffee. Serve it chilled and savour the extraordinary length of flavour.
Product Code: MA231
View all products by 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 Blandy became 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 in 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 Francisco Albequerque, 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.
The Portuguese island of Madeira, which lies in the Atlantic Ocean, 480 miles southwest of Lisbon, was an important refuelling port for passing ships on the trade routes of old. Madeira wines were taken on board as victuals and brandy added to each barrel of wine to improve its keeping qualities during the long sea voyages. The heat of the ship's hold, particularly when crossing and re-crossing the equator, was found to have dramatically improved the wines, making them richer and more complex, as well as making them stable and capable of ageing almost indefinitely.In the 18th century winemakers experimented with replicating this process on land, initially using the heat of the sun to warm up the barrels. This is known as the Canteiro process and it is still used. After fortification with 96% grape spirit, the wines are left in casks of between 300 - 650 litres, in lodges where the temperature can reach over 30oc and the humidity can reach 90%, causing 4 - 5% is lost by evaporation.Later special ovens (‘estufas’) were created to heat up the barrels of wine. The process has been modified in recent years. The wines containers, mainly of stainless steel, are now heated by 'jackets' containing hot water, enabling maintaining of the required temperature of 45oc – 50oc for a period of three months. After heating, the wines are allowed to cool down gradually.After these processes the wines are tested for quality and ageing potential. The latter decision is based on quality and the style of wine required. The wine is aged in old barrels and then offered as a 3, 5, 10 or 15-year-old wine, with the very best being offered as vintage Madeira.Madeira wines are unquestionably the longest lasting high-quality wines produced. A vintage Madeira can last for a century or longer, and then once opened the wine can be enjoyed, re-stoppered and stored for months without deterioration. Madeira grapes Most labels list the grape used, and if one is mentioned then the contents have to contain at least 85% of this variety. The grape varieties listed give a huge clue as to the style of the wine. The main varieties used are as follows:Sercial - A white grape, usually grown in the coolest vineyards at 1,000 metres altitude, on the north side of the Island. At altitude, sercial ripens with difficulty and makes a dry, acidic wine. With fortification and cask ageing a good sercial is pale, dry, tangy and austere. Verdelho - A white grape also predominately planted on the cooler north side of the island, tends to produce a medium-dry to medium-sweet wine, perhaps with a slight caramel tinge. Mellower than sercial, it retains the acidity. Bual (Boal) - A white grape grown in warmer locations on the south coast of the island. It reaches higher sugar levels than both sercial and verdelho and produces a dark, medium-rich raisin and caramel wine which again retains its acididty. Malmsey (Malvasia) - A white grape produced mainly in the warmer locations on the south of the island around Camara de Lobos to the west of Funchal, producing a richly sweet wine that avoids being cloying due to maintaining the high level of acidity found in all Madeira wines. Tinta negra is a red grape and the most widely planted grape on the island. It can and does make decent Madeira, but its wines rarely have the keeping qualities and style of the above four.Terrantez - little terrantez, a white grape, is now grown. Some re-planting is taking place but with low yields growers are not very enthusiastic. Mainly now found in old vintages or soleras, it can vary in style from dry to rich.Madeira types3, 5, 10 and 15-year-old - These are the most readily available wines, the label shows the age of the youngest constituent. Mainly produced in the estufa system, the wine is made from one of the four classic grape varieties mentioned above this will be stated on the label. If no grape variety is stated, the wine will be made mainly from the widely grown red tinta negra grape and the wine will labelled with the level of sweetness.Single harvest -A wine labelled 'single harvest' is a wine from a single vintage that has had 5-10 years cask ageing in the Canteiro system. It cannot be labelled as a 'vintage' wine as it has not had enough cask ageing.Colheita - A single-vintage wine that has had about 12-18 years in cask, in the Canteiro system, bottled as a single vintage, probably because the blender has considered that more cask ageing will not improve it enough to make a top-quality vintage wine.Vintage - The best Madeiras produced. A single vintage wine that has had at least 20 years cask ageing, and often more than 40 years, in the Canteiro system. They can last a lifetime and beyond and still remain remarkably fresh. The complexity and depth is underpinned by a crisp acidity which prevents the wines from being cloying.
"For the money, it is hard to find a more interesting wine at the Society; slightly sweet but with a dry, almond quality and (when served from the fridge) a superb glass of refreshing wine, a great balance between savoury interest and sweet satisfaction. "
Olive 14th May 2019
"Mentioned as stockist. - Kate Hawkings"
Wine-pages.com 19th Apr 2019
"Rather more sherried,
compared with the Sercial, with honey and walnut and the palate intensely
sweet, pure sweet grape and cherry freshness to the acids, but the 75gl of
sugar more apparent. - Tom Cannavan"
Manchester Evening News 1st Nov 2014
"Fresh on the nose
with just a hint of spirit. The medium-bodied palate has a long spicy finish."
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We do moderate comments and reviews, purely to ensure that content published on The Wine Society's website is of value to members, and is fair and balanced. We're delighted to say that in the vast, vast majority of cases, our members' input is just that! We will normally approve comments for publication as long as they:
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The Society's wine buyers work very closely with our suppliers to determine how best to seal our wines. We list below those closures currently in use with a brief description of each.
A technical cork made up of the remnants from the production of natural corks which are ground down into particles and cleaned and then combined using a food-grade polyurethane glue. A cheaper closure which The Society's buyers discourage suppliers from using.
A technical cork made from cheaper-grade natural cork where the naturally occurring pores are filled with ground down cork particles and then the whole is sealed with a food-grade wax coating. Generally only used for wines with a short shelf-life.
Diam corks look like agglomerate corks but are far superior and are designed to put an end to cork taint and random oxidation. The production process chops cork into pieces and sorts the superior, highly elastic, suberin component from the less elastic lignin, which is discarded. It mixes the suberin with microscopic spheres of the same substance used for contact lenses, which fills the voids between the cork particles reducing porosity to air and increasing elasticity without introducing humidity. Finally the pieces are mixed with a glue and moulded under pressure. The mechanical properties of the cork are guaranteed for a certain minimum number of years depending on the grade of cork - for example Diam 2 is guaranteed for two years; Diam 3, 5 and 10 are also available.
The Champagne cork is 90% agglomerate made from cork off-cuts which are ground down, cleaned, compressed and then glued together with two disks of good quality natural cork glued onto the end which protrudes into the bottle.
Natural corks harvested from the cork oak (Quercus suber) forests in Spain and Portugal have been the closure of choice for wine for the 300 years. The bark of the cork oak is stripped from mature trees every nine years. The planks are stored and then cleaned and graded before the corks are punched out of the wood. For wines destined for long-ageing, high-grade natural corks are still the closure of choice.
Cost-effective synthetic 'corks' made from food-grade plastic with a silicone coating (similar to that used on natural corks). Generally used for wines for short-term cellaring.
A glass stopper with a plastic 'O' ring which acts as an interface between the top of the bottle and the stopper, held in place by a metal, tamper-proof seal. Relatively expensive as a closure and not widely used. Can be removed by hand.
A short natural or agglomerate cork with a plastic or wooden top to enable the stopper to be removed by hand. Traditionally used for whiskies, sherries, Madeira etc.
Aluminium alloy screwcaps made with an expanded polyethylene wadding for the lining. Screwcaps are also known as ROTEs (roll-on tamper evident) or by the brand name (Stelvin is a popular brand). Widely used in Australia and New Zealand and for wines for short-term cellaring. Becoming increasingly sophisticated in terms of allowing differing levels of permeability so mimicking the properties of natural cork offering winemakers more choice depending of the style of wine being made. There is still a lack of sound data regarding the performance of screwcaps for longer-term cellaring.
This is an agglomerate cork with a disk of good-quality natural cork adhered to both ends. A reasonably priced, reliable alternative to natural cork.
This is the metal pilfer-proof cap usually used to seal beer bottles but also used in the production of Champagne and sparkling wine when wines are stored under crown cap before the dosage is added. A few producers use crown caps to seal wine bottles. Open with a standard bottle opener.
Jamie Goode has written an excellent book on the subject of closures for those wishing to find out more (Wine Bottle Closures, Flavour Press).
The Society includes the alcohol by volume percentage figure for each wine available online, in Lists and offers.
Alcohol by volume%
Units per standard bottle
It is generally accepted that alcohol levels in wine have been increasing in the last 20 years. There are many reasons why, but the single most important factor is the vast improvement in vineyard management techniques which have resulted in healthier, riper fruit being harvested. Alcohol is a by-product of the fermentation of sugars in the grapes and the best-quality wines are made from grapes that have reached physiological ripeness (colour, flavour and tannin), and this generally happens after sugar ripeness.
There are several techniques that can be used to reduce alcohol levels but currently most are intrusive and strip flavour as well as alcohol and we don't buy wines made in this way. In actual fact, more than half of our still table wines have an abv of 13% or less. Members looking to choose wines with lower levels of alcohol can now search our range by level of alcohol.
Excellent-quality wine is at the heart of everything we do at The Wine Society and balance is the single most important feature of quality. The interaction of a wine's main components of sugar, acidity, tannin, alcohol and flavour matter more than the actual level of alcohol. A well-made wine of 14.5%, for example, will taste more balanced than an inferior-quality wine with 10% alcohol. Furthermore, alcohol levels are only a guide to a wine's fullness: a 12.5% cabernet sauvignon may feel heavier and more full-bodied in the mouth than, say, a gamay of 13.5%. Members should refer to the wine's tasting note for a description of the style and fullness of the wine.
The Society is committed to promoting the responsible enjoyment of wines and spirits by providing relevant information to our members that allows them to make their own informed choices. An additional figure is beginning to be used on labels: the number of (UK) units of alcohol contained in that bottle. This is simply the alcohol by volume percentage multiplied by the content. Thus a 13% wine in a standard 75cl bottle will have 9.7 units of alcohol. All new labels of Society and Exhibition wines will include this information. drinkaware.co.uk
The Society's buyers provide recommended drink dates for all of our wines to help members decide the right time to pop the cork. As a general rule, most everyday white wines are best enjoyed within a year of purchase, and most everyday reds within two years. Certain fine wines, however, those with the right structure and balance, have the ability to evolve over time and gain complexity and finer nuances of flavour.
If the product page says:
...then our advice would be:
Should be drunk over the coming months, certainly within the year.
Ready to drink now but will keep until the year shown.
We recommend keeping longer before opening. For example, a wine will be ready to drink in 2020 but still young and will keep until 2042. It's a matter of personal taste when such wines should be drunk. Many members prefer to try the wines over many years from the opening drink date to the last to watch the wine evolve.
Within one year of purchase
A non-vintage wine that should be drunk within 12 months.
Within two years of purchase
A non-vintage wine that is ready now but will keep for two years.
Savouring the wonderfully complex and intense bouquet and flavour of a wine drank at its peak is undoubtedly one of life's greatest pleasures. As with people, the ageing process will vary from wine to wine. Over the years the wine's primary aromas of fresh fruit will develop more complicated and persistent secondary and tertiary aromas. The fruity flavours of, for example, a premier cru white Burgundy will, over time, evolve buttery, toasty and yeast aromas, or fine reds may develop coffee, cedar, tobacco, vegetal, or even 'animal' flavours as they age.
There is much pleasure to be had by experimenting with bottles at different stages of maturity; finding out how a wine evolves with age and, perhaps more importantly, establishing your own preference in terms of taste for mature wine are all part of the interest and excitement of cellaring wine.
The drinking window we provide is a guide to when the wines will be at their best. Many will favour the wines in the youthful early stages of their development; others will enjoy the wines at their most mature.
Decanting is a useful way of softening the tannins, rounding out the flavours and releasing the potential of a young wine. To find out more please visit our Serving Wine guide.
The Society's purpose-built, temperature-controlled Members' Reserves offers members access to optimum storage conditions for their wines.
For more help and advice about how best to enjoy your wines contact us via our enquiry form.
Oak plays a very important role in the production of wine throughout the world. However, the level of oak detectible in a wine can vary depending on a number of factors – for example, the age and size of the barrel and the type of oak used, as well as the length of time the wine is aged in wood. Oak also influences the structure and tannins of the final wine. For wines on our website, we use the following classifications:
This suggests that a wine has either seen no oak at all, or may have been produced using very large, old oak barrels, resulting in a wine that has no taste of oak. Expect these wines to be crisp, fruit-forward and aromatic.
Some oak has been used in the production, yet it has not been a defining factor in the style of the wine. In this instance, the oak may have played more of a part in the structure of the wine but there will still be discreet flavours associated with the use of new oak.
Wines that are defined by and known for their use of new oak. This must not be confused with a wine which is 'overly oaky' as that would purely be down to bad winemaking! We buy only wines that, we believe, use oak in a balanced and appealing way, enhancing flavour and complexity, and/or imparting structure.
How detectable oak is depends a good deal on the size of the barrel and how new it is. New oak provides a much more evident flavour and aroma and must be used carefully. The size of the barrel is important, as the smaller the barrel, the more surface area of the wine is in contact with the wood and the more flavour will be drawn out. Often, very large old oak barrels are used, which impart little or no oak flavour to the wine at all. They will still bring an extra dynamic to the final taste of a wine though, when compared to stainless steel or concrete vessels, as oak is porous and therefore lets a small amount of air into the barrel. This controlled oxidation has a positive effect on wines, softening the tannins and developing secondary flavours, all helping to add a complexity which comes with age.
There are many ways that people rate wines, whether it is on the 100 or 20 point scales, 5 stars, 3 glasses or simply thumbs up or down. The pleasure of a bottle of wine is hard to express in figures, but it does help give the memory of that wine a context, and a way of sharing your opinion with others.
In response to members' requests we have added a star rating option to the site so you can mark your favourites, or maybe those occasional less-than-welcome experiences, and make your next order easier.
You can use the 5-star rating tool to record your experiences however you wish, but if you are looking for some guidance we believe that a focus on the 'value' of the wine takes into account the quality but also the pleasure it provided, and whether it is something you would recommend to friends.