Tasting the wines of Madeira

These notes accompany a in-depth feature on Madeira. For profiles of all of these estates please see Regional report: Madeira – a visit to three top producers.

Henriques & Henriques

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Madeira Monte Seco
Vermouth style. A modern recreation of a style introduced by John Cossart’s father in 1938, and often used as the base for a Dry Martini. Tinta Negra Mole pressed and run off skins. Lovely nose with nutty notes, plenty of rich, almond and walnut. On the palate lovely freshness, with a real tang of orange and fresh, breezy almost salt and ozone acidity. Delicious aperitif wine, served cold. 19% ABV. 88

Madeira Special Dry
Slightly darker colour. Much drier, less aromatic nose, with a touch more oxidisation and a slightly nutty character. “A Sercial look-alike”. The palate is less tangy, but has a weightier, slightly creamier quality, and a little more sweetness apparent (though not in fact any more than the Monte Seco). A very dry, pithy and nutty finish, but a wine without the charm of the Monte Seco. 19% ABV. 86

Madeira Medium Dry
Quite a dark tawny colour. Oxidised, bruised fruit and nutty, raisiny quality. On the palate this has a full, rich texture and a core of plummy sweetness. The mid-palate shows plenty of sweetness with a caramel note, and then a backbone of acidity that is tangy and pithily dry begins to assert. 19%ABV 87

Madeira Medium Rich
This has a nut-brown colour and oxidised, nutty nose, with a hint of chocolate and more raisiny fruit. On the palate it has an intensity and sweetness that makes and immediate mark, with quite a broad mid-palate and a touch of alcoholic heat, with some caramel and fruity flavours, then again that fine acid structure that perhaps seems slightly angular in this context, but is beautifully fresh and crisp in the finish. 19%ABV. 87

Madeira Full Rich
Slightly paler tawny/nutty brown. Really quite oxidised in style, with a burnt caramel tang and plenty of dried fruit and nut notes. On the palate there is an intense richness, but it is still a fresh style of wine, with plenty of orange and grapefruit tanginess playing against the walnutty dryness and orangy fruit. Nicely balanced and delicious. 19%ABV 87 The first selection of Five Year Olds are mostly made from Tinta Negra Mole, but there are up to 10% of the ‘noble’ varieties in these bottlings.

Madeira Finest Dry 5 Years Old
Lovely, seductive soft, quite creamy notes of walnut and bruised pear fruit, with a straw-like note. The palate has a fine Fino sherry-like dryness and tiny saltiness as well as those nutty and dried apricot flavours. There’s a complex, dry nut and burnt orange tang, with plenty of acidity that is well integrated and balanced. Very tangy and mouth-watering despite a certain richness. 19%ABV 89 Madeira Finest Medium Dry 5 Years Old
Very pale tawny colour. Richly oxidised style, with raisins and plenty of walnutty character. On the palate there is a delicate sweetness, with dried apricot and fig notes, and a dry, tangy, very fresh citrussy acidity that leaves the finish tangy and dry. There is a slightly spirity quality, but it is a balanced wine. 19%ABV 88

Madeira Finest Medium Rich 5 Years Old
Deep amber/tawny colour. The nose is dominated by a dry walnut husk and almost straw-like character, with a hint of burnt brown sugar and chocolate coming through. The palate has a real sense of freshness about it, with plenty of tang, plenty of orange and a really intense caramel and toffee sweetness. This is luscious through the mid-palate and into the finish, but still fresh and tangy. 19%ABV 89

Madeira Finest Full Rich 5 Years Old
Nice deep tawny brown. Slightly dank note of oxidisation, with less nutty charm than some. On the palate the impression is of sweet molasses and brown sugar, with prune and raisin flavours and just a hint of coffee. The acid is much more discreet, but still really freshens the finish adding real bite. 19%ABV 88

Madeira Fine Rich Single Harvest 1995
First bottling of a Single Harvest wine, made from Tinta Negra Mole. Bottled in 2001. Quite a rich tawny colour, with a hint of green. Oxidised nose of bruised apple and pear, with more nuttiness. On the palate that rich, rounded, with a voluptuous quality. There is weight and texture here, with a soft, chewy nut and toffee mid-palate, then a structural acidity that finishes with a burnt orange and lemony tang. 19%ABV. 89

Madeira Sercial 10 Years Old
Pale, lemony-tinged burnished gold colour. Very intensely aromatic, with almost tropical fruit notes appearing fleetingly, then nuts and citrus fruits. On the palate there is a little note of marzipan, and a rich, mouth-filling texture that makes this initially quite full and lush, with a depth of dry, acid-streaked toffee, spice and marmalade. Lovely structure and length here, with fine definition and finesse. 20%ABV 92

Madeira Verdelho 10 Years Old
Intense, pungent, very fruity nose, with some chocolate and plenty of richness and obvious concentration, and notes of exotic spice and Seville orange. Fabulous palate, with all sorts of nuances of tea, caramel, intense glace fruit sweetness and the mid-palate nougat and softly nutty richness. The acid and definition here is terrific, with lovely balance and finesse. 20%ABV 91

Madeira Bual 10 Years Old
Orangey/tawny colour. More oxidation here, with pepper and spice and caraway seeds, plenty of caramel and burnt citrus. On the palate this is quite rich and luscious, with a great creaminess to the texture. The palate has a flood of burnt orange, with delightful walnut and almond softness and creaminess, and a piercing streak of fine lemon pith acidity. 20%ABV 91

Madeira Malmsey 10 Years Old
Tawny with some ruby at the core. Fenugreek and caraway, and all sorts of chocolate and caramel nuances, with fudge and intense dried raisin fruit. On the palate a really intense rich, concentrated fruitiness, with some fresh strawberry and black pepper notes, plenty of dried red fruits and fabulous orangy acidity that structures and lengthens the finish. There is a thick undertone of dark chocolate, and plenty more of the exotic spiciness, in a very long finish. Fabulous. 20%ABV 92

Madeira Sercial 15 Years Old
Burnished golden colour. Dry, nutty, lemon-spiked nose. On the palate this is not quite bone dry, but that racy, dry, underripe pear and apple quality of acidity shoots through the wine. Not quite the aromatic fireworks of the 10 Years Old, but a cool, composed, very sophisticated wine with a walnutty dryness and cool though hugely decisive acidity. Very classy drinking. 20%ABV 91

Madeira Verdelho 15 Years Old
Pale tawny/golden colour. Quite oxidised, with plenty of nuttiness and intense fruitiness suggesting dried apricot and dried orange. On the palate this is quite luscious and creamy-textured, with a lot of nutty character. There’s a multi-layered quality here, with stewed tea and a smokiness, but all braced by that super-concentrated acidity. Toasty and rich. 20%ABV 92

Madeira Bual 15 Years Old
Quite a deep ruby/tawny. Huge concentration on the nose, with deep figgy aromas, touches of quince and a real intense fruitiness. More of that toasty, walnutty finesse too. On the palate this is rich and flooded with sweet fruit – but not fresh fruits, more dried fruits, apricot and plum. There’s a real chocolaty richness here too, adding another layer to the texture and flavour, and then that powerhouse Seville orange burnt caramel flavour and acidity braces the finish. Terrific persistence and intensity. 20%ABV 92

Madeira Malvasia 15 Years Old
Dark tawny, but still some gold at rim. There is light oxidation here, but it is smothered by chocolaty, fudgy richness and an immediate impression of lusciousness. On the palate burnt orange and crème brûlée, with that toffeed layer sitting over a custardy richness in the glass, with plenty of tangy, dry, pithy and underripe pear acidity coming through. Fabulous balance of the diverse elements here. 20%ABV 92 Some of the Vintage wines that follow are available worldwide by mail order from H&H. Vintage wines must spend a minimum of 20 years in wood and two in bottle before release.

Madeira Extra Reserva Vinho Velho
Bottled in 1994, approximately 40 years in wood when bottled. A one off batch for an anniversary (not for sale). Extremely dark, with a huge Cognac-like intensity. Fabulous. Deep, concentrated malt and reduced, syrupy caramel intensity. Extraordinary thick, raisin and chocolate stuff, with enormous richness and depth. Plenty of almost balsamic concentration, with huge sweetness totally subsumed within spice and acidity. Magical stuff that goes on for minutes. 95

xVintage Madeira Sercial 1971
Fabulously opulent nose, with plenty of caramel and oxidised, bruised fruit character. Notes of nuts, spices and an old smokiness. The palate has a luscious intensity that is fat and dense, with a suggestion of sweetness that is swept away by an intense, dry, lemon and grapefruit acidity. Fabulous stuff, with unravelling layers of complexity and fantastic tang. Powerfully concentrated. 94

Vintage Madeira Sercial 1964
Deep ruby/tawny. Very intense, with an almost spirituous character with plenty of old wood character showing exotic spices, some green-moulded wood, anise and fenugreek. On the palate an intense raisiny richness, with masses of chocolate and toasty, deep and smoky character. Lovely sweet edge to this, with massively powerful concentration with orange rind and thrilling grapefruity acidity. Delicious and hugely complex. 95

Vintage Madeira Terrantez 1976
Deep tawny/bronze colour. Oxidised and slightly rotted character, that starts to open with swirling and air to give nutty and chocolate notes, and a burnt, smoky character. On the palate quite rich in texture, with mouthfilling sweetness, but all given a real edge by that decisive grapefruit pith acidity. There is flesh and weight on the mid palate, with a bitter orange and almost quinine (Schweppes tonic) edge. Fascinating, layered stuff. 92

Vintage Madeira Boal 1954
Very black/brown colour. Quite an exotic undertow to this wine on the nose, which although quite oxidised and nutty, has developed all sorts of incense-like smoky and spice notes, but also hints of guava and ripe tropical fruit. On the palate it has a delicious sweetness, that is very rounded and rich, with a full plum and quince jam richness, and delicious lip-smacking tang of Seville orange and grapefruit acidity. Lovely integration here, with concentration and plenty of life about it, though perhaps not the ultimate complexity of some. 92

Vintage Madeira Malvasia 1954
Dark tawny with gold on rim. There’s something quite meaty on the nose of this, with grilled meats and intense, nutty dried fruits. Again the exotic caraway and fenugreek spice that comes though on many of these wines (And most be an old wood character I suspect). On the palate there’s a vanilla ice cream sweetness and supple, rich, generous character. The acidity is all there, but that vanilla and caramel really gives it a soft, voluptuous character that is very moreish yet complex. 94

Vintage Madeira Verdelho 1934
Massively intense, with burnt Demerara sugar and Seville orange, and fine glace fruit and crystallised ginger notes. On the palate it has richness and lusciousness, with masses of citrus fruit, lemon and lime, and a chocolaty foundation with caramel and still very fine, racy acidity that leaves this with lots of complexity, freshness and charm. There is a lightness and crispness, with plenty of racy complexity. 93

Madeira Solera Malmsey 1900
Balsamic vinegar colour, with super intense meat stock and burnt sugar aromas, with reduced gravy and caramel aromas and dark, thick fruitiness. On the palate the intense raisin and prune sweetness is cut through with a streak of intense orange fruit and plenty of acidity. It is beautifully balanced, with immense concentration and unfolding layers, and a long, spicy finish. 93

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Madeira 3 Year Old Dry Type
Available through Justerini & Brooks. 100% Tinta Negra Mole. The nose has a nutty, slightly fish oil character, with a dry, wax and straw note. On the palate it is quite creamy and oily, with some definite sweetness to the fruit, and plenty of orange and gentle caramel flavour. Good, racy, lemony acidity. 19%ABV 86

Madeira 5 Year Old Boal Reserve “Veramar”
Clear, bright amber colour. Quite closed, with a linseed, flax note, but not much fruit, and a hint of cinders and smokiness. On the palate a racy lemon rind quality with sweetness to the fruit, and a clean, racy grapefruit acidity. Medium bodied, this is quite easy to drink but has some structure. 19%ABV 86

Madeira Medium Dry Reserve “VB”
50/50 Blend of Verdelho and Boal, in this first bottling both from the 1998 vintage. A little tawny note to a medium/deep gold. Quite smoky, with a gently fish oil note coming through, with dried apricot and a flinty note. On the palate this has quite forward fruit, with a real tang, lots of vibrant, vivid orange and punchy apricot fruit, and a little toffeed note, but a huge push of orange and grapefruit acidity powers through the finish, giving a lip-smacking, tangy finish. 18%ABV 88

Madeira Single Harvest 1996
Tinta Negra Mole. Quite a deep, burnished orange gold. A little toffee and nutty character, with citrus fruit and a fine, elegant quality. The palate is also very racy, with plenty of clean, pithy, grapefruit acidity. The wine is medium dry, with good fruit, suggesting dried apricot and dried mango, with a pecan and Brazil nut butteryness, but the balancing acidity is terrific. 90

Madeira Sercial 10 Year Old Reserve
Deep burnished gold, hinting at tawny. Oxidised notes of bruised fruit and a nutty character. Delicate yeasty notes. On the palate quite richly textured, with a sweetness at first, but soon overtaken by dry, Fino-like nuttiness and plenty of lemon rind waxiness and crisp, clean, white fruit and citrus acidity. This has a multi-layered complexity, and the 50g/l of residual sugar is mind-boggling given the searing dryness of the finish. 90

Madeira Verdelho 10 Year Old Reserve
Rich burnished gold. A little rotted orange note of oxidation of this ripe fruit, with a hint of barley sugar and little floral and exotic fruit notes, as well as a delicate spiciness. On the palate the immediate impression is dry, with a lushness to the texture and a building sweetness through the mid-palate. There is a welterweight of acidity here again, but the creamy, toffeed character balances, and this stays quite rich but very well defined through its acid structure into a long, tangy finish that leaves a real impression in the mouth. 91

Madeira Boal 1995 Single Cask 80a
From a single vineyard on the north coast, that Ricardo thinks is one of the best on Madeira, but which is sadly no longer there as the owner dies and his sons did not carry it on. Pale to medium gold. Subtle, reserved, very gently toffeed, even biscuity character. On the palate a fine orangy fruit and plenty of nutty notes, with some toffeed weight to the fruit and texture. The acidity is once again very nicely structured giving this real tang and a burnt orangy grip into the finish. 91

Madeira Boal 10 Year Old Reserve
Medium- to deep tawny/gold. The nose blends a subtle, dry, nutty and straw-like character with dried fruits and a touch of almond. On the palate it has an intense sweetness, with a lovely piercing fruit quality of orange and lemon, and a little more sweetness and roundness than the Verdelho, but still very vibrant and riven with citrussy acidity into a long finish. 92

Madeira Malvasia 10 Year Old Reserve
Quite a dark orangy tawny colour. Plenty of fruitcakey, rich, raisin, apricot and nutty aromas. Still a fairly reserved character. The Palate has plenty of orange and plenty of a burnt crème brûlée character. This is sweet, but not in any way cloying, with a glacial sweep of taut, pithy acidity that adds tension and lengthens the finish. This has lovely quality and a very juicy character. 92

Madeira Malvasia Reserve
Labelled as “Christmas pudding wine” and bottled exclusively for Fortnum & Mason, it is basically three casks of 1999 Malvasia, blended with some 30-year-old Malvasia. A little brown sugar and orange custard quality, with a clean, crisp quality. On the palate quite a smooth texture and a gently floral note in amongst the orange and caramel quality, of crème brûlée with very gentle spiciness before terrific orange acidity. 91

Madeira Malvasia 1999 Single Cask 265a
Also bottled exclusively for Fortnum & Mason. Quite a deep burnished gold colour. Quite closed on the nose, with only faintly nutty aromas. On the palate it gives a dry impression, with a fairly linear, racy orange fruitiness and a tight overall character showing just a little nuttiness and caramel richness. That fantastically tangy orange and grapefruit crunch of acidity powers through, leaving the tongue tingling. 90

Madeira Malvasia 1994 Single Cask 276a
Tawny coloured, this has a subtly aromatic nose, with quite rich, buttery pecan nut aromas and a subtle tangerine character. The palate has real concentration and intensity, with a delicious sweetness and purity: oranges and lemon fruit, with a finesse and racy quality, only very small supporting notes of toffee and burnt brown sugar, but all very subtle behind the fruity sweetness. The acidity is beautifully integrated, with a lovely rounded overall nature, complex layers of fruit and acid, and real structure. 93

Madeira Malvasia 20 Anos, Lote 6072
Some wines in this blend are 35 years old. Quite a deep tawny/brown colour. Deep, oxidised nutty nose, with a cakey richness and very fine fruit even suggesting a little tropical guava note. On the palate a beautifully mature, nutty, burnt orange cream flavour with a tangy lemon peel note and layers of fruity and nutty complexity. Lovely fresh acidity comes through, with a dry pithy, straw and mineral acidity. Maybe lacks the complexity of the 1994 Single cask, but lovely stuff. 92

Madeira Verdelho Vintage 1981
This Frasquiera (vintage) Madeira is quite a dark, burnished tawny colour. Nice high-toned, nutty and slightly volatile note on the nose, with quite bright orange fruit and a little dried peel quality. On the palate there is a nutty, almost salty tanginess here, though a richer toffee note starts to build on the mid palate. The fruitiness is orangy and has a marmalade quality, with plenty of grapefruit pith and lemon zest acidity sweeping in and giving a real edge to the long, shimmering finish. 93

Madeira Single Harvest 1997
(Tank sample, ready to be bottled). Beautiful golden colour. Very fine, delicate orange and lightly oxidised nose, with a background of caramel. Palate has lovely finesse, with a real flood of tangerine fruit and a medium-weight, silky texture. The mid palate develops a coffeeish warmth and some spice. Very nice lemon jelly flavours and acidity gives a delicate balance in the finish. 91

Madeira Medium Dry Reserve “VB” Lote 2, Casks 12 + 46
Cask 12 is 1998 Verdelho; cask 46 is 1999 Boal. Fine orange / light tawny colour and a blast of orangy fruit on the nose. Lovely sultana and Dundee cake notes, but quite subtle. The palate is lovely – plenty of structure, with terrific verve and pithy lemon and grapefruit acidity that races across the tongue in the finish. Fabulous racy stuff, with delicious weight, richness and smoothness, and lovely concentration and sweetness. 93

xMadeira Historic Series Charleston Sercial
Lovely light amber colour. An “improved 10 Year Old”, with old wines blended in, perhaps 15% of 35 year old wine. Very fine, seductive toffee apple and Seville orange nose. Lovely palate too, with crisp, fairly austere palate with plenty of pithy acidity, but the mid-palate fills out with orange and a light chocolaty character. Lovely tangy stuff, with excellent balance and a sense of warmth and integration 92

Madeira Historic Series Boston Boal
An old, concentrated Boal in this blend, which has a dark tawny/toffee colour. Quite a bright nose, with citrus and some pear-like aromatics, and a fine chocolaty character. The palate is very lush, with weight and sweetness that floods across the palate, and gives plenty of body and smooth, chocolaty flavour. 94

Madeira Historic Series New Orleans Medium Dry
25% 30-year-old Terrantez with Tinta Negra Mole. Deep toffee colour, and rich, burnt sugar and luscious, rich fruitcake character. Oxidised, with some nutty walnut character that runs through to the palate. Fine orange flavours and plenty of nuttiness. Fine chocolaty character, with a robust fruitiness and then that sweep of tangy, super tangy citrus acidity gives a powerful, clean finish. Delicious. 92

Madeira Historic Series New York Malmsey
Fantastic opulence, with oxidised aromas, but plenty of nutty, dark, tobacco and chocolate character. Delightful stuff, with rich mouthfeel and huge, mouthfilling sweetness. The thick, mouth coating texture is cut by an orangy acidity, with spices, glace fruit and lemon peel Christmas cake notes and a hedonistic weight and richness. 93

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The Madeira Wine Company

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Blandy’s Madeira Malmsey Duke of Clarence
Three-year-old Tinta Negra Mole made in Estufa. Colour is a dark tawny/mahogany. Lightly oxidised brown sugar nose. A little bit of pruney fruit. On the palate this has a slightly spirity quality, but there is a nice caramel and chocolate richness and a sweet plum and raisin fruitiness. The acidity is present, but slightly disjointed from fruit and a certain spiciness. 85

Blandy’s Madeira Sercial 5 Year Old
xMade in Canteiro. Quite a delicate floral-edged orange blossom nose. A background note of honey. On the palate a big rush of grapefruit flavour and grapefruit acidity rushes across the palate, with a gently toffeed character and a kick of alcohol and spice. It is quite full, and the acid blends into the finish. Good balance. 87

Cossart Gordon Madeira Sercial Single Harvest Colheita 1988
Medium golden tawny colour. Refined, quite delicate nose with notes of bruised pear and orange. On the palate this is bone dry, though it has a certain lusciousness to the texture and a fruitiness. It is almost Cognac-like, with plenty of alcoholic, estery aroma and a tea and dried apricot fruit character. The shock of lemony acidity really grips the finish, but it is really nicely integrated, with a long, pure finish hinting a sweetness and spice, toast and fruitiness. For me, an outstanding example of a modern Madeiran ‘fine wine’. 93

Blandy’s Madeira Malmsey 5 Year Old
Dark old varnish colour with orange on rim. Slightly burnt character on the nose, with toffee and a certain nuttiness, some plummy fruit character. On the palate full sweetness, with a medium-bodied but mouth-filling rich, figgy, plum-pudding richness. The acidity comes in on the finish, giving this sufficient tang not to be cloying, and adding a Seville orange bite, though this is not a complex wine. 87

Blandy’s Madeira Alvada 5 Year Old
Blandy’s innovative 50/50 blend of Bual and Malvasia, made by the Canteiro method. More aromatic, with little floral notes and quite delicate stewed fruit and nut aromas. On the palate almost as sweet as the 5 Year Old Malmsey, but there’s a tart orangy quality to the acidity, like Oxford English marmalade, that gives it more tang and a more vivacious character. The finish is bright and the acidity is crisp. 89

Blandy’s Madeira Malmsey Single Harvest Colheita 1999
Dark ruby/brown. Not terribly expressive on the nose, with soft, warm, autumnal notes of spice, smoke and some vanilla. On the palate a real fruitiness here: figs, dried apricots and prunes, with some nutty and chocolaty undertones, and some complexity. On the palate it is quite bright and has plenty of acid, with less thickness and sweetness than the 5 Year Old, but a dry orange peel tang and good balance. This is quite long and tangy, with spice and a bit of real bite. 90

Blandy’s Madeira Malmsey 15 Year Old
Very deep mahogany colour. Big, quite obvious burnt sugar nose with chocolate and dark scents of toast, nuts and beurre noisette. On the palate there’s a thick sweep of rich, dark, Muscovado sweetness. There seems to be a touch of volatility to this wine, and although it lacks some complexity for me, there is decent acidity and balance. 89

Cossart Gordon Madeira Verdelho 10 Year Old
Medium amber, barley sugar colour. Refined, fine barley sugar and lemon drop nose. Quite clean and aromatic, with not much wood or oxidation influence showing. Palate is medium bodied and pretty dry, with a serious backbone of lemon and grapefruit acidity running through it, and quite delicate tea, orange and toffee brittle flavour. It is a little harsh in the finish, with moderate length, but is has good character. 88

Cossart Gordon Madeira Verdelho Single Harvest Colheita 1995
Much more toffee, Caramac nose, with some smokiness and a gentle orangy fruit. Some biscuity character too. On the palate I find this slightly spirity too (like the 10 Year Old Verdelho), and there is a real edge of acidity giving a firm impression. The sweetness of the fruit begins to build through the mid-palate. A real grapefruity quality emerges, in a tangy, quite vibrant wine with good length. 91

Cossart Gordon Madeira Bual 10 Year Old
Medium tawny with ruby at core. There’s quite a rich barley sugar and honey character to this wine, with a promise of sweetness and some toffee and orange nuances. On the palate it is medium bodied, with plenty of sweetness. There are notes of toffee and spices, and plenty of brown sugar and hints of chocolate and fudge. On the palate that sweetness persists, with a big pithy core of grapefruit flavour and acidity cutting through the middle. This has plenty of tart, orange peel and grapefruit bite, and has good length. 89

Cossart Gordon Madeira Bual Single Harvest Colheita 1995
Medium to dark tawny. There’s quite a deeply caramelised element to the nose here, with rich raisin toffee and a suggestion of milky coffee. On the palate it is not so instantly sweet as the 10 Year Old Bual, but the acid is also more integrated. The characteristic grapefruit flavour and pithy acidity is there, but seems rather better balanced with the sweet fruit, Dundee cake spicy richness and plenty of lemon zest. 90

Cossart & Gordon Madeira Terrantez Vintage 1977
Quite a deep toffee colour. Plenty of oxidation here, with a slightly rancio character. Smoky, with plummy fruit and a stewed tea component. On the palate this is quite thick and luscious, with medium sweetness, but a fine, broad, quite rounded fruity appeal. It has structure, with spicy and tobacco components joining with relatively low acidity into the finish. 91

Blandy’s Madeira Bual Vintage 1977
Quite a dark ruby/toffee brown. Plenty of oxidation, with a tang of brown sugar and good plum agen prune fruitiness and a nice little vanilla fudge depth. The palate is rounded and sweet, with really intense fruit, a core of tangerine and even more tropical nectarine, and a certain soft, vanillin roundness. The acidity is lovely in this wine, with a refined lemon zest twist and the alcohol in the background. 93

Cossart & Gordon Madeira Verdelho Vintage 1975
Medium tawny/gold colour. Seems a bit flabby and displaying too much flat oxidation at first, and a teacake fruitiness only emerges reluctantly. The palate has a biscuity richness and quite a thick texture, with plenty of sweetness. There’s a lot of warmth and a Demerara sugar depth and toffeed sweetness here, but the grapefruity acidity is tangy and precise into the finish. 91

Blandy’s Madeira Bual Vintage 1964
Quite a dark tawny with mahogany at the core. Slightly rancio dankness, but typical Madeira oxidation showing stewed prunes and a touch of nuttiness. The palate is quite full-bodied and very rich, with plenty of sweet, rich, plum, date and plump Agen prune fruitiness. There’s a little twist of lemon zest too, and some delicate cinnamon spiciness. The acidity is fine here, with grapefruit and lemon, but it is very well integrated in a harmonious wine with a very long, tangy orange finish. 93

Cossart & Gordon Madeira Sercial Vintage 1960
Medium burnished golden colour. Intensely aromatic, with some high floral notes, even a suggestion of fresh spearmint and lovely delicate dried fruit and nut nuances. The palate has a firmness and clean, razor-sharp edge of grapefruit and lemon zest, with a broader fruitiness, tinged with sweetness and toffee, building through the mid-palate. It has structure and plenty of layered complexity, in an intellectual wine. 95

Blandy’s Madeira Bual Vintage 1920
Fine medium/dark tawny colour. Beautiful nose: quite volatile and estery, but lovely notes of Benedictine, herbs, caraway and liquorice, with a richer walnutty character beneath. There is a certain date and sultana fruitiness, but a dry, nut-husk character dominates. On the palate it is lively and tangy. There’s a note of chicory and bittersweet espresso, with cherry skin tang and acidity continuing that bright, quite phenolic character. There’s fantastic intensity here, and although the wine has a certain edgy attack and not the soft, opulent character you might expect given its age, I thought this was very fine. 94

Blandy’s Madeira Malmsey Vintage 1915
From the winery’s museum, only 10 bottles of this wine are left at time of writing and it is unfortunately not for sale. In cask for 77 years before bottling, it is very rich, deep ruby to mahogany colour. The nose is beautifully subtle, with caramelised brown sugar, a subtle dried prune and raisin fruit, and a delicate almond nuttiness. On the palate it has delightful sweetness, with a little note of sesame seed, but plenty of lump, juicy fig and fat prune fruit. There’s a hint of espresso and bittersweet dark chocolate, but the sweetness powers through. Tugging away all the time is a lovely Seville orange pithiness and bitterness, with lovely acidity and huge length. 96

xCossart & Gordon Madeira Bual Vintage 1908
This wine is for sale, at a cellar door price of 715 Euros. It has a very dark old varnish colour. The nose has oxidised, almost bloody notes, with dark stewed tea and stewed fruit compote aromas. There’s a little note of walnut fudge too. On the palate this has an unctuous, mouthfilling sweetness. It is like a thick paste of rich, pruney fruit flavour plump sultana and Muscovado, and still some cherry brightness. Though it is balsamic in its thickness, sweetness and touch of volatility, the acid is beautifully balanced and the whole picture is exquisitely long and still very powerful. A very profound and complex wine – and wine experience. 97

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