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January 06, 2007

Artur de Barros e Sousa Lda. = ABSL

The company of Artur de Barros e Sousa, Lda., was founded in 1921. No other brands or companies are associated. The company is today owned by the Olim brothers, Artur and Edmundo, descendants of the company’s founder (fourth generation).

ABSL is the smallest of the Madeira wine producing companies on the island. The current annual production of wine is about 8.000 to 10.000 litres; the total storage capacity is 85.000 to 90.000 litres. Please keep in mind that we are talking litres here, not hectolitres (a hectolitre is 100 litres). As with most of the other producers, the Olim brothers do not own any vineyards on Madeira island, but purchase the grapes from selected farmers in the areas of Jardim da Serra (Sercial), Campanario (Malvasia and Boal) and Sao Vicente (Verdelho). ABSL do own some Listrao Branco vineyards on Porto Santo and they offer a Listrao blend of about 5 years of age. Vinification, maturing and bottling; it is all done in the lodge in the Rua dos Ferreiros 109.

The inconspicuous entrance to ABSL.

The inconspicuous entrance to ABSL.

The lodge has changed but little in the 80 years that it is now used for winemaking. In the IVM museum you will find a historic picture (Nr. 38, Armazém, Artur de Barros e Sousa) that shows the inner yard of ABSL, just looking like today. Artur or Edmundo Olim will be happy to guide you into the three-storey lodge. The smell of the old casks is simply overwhelming. Every time I go there, I feel like a time traveler who goes back a hundred years. In their office you will find an old General Electric radio made in Brazil during World War II, no fax machine and probably the oldest telephone to be found on the island. (OK, I saw Edmundo using a cell-phone, but that was his wife calling him home for lunch!)

View of the tasting room (View the old Brazil-made radio in the window!).

View of the tasting room (View the old Brazil-made radio in the window!).

Their most important market is Funchal, they mainly sell their wine to the people that enter the lodge. The Olim brothers do not really export wine, but if you are a long time customer and order wine by mail, they will probably send it to you. Just write them an email and kindly ask Edmundo's daughter Carlota for prices and shipping rates. None of the wines undergo estufagem. In fact ABSL takes much pride in being the only company to mature all their wines by the traditional canteiro method.

ABSL’s vintage of 2003.

ABSL’s vintage of 2003.

Old casks at the ABSL lodge.

Old casks at the ABSL lodge.

ABSL’s old vintage wines have been sold out some years ago. They do however offer a few modern vintage wines, as well as some old reserve wines that do not bear a specific date. Edmundo will tell you “…this one is about 60 years old, my father made it…” Personally I liked their Moscatel old reserve best, but their younger vintages and colheitas are also very good. The Bastardo Old Reserve and the Terrantez 1979 Vintage are also very interesting. I admit I simply like their old-fashioned way of wine making. I also like the two brothers because you can feel that their heart is into Madeira wine, Artur, who is the wine maker and Edmundo who is the guide, salesman and not to forget the entertainer!

From about 2010 on, it became evident that the Olim Brothers were looking for a way to continue ABSL while at the same time reducing their own involvement. This was in part because of age/health reasons, but also because of financial reasons. In 2013 it was anounced, that D'Oliveiras, direct neighbour to ABSL would buy the smaller company. Fortunately this leaves a chance that the old-style charme of the ABSL company might be conserved in some way, and if only as an expanded tasting and showroom facility.

Address: Artur de Barros e Sousa, Lda., Rua dos Ferreiros 109, P-9000-082 Funchal, Tel 00351-291-220 622, Email: a_b_s_lda@yahoo.com.br or absl@netmadeira.com or coment@vinhosmadeira.com.
Website at http://www.vinhosmadeira.com

Some of ABSL’s old wines.

Some of ABSL’s old wines.

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