Madeira Wine Company S.A. = MWC
The Madeira Wine Company was formed in 1913 as an association of exporters who decided to join efforts to increase their efficiency on exportations. It was during the 20’s that most of the British shippers joined the company and on total 26 companies joined this association. The early name was the Madeira Wine Association and 1981 was changed to Madeira Wine Company. Being a corporation since 1987, the company used to belong to the Blandy family and the producers of premium ports, the Symington Family who acquired a shareholding in 1989. In 2011 Blandys regained control of the Madeira Wine Company with the Symington Family Estates maintaining a minority shareholding in the MWC. Chris Blandy became CEO in late 2011.
The four main brands today are Blandy’s, Cossart Gordon, Leacock and Miles. Blandy’s and Cossart Gordon are the two premium brands. These names were originally the names of 4 wine producing families, however only the Blandy family are now still involved in the company. The brand Blandy’s is one of the most popular and widely-sold Madeira wines worldwide.
The Madeira Wine Company today is one of the biggest producers on the island, with approximately 35% of the local Madeira market and with a high share of the bottled market worldwide, especially on the higher categories of wines.
The company did not own any vineyards but for one small exception. It used to rely on grapes bought from selected farmers. With the rising need to secure enough grapes for the wine making, the company however went back into also owning vineyards in 2012/2013. Today one plot is the Quinta do Santa Luzia with 1.5ha, intended as a top Terrantez site. The second is the Quinta do Furao with 2ha, planted with Sercial and Verdelho. Finally the largest site at 4.5ha is Quinta do Bispo, planted mainly with Malvasia. The other grapes come from different locations on the island. For example Bual comes mainly from Calheta, Malvasia from Sao Jorge and Tinta Negra Mole from Camara de Lobos and S. Vicente. The grapes are all processed at the company winery at Mercês, and the company has during the vintage a collecting depot on the north coast to deal with their grape purchases in S. Vicente and Porto Moniz. The grapes arrive in single plastic boxes to prevent early fermentation. After pressing, the classical varieties undergo maceration for a maximum of 12 hours or none at all. The wine is then fermented in stainless steel at controlled temperatures. Only the three year old wines will undergo estufagem, all the other wines are matured by the traditional canteiro method. Some of the canteiro casks are located above the estufagem tanks to benefit from the heat. The MWC makes its own casks and until recently, it was possible to see this at their visitor centre, “The Old Blandy Wine Lodge”. Presently the cooperage is located on the Mercês winery; however, visitors taking the guided tour can still see the cooper’s tools.
The wines are stored in both lodges, Merces and “The Old Blandy Wine Lodge”. The total storage capacity is of approximately 5.000.000 litres. The Merces lodge also houses the laboratory, tasting room, quality control, bottling and packing facilities. The São Francisco lodge, nowadays also called “The Old Blandy Wine Lodge”, is more of tourist interest, and is also a very important storage area for the wines aged on the canteiro method. You will find tasting rooms for vintages and blends, shops and also the new “Arcadas de São Francisco” shopping centre right behind the lodge.
It is amazing that even though the wines are made by the same company, the four different brands are far from being of a uniform taste. The wine maker Francisco Albuquerque (multi-awarded "Wine maker of the year"!) has been able to keep an individial style for each of the brands. Blandy wines are always a little richer and heavier, Cossart wines are more fruity and elegant, Leacock wines always appear to me as sweeter than the other brands and Miles represents a somewhat lighter style.
In the last years the MWC has clearly been a driving force behind the rejuvenation of the image of Madeira wine. New styles like Colheita, Harvest and Alvada (see chapter on types of wine) have stirred much publicity and caused a positive response from the market, especially from new and younger wine drinkers. The most important export markets are the U.K., U. S., Belgium, Japan, Switzerland and other countries.
Today, many of the MWC famous old vintages and soleras are only found on auctions or in shops specializing in old Madeira wine. In 2003 the only really old wines where the Cossart Gordon 1908 Bual; very concentrated, lots of caramel, coffee, ashes and very, very long finish, and two soleras from 1860 and 1870. It is no secret that some of the older wines, like the 1882 Verdelho, the 1900 Moscatel, the 1908 Boal and the 1910 Malvasia were bought from other companies, especially D'Oliveiras in the mid 1980ies. This was (and still is) common practice amongst the different producers. In fact most producers offer some wines that they did not produce themselves but bought from other producers or stockholders called partidistas. Some of the MWC's younger vintages are very promising and well worth tasting. Also I find the Centennial Blend, a unique limited edition blend of the four main varieties, very interesting. This blend is limited to 3500 bottles only and was edited for the year 2000 celebrations. The Colheitas offer some individuality but are lighter than the frasqueira vintages. The latest innovations also include single-vineyard wines. Of course you can find the full range of blends from the MWC. Personally I like the 10 YO Cossart wines best, especially the Bual, also the 10 YO Miles Malmsey is a favourite of mine, sweet, complex and fruity but never cloying. The MWC will sell wines by mail order to private consumers, please see below for an email-address.
Address: Madeira Wine Company S. A., The Old Blandy Wine Lodge (Adegas São Francisco), Departamento de Relações Publicas, Avenida Arriaga 28, P-9000-064 Funchal, Tel 00351-291-740110, Fax 00351-291-740111. Merces Lodge, Rua dos Ferreiros 191, left to the Adegas de Torreao. P-9000-082 Funchal, Tel 00351-291-740100, Fax 00351-291-740101.
Email address for mail order: email@example.com
Also websites for the four remaining brands exist:
Cossart Gordon http://www.cossartgordon.com
The Old Blandy's Winelodge has its own website with exact opening hours at http://www.symington.com/winelodge/index.htm
View of the Merces Lodge.
Grapes arrive at Merces (shown with the friendly permission of Maik Göbel).
Maceration tanks at Merces.
Estufa at Merces.
Huge storing casks at Merces.
View of the bottling line.
The Merces laboratory.
The tasting room at Merces.
Bottles waiting to be tasted...
Old Blandy’s Wine Lodge Pictures:
Entrance to the MWC.
Big satinwood casks in the Old Blandy Lodge.
MWC casks with maturing vintage wine.
Max Romer tasting room.
Vintage tasting room.
The MWC’s private collection.