May 22, 2012

The 1795 Terrantez Vintages

There are at least six, probably seven (and maybe still more!) known Terrantez wines from 1795. There is the 1795 Terrantez of Barbeito, the 1795 Terrantez of Companhia Vinicola da Madeira, the Terrantez of F. F. Ferraz (probably the same wine like the “Messias” wine in Alex Liddell’s book “Madeira”), a 1795 Terrantez possibly from D’Oliveiras, the 1795 Terrantez by Blandys, probably the same wine like the 1795 Terrantez by Lomelino and the 1795 Terrantez by Abudarham and finally there is the 1795 Terrantez from a company called South Side Madeira Association. In addition there is another 1795 Terrantez from an unknown producer.

I find it fascinating, that there are so many wines from the same year, more then 200 years old and with the same grape variety, but from different companies, that have no business connections with each other. For a long time I wondered if these wines are from the same source. Even if they were, they are different for sure, because of the different period of time spent in cask and bottle. (As you can see in the chapter about types of wine under “vintages”, the time spent in cask is very important when it comes to concentration and taste of a vintage.) When I asked Alex Liddell, author of “Madeira”, published by Faber & Faber and being the number one publication on the subject of Madeira wine, about the “same source theory” he gave a very quick and tremendously helpful answer. He pointed out that even after 200 years it would not be unlikely for a few different wines from the same year of vintage to have survived. In fact he quoted the late Richard Blandy stating “that the range of what had been produced on the island in the past was no less, and perhaps much greater, then what is produced today”. So, what I once thought to be a mystery seems to be solved. However for those of you who own one or more of the 1795 Terrantez vintages I would like to share the information gathered on these wines. I am greatly indebted for Mr. Liddell for the wealth of information he supplied, not only through his excellent book but also especially on the subject of the 1795 Terrantez vintages.

1795 Terrantez by Barbeito
The 1795 Terrantez by Barbeito is one of the most famous Madeira wines, if not the most famous one. Not only was it available at auctions or from specialized dealers over decades, it is also still in rather good shape for a wine that is more then 200 years old. As Alex Liddell explains in his book “Madeira”, this wine originally belonged to the Hinton family. Oscar Acciaioly bought the wine from the Hintons. Later the wine was divided between his descendants. Mario Barbeito bought part of the remaining wine and returned it from demijohns to wood. Unfortunately Barbeito themselves do no longer sell this wine. They had only been releasing a very small number of bottles per year anyway, but now the reserves are all empty. The remaining wine was botteled in july 2006 and yielded 23 bottles that were given a backlabel with an individual number on it. Of course this last edition bottling was sold out in no time. You must be very lucky to still get the 1795. The wine used to be available on the internet. When I looked for the number of bottles remaining in the beginning of 2002 I found about 50 bottles that were still for sale. In the beginning of 2003 this number went down to 18 bottles still available. In the beginning of 2004 there were only 7 bottles left. And in the beginning of 2007 I found a total of 5 bottles, coming to zero at the end of 2007. There is reason to believe that at least some of the shops that offered this wine did in fact “share” the same single bottle, so the number of bottles that used to be available might have been over-estimated. Part of the reason that this Terrantez was still available over such a long period of time may have been the rather high price that exceeded USD 3000,- or Euros 2500,- in 2007. I guess that from 2008 on, your only chance to get this wine is at auction. There is also a considerable amount of the 1795 T hidden in private collections. I know collectors who own a two-digit number of the Barbeito's 1795 Terrantez. Also a lot of people collecting Madeira wines have at least one or two bottles of this reference wine. The overall amount of bottles in existence is obviously shrinking (like all old Madeira wines), since it is one of the reference wines and is opened at tastings from time to time.

1795 Barbeito T Last bottling 3

1795 Terrantez by Barbeito

1795 Terrantez by Companhia Vinicola da Madeira
This wine seems to be much more rare then the 1795 Terrantez by Barbeito. In 2002/2003 I did some extensive research in the internet, auction catalogues and lists of retailers and I could only come up with 5 bottles in existence altogether, including the one I own. In the beginning of 2007 there was just one bottle left, being auctioned by Christie’s. I bought my bottle on an auction in May 2002. The original owner had bought a case of six bottles in Lissabon in the 1970ies and had auctioned off two bottles already years ago, drunken one, one was leaking, and another one was also auctioned in May 2002. The layout and design of the paper label suggests that the wine has been bottled in the 1960ies or 1970ies. Most of the producers also stopped using the straw caps on the bottles not later than in the 1970ies. The Companhia Vinicola da Madeira by then was an independent company that sold few vintage wines. The remaining stock of vintages of the Companhia was sold by Justino Henriques after Sigfredo da Costa Campos bought Justino in 1981. Before that, Justino had belonged to the previous owners of the Companhia. Anyway there seems to be no business connection to the Barbeito company that would suggest the same source for the two 1795 Terrantez wines. Thanks to the help of Reidar Andersen and the people at the Rare Wine Co. I could also find out, that the Barbeito family thinks, that the 1795 CVM wine comes from a different source than the Barbeito wine. I also asked Justino Henriques about this wine, but they have no records about a 1795 Terrantez by the CVM. A bottle of CVM Terrantez 1795 was auctioned by Christie’s in February 2003. It reached a price of 550 British pounds.

According to Patrick Grubb there are variations between the bottlings of the CVM wine, presumably because the bottlings were spaced out over some time and some wine had longer time in wood. There are versions with stencils and versions with labels, Patrick Grubb thinks the former wine superior.

When I wrote to Alex Liddell about the 1795 Terrantez vintages he was very helpful, replying “that the CVM 1795 Terrantez was at one time (the late 70s or early 80s) sold in England by Corney & Barrow, the reputable city wine merchants in London. I was told (verbally) by a member of the company that it was believed that the wine had been ordered by the Russian imperial family, but remained unshipped before the 1917 Revolution! (I take this conveniently romantic story with a pinch of salt, and know of no independent substantiation of it.) The bottles sold by Corney & Barrow had labels and foil capsules. The labelled bottles with wicker tops appear to be a much earlier bottling. The stencilled bottles were specially bottled by the firm (in the 70s, I think) for a Madeira enthusiast who asked for stencils rather than labels. As far as I know there were only ever 2 dozen of these. I have also encountered slightly differing versions of the label, suggesting bottlings at different times.” Carlos sent me a picture showing a CVM 1795 Terrantez bottle just like the one shown here, but the bottle bears the letters of company name as a relief, just above the label. This fact also supports the theory that this wine was bottled at different times.

1795 CVM Terrantez

1795 Terrantez by CVM

1795 Terrantez (=“Messias”) by F. F. Ferraz
It is only because of Alex Liddell’s bible on Madeira wine that we knew of a 1795 wine from F. F. Ferraz called “Messias”. I had spent lots of time to find another bottle of this wine, but without success. Liddell had purchased his wine in 1970 at Christie’s and tasted it in 1996/1997. The wine had been bottled before F. F. Ferraz joined the Madeira Wine Association in 1937. Liddell describes a “bone-dry entry, intensely flavoursome, with hints of prunes, concentrated vinosity; extremely dry, lingering, rather smoky finish.” He also adds, that one of the former clerks with the company recalled the wine to be “as dry as a Terrantez”. So, even if one can certainly not be sure about this, this wine could very well be a Terrantez. Tinta Negra Mole did play a significant role in 1795, and one has to admit, that the wines back then were often rather mixtures then 100 percent one grape variety. But when I asked Mr. Liddell about his opinion he answered:” From a tasting point of view the wine could well be Terrantez.” Another bottle of F. F. Ferraz 1795 Madeira wine was sold at Christie’s in 1979 for 175 pounds, this time described as Terrantez. According to Anders G. Åkesson, this wine was also bottled in a "Vinho Madeira Especial Terrantez 1795" version with a black label and a shape similar to the CVM 1795 Terrantez depictured above. In late 2008 20 bottles of F. F. Ferraz 1795 Terrantez were auctioned by Christies. The bottles came from the collection of William Leacock, the last family head of the Leacock company before it was amalgamated into the MWC in 1981.

1795 Terrantez by Abudarham/Blandy/Lomelino
You can find a picture of old vintages of the Madeira Wine Company in Noel Cossarts book “Madeira – the island vineyard”. There are clearly two bottles, probably four, maybe even more, stencilled Terrantez 1795. No initials give any clue to the shipper. As I explained above, the F. F. Ferraz wine had been bottled before the company joined the Madeira Wine Association in 1937. So there has to be another 1795 Terrantez wine owned by the Madeira Wine Company. In Michael Broadbents tasting notes you can find a Lomelino Terrantez 1795 that he tasted in 1993. Alex Liddell wrote to me: “A 1795 Terrantez was once produced by Blandy's. I have never seen or heard of a bottle, but I have seen specimens of the label. It is clear that members of the MWA (such as Blandy, and it would seem Lomelino) had this wine, because the photograph in Cossart's book that you refer to was taken in the part of the cellar where the private reserves of member firms were stored.” Reidar Andersen found out, that David V. Pamment, Director of the Madeira Wine Company held a Terrantez Madeira Tasting in 1987. The oldest wine opened at this tasting was, guess what, a 1795 Terrantez, island bottled. No shipper or producer is mentioned. Maybe this wine was just “common stock” of the amalgamated companies of the MWA/MWC and it might have been sold under the Blandy label and the Lomelino label as well.
To complicate things even more, in december 2007 bottles of a 1795 Abudarham Terrantez surfaced at a NYC auction. The wines had been decanted from demijohn to bottle in june 1942 and had been recorked in 1975. The bottles had two labels, one from 1942, one from 1975, stating the wine's name as "Frasqueira Soares Franco". Since the company of Abudarham, Vinhos Viúva & Filhos Lda. joined the MWA (later to become the MWC) in 1934 and the wine had been bottled in 1942, it can not be known wether this particular wine was original stock of Abudarham. Also the name Soares Franco remains a mystery to me. The only other Madeira wine with this name I ever heard of was a 1840 Bual from Fernando Porto Soares Franco in a hand blown 19th century bottle, recorked and relabeled in 1949 and recorked again in 1979. So it seems most likely that the common stock of the MWA/MWC included a 1795 Terrantez wine that has been bottled under a variety of names to suit different markets at different times.


1795 Terrantez by the SSMA

1795 Terrantez by Madeira South Side Association
Just like every other collector of Madeira wine I too have been watching the auction market over the last years. Besides the usual suspects sometimes you stumble across a unique bottle that provokes your attention. In 2005 a bottle of a 1795 Terrantez bottled by a South Side Madeira Association surfaced at auction in Germany. Another bottle of the same type was auctioned just a few months later in the beginning of 2006. Some other wines from the SSMA company selling at these auctions bore a JNV paper seal, however the two 1795 bottles did not. The two 1795 bottles looked authentic, the straw cover of the cork and the label suggesting a bottling before the end of the 1970ies. And suddenly in 2010 and 2011 there were about 12-15 bottles of this wine at various auctions in Germany. According to a wine retailer with a vast knowledge about Madeira wine the story behind these bottles was, that an old lady in northern Germany (probably the widow of one of the former importers of the SSMA) was left behind with about two cases of this wine. After her death the bottles fell to a local wine merchant in northern Germany who knew little about Madeira wine and he turned the wines into money by selling them off at various auction houses. Prices ranged between 750 and 1.560 Euros plus buyers premium and lot money.

Since I own three different old bottles from the SSMA I thought that maybe I could start from there. And indeed, one bottle showed a German importer on the label. After some research I was able to contact him and asked him about the SSMA wines in general and especially about the 1795 T. The former importer does not wish to be mentioned in the whole discussion about the 1795 SSMA T being genuine or not. But he was kind enough to tell me that the former exporter on Madeira Island claimed all the vintage Madeira wines from the SSMA to be labeled just with “commercial dates”. Whatever “commercial date” is supposed to mean exactly, the former importer had the impression that these wines were very old blends indeed, probably from well before 1900, or at least early 20th century, but no vintage single grape Madeira wines. Other wines that he mentioned from the SSMA were a 1935 Boal, 1935 Quinado, 1930 Sercial, 1860 Verdelho and 1890 Malmsey. After I wrote him a letter he even mailed back, confirming the story about the “commercial dates” in writing. He sounded somewhat disappointed with Madeira wines in general and since he seems to be in his mid-80ies now, I can understand why he wanted to be left out of this. By the way: He still owned some bottles of the various SSMA wines, the 1795 T among them. However he would not want to sell any of these, even when I made some very high offers.

In Mannie Berks’s revised second edition of Cossart’s “Madeira – the island vineyard” you can find two bottles of 1795 SSMA T being sold at auction in 1996 at Christie’s in London on page 222. The price range was 847-864, very roughly the same range like the other 1795 T wines being sold in that time period. So, if this wine is a fake, it sure has been around for some time and some buyers must have thought that it was genuine. On the other hand, we know that some people at auction just go for the date on the bottle, not for the wine that’s inside…

Even after two years of searching, there are still only two tasting notes about the 1795 T SSMA. The first tasting note I was able to find came after some zigzag research. A shop called Grashoff had sold some bottles of the 1795 T SSMA wine about 30 years ago. The owner recalled his “father going to Madeira island and buying wines from the Southside company, but the company soon went out of business, whether it just closed down or was bought up by some other company” he did not know. Some of the bottles later ended up at the MunichWineCompany, a Bavarian auction house and were auctioned off in 2010 and 2011. Much earlier, one of the Grashoff bottles had allready been tasted by Markus Del Monego in 1993. Mr. Del Monego is “Master of Wine” since 2003 and has been sommelier world champion in 1998, so I would very much think that he is a reliable source of information when it comes to wine. I contacted him and he wrote back: “I tasted the wine in 1993 at a dinner and it was perfect. The color was mahogany, the nose was dried fruits and chocolate, singed sugar and mild spices with some balsamic components. In the mouth this remarkable wine was very opulent, with fine sweetness, elegant acidity and a very good finale. The wine still showed surprisingly much potential for development. Next morning I tasted a little rest of 2 cl from the decanter and it was even better than last night, complex and with fine maturity.” The tasting note of Mr. Del Monego sure sounds like a high quality old Madeira wine. Also the development over night seems to be typical to me. Again, like mentioned above, the fact that the wine had been tasted in 1993 indicates that it has been around for some time.

The second tasting note comes from Michael Broadbent himself, “Master of Wine” and legendary wine auctioneer at Christie’s and fortunately Alan Gardner was able to find the TN - thanks Alan! Broadbent refers to this wine in his “New Great Vintage Wine Book” (1991 Christies; Knopf, New York) - although it is a summary entry: 1795 ****, generally very good. Several notes. One bottle, labelled "South Side Madeira Association Ltd Funchal", turned out to be rather a curiosity; a bit too deep in colour, a peculiar nose, a cross between lightly malted calf's-foot jelly and a rather drab raya sherry; fairly sweet, rich, quite a nice old drink. On six other occasions I have tasted...... (other different wines - not relevant). Again, the tasting note is rather old.

So I finally asked the IVM/IVBAM if there ever was a company or export brand called the SSMA. They wrote back, stating: “Regarding your request, our department responsible for the seals have been looking at our data and here is what we know: in what regards “SOUTH SIDE MADEIRA ASSOCIATION, LDA.”, the only documents we have are 2 letters, from 11th December 1985, informing the Institute that they were finishing their activity, as well as one from Companhia Vinícola da Madeira, Lda. stating that their associate “SOUTH SIDE MADEIRA ASSOCIATION, LDA.” had ceased its activity of exporter. Therefore, we believe, since we only found export data from Companhia Vinícola da Madeira, Lda., that this company owned the brand “SOUTH SIDE MADEIRA ASSOCIATION, LDA.” What we also know is that, in 1985, the wines from Companhia Vinícola da Madeira, Lda. were transferred to Vinhos Justino Henriques & Filhos, Lda., now known as Justino’s, Madeira Wines, S.A.”

So it seems that the SSMA was an exporting brand of the CVM. My theory is that it was an export brand for the German or European market, since this is where the majority of bottles have surfaced. As you can see from the pictures, the style of bottling sure is similar. Both bottlings have the same type of wicker tops. And if the SSMA T 1795 indeed comes from the CVM, it might very well be the same wine. Why should the CVM fake a special 1795 wine for one of its brands, when they already have one 1795 T in their portfolio? Of course there are other possibilities that I do not even want to think about. What, if the CVM and the SSMA 1795 T are the same wine and they are both fakes? However given the constant and numerous appearance of the CVM T at auction, one might think, that if it was an obvious fake, someone buying and tasting the wine would have rung a bell. Also when I tasted the CVM 1795 T at the NYC Transcendental Terrantez Tasting it sure tasted like a genuine old Terrantez wine, even when it was the stenciled version which is supposed to be superior to the wine from labeled bottles of the CVM 1795 T.

Bottom line: There is no way to proof whether the wine is genuine or not. I tried to find more information, but this is all I could come up with and the facts still remain somewhat inconclusive. However especially the last bit of information from the IVM/IVBAM makes a strong case for the SSMA 1795 Terrantez wine being genuine. And if it’s for real, then there is a high probability that the SSMA wine is the same as the 1795 T bottled under the CVM label. A big thank you goes to all the people who helped me, shining a little more light on this 1795 mystery (in no particular order): Roy Hersh, Alan Gardner, Markus Del Monego, Batholomew Broadbent, Barbara Sofia da Silva Spinola and the IVBAM staff, Theo Morgenschweis, Oliver Schmidt and everyone else that I forgot to mention.

1795 Terrantez by D’Oliveiras
One bottle of a 1795 Terrantez bearing a D’Oliveira tag surfaced at auction in late 2008 and was sold for 1005,- Euros. The stencils sure looked authentic to me, however the typical JPO seal on top of the wax cover was missing, as were the stencils “D’Oliveira”. The bottle had a JNV paper seal, indicating it had been bottled before 1980. Having found only one tasting note about a D’Oliveira 1795 Terrantez, I asked the company about this bottle. Luis D’Oliveira answered, stating that “We have no knowledge that our firm has the mentioned year of Madeira Wine.” So there remains a high possibility that this bottle had been a fake, may be a "1880 Terrantez" that had its stencils changed to "1795 Terrantez".

t1795 posting

Terrantez 1795 from unknown producer

1795 Terrantez by unknown producer
And there is still another 1795 Terrantez: In 2013 I bought a bottle from a private source in Portugal, that the seller claimed had been bought by his uncle decades ago on Madeira island. The cork had no branding but was certainly original, the tasting also was consistent with an old Terrantez vintage Madeira. Since the bottle only shows the stencils "Terrantez 1795" there is no telling, who was the producer of this wonderful wine.

In the beginning I believed that the above mentioned wines could have a connection. Alex Liddell though strongly opposed this theory. Given this and given my growing experience with more wines from different producers but same years and grape variety I have changed my mind. Just think of the at least four different 1827 Boals or the four different 1830 Malmseys. Or what about the seven different 1863 Boals? Nevertheless I am still puzzled that so many wines from the same distant year and from the same grape variety have survived more than 200 years. It is one of the fascinating details that make Madeira wine so interesting.

PS: Any reader who might be able to supply additional information or a picture of a bottle to add to the knowledge of the 1795 vintages is very welcome. Also any offers of 1795 bottles, be it Terrantez or not, are of course highly appreciated…