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April 23, 2007

Camara de Lobos Tour

This chapter will feature a self-guided tour in Camara de Lobos, inkluding Henriques&Henriques, the harbour of Camara de Lobos, Estreito de Camara de Lobos with the former company of Silva Vinhos and Cabo Girao in the west.

Vineyard Tours

Tour to the Faja dos Padres.

The Fajã dos Padres is/was certainly the most famous vineyard of Madeira island and is mentioned as far back as the 15th century. For 150 years the Jesuits had posession of it and the malvasia wine produced here was said to be the finest of all Madeira wines. The Fajã is a small stripe of land, at the bottom of a cliff, a little west to the Cabo Girão and approximately 300 meters/900 feet high. It is located at the southern coast of Madeira and faces directly to the south. The cliff represents a giant barrier to the north and also reflects the sun down to the Faja. So the micoclimate of the Fajã is unique.

Until 1998 you could only reach the Fajã by boat, landing at the rocky beach. There have always been some steep and narrow paths down the cliff, but these were dangerous and not suited for tourists. But then a panoramic lift has been installed, crossing the distance of 250 meters/800 feet, so today the access is easy and quite spectacular. Also a site for helicopters has been installed and of course the maritime access is still available. In fact many travel agencies offer boat trips to the Fajã.

For many years only bananas had been grown at the Fajã, but vines of the malvasia candida variety have been replanted in the beginning of the 1980ies. Now some wines are already maturing in cask, among them a malvasia candida from 1998/1999. Those Madeira wine afficionados who ever had the chance of tasting an old wine from the Fajã know how deserved the reputation of the Fajã was. It can only be hoped, that the wines from the Fajã one fine day will reach that glorious quality again, even though I'm afraid I will not live long enough for that. Mangoes, avocado, banana, grapes and passion fruit are grown here as well, taking advantage of the perfect agricultural conditions.

The Fajã dos Padres is about 10km west from Funchal, and less than 6 km from Ribeira Brava. The access to the Fajã is done via road Padre António Dinis Henriques. Follow VR1 and exit at Km 6, on exit number 3 indicating Cabo Girão/Quinta Grande. Then turn left, keep heading south and go straight ahead until the end of road Padre António Dinis Henriques. The operating time of the lift is every day in summer, except tuesday, from 11:00 to 19:00. The lift is closed from January 10th to March 1st. In the remaining time of the year the lift is operated every day except tuesday, from 11:00 to 18:00. The cost for a round trip was 8,- Euros in 2006, children under the age of 11 years have free access, as well as guests staying at the Fajã dos Padres. The access to the lift is done through stairs and there are no other ways of getting there for physically disabled people. Only hand luggage is allowed and pets are forbidden at the Fajã.

The Fajã dos Padres hosts a restaurant and four guest houses: the Sailor House or Casa do Marinheiro, the Boat House or Casa do Barco and the houses of José Soldado or Casas do José Soldado. Each house is designed to host a maximum of 4 people. Breakfast is optional and a barbecue facility is available for guests in the Boat House and in the Sailor House

Even if you only visit the Fajã for a day trip, you should take a walk in the orchards and vineyards and later stop at the restaurant for a glass of the local Malmsey wine. They also offer some table wine and to taste this “jaqué” wine (from the Jacquez grape) is interesting too. The Jacquez is a red grape, an interspecies hybrid of an American Vitis aestivalis and an unknown European Vitis vinifera, most probably developed by natural selction in the Texas area in the early 19th century, exported to and cultivated in Europe after phylloxera, most widely cultivated in Portugal and Madeira island, and finally banned since the 1980ies. Synonyms are countless, amongst others these are Lenoir (esp. in Texas), Alabama, Black El Paso, Black Spanish (not to be confused with Long Black Spanish) and Sherry of the south (I love that one).

Visits to the wine cellar of the Fajã should be reserved in advance, for a minimum number of 5 participants. Some Madeira wines of local origin are matured in casks here in a small canteiro room. Tasting of the wines is possible but unfortunately they will take some more decades to reach their full potential.

The Faja has its own website at http://www.fajadospadres.com and reservations can be made through this website.

Tour to the St. John vineyard (extinct today).

Levada Walks

Several levada walks and other tours will be featured in this chapter:

Scenic tour from Ribeiro frio to the balcoes.

Walk along the Levada do Furado from Ribeiro frio to Portela

Levada walk at Ribeira grande

Tour to the east end of Madeira island at Ponta de Sao Lorenco

April 21, 2007

New Organization of this Website

Due to the growing number of entries, I decided to split them into the Madeira Wine Guide and a Guide to Madeira Island.
The former will be dedicated solely to Madeira wine, the latter will feature entries of general interest with a focus on information for visitors to the island of Madeira.
Over the next months many of the now empty entries in this Guide to Madeira Island will come to life, please have patience!
As always, any hints, suggestions, corrections, typos, etc. are highly appreciated!

Drinks and Food

Sopa de Tomate e Cebola
If its really authentic, you will get an empty plate of soup. Then the waiter comes with an old steaming cooking pot and gives you a huge amount of a very tasty tomato soup with lots of onions and a poached egg in it.

This is a bread-soup, made of medium-sized pieces of bread, poached egg, savory and garlic. Then hot water is poured over it - simple, quick and delicious!

The espada fish comes in many different preparations, but the classic is espada with banana. The flesh of the fish is soft, white and very little "fishy", so even people who do not like fish can eat this one quite well. Espadas are cought around Madeira island with long fishing rods, going as deep as 800 meters/3000feet. In its deep sea environment this fish is very colourful, but due to the decompression when brought to the surface the fish turns all black. For an impressive sight of this and other fishes visit the fishmarket in the back part of the market hall. Go there early and see gigantic tunas carried by two men, espadas (black scabbard) with razor sharp needle-teeth, potas (squid), bacalhau (codfish) and others.

Espadas seen at the fish market.

Espadas seen at the fish market.

Chunks of beef, rubbed with salt and garlic, traditionally put on a laurel stick, but today skewered onto a long metal stick are grilled over an open fire. Then the stick is hung above your plate and you eat the chunks of beef one by one, after working them down onto your plate.

Small pieces of beef are fried in a large pan, together with garlic and red peppers. The beef is put on a big plate and french fries are added around the beef. Sometimes the beef stays in the pan and the french fries are put into the pan. Anyway, the plate or the pan is served to the middle of the table and everybody around the table eats from the same big plate or pan, picking (=picar > picado) the food with a small wooden stick.

Bolo de Mel
This sweet honey and spice cake is traditionally made at the 8th of december, the day of Mary's immaculate conception. It is said that only when you bake it exactly at this day, the cake will be good for christmas. The baking is a family event, usually a larger number of cakes are made, in order to have some more throughout the year. The cake is tightly wrapped in cellophane and put in boxes or cans. If you do this right, the cake will remain in good condition just until christmas next year. The eating of this cake is also a family event and the cake is not cut with a knive but broken into pieces and eaten by hand.

Bolo de Caco
This is a small warm bread with lots of garlic butter on it. During the hot months you will often see people making these at points of tourist interest, like at the Funchal harbour. I remember watching a family selling freshly baked Bolo de Caco at this place. First they made lots of dough in a baby bathing tub. Then the two kids started forming dough balls the size of their fists while the granny started the fire. In the end the whole family was baking, cutting, spreading the home made garlic butter and selling about 400 Bolos in about two hours. The smell of the freshly baked Caco and the melting garlic butter was overwhelming…

Qeuijadas are small sweet cakes made with cottage cheese, very tasty and quite satisfying too.

Coral Beer
I find this a good Pilsen-type beer which goes very well with one or two Cacos and a Sopa de Tomate e Cebola. Sipping from your cold Coral watching the ships in the Funchal harbor is very relaxing.

Sunset at Funchal harbor

Sunset at Funchal harbor

Madeira Table Wine
Since there were no real table wines besides the Atlantis wines of the MWC, tourists often drank wines from the portuguese mainland instead. This resulted in the anual import of 6.000.000 litres of table wine. So a new regulation was passed in 1999 and 2002 creating a Madeira VQPRD region. Since then a number of companies have started with the production of table wine. The following list is from the official IVM website at http://www.sra.pt/ivm/default.asp

Florinda Gomes Araújo
The commercial brand of this producer is known as “Casa da Vinha”, being a VQPRD white Madeira Wine. The grapes produced are mainly Verdelho, from the area of Estreito de Câmara de Lobos, and produced in the wine cellar at Sao Vicente.

João Mendes Sociedade Unipessoal, Lda.
This vine grower has farms in Arco de S. Jorge and Ribeira de S. Jorge, growing the white vine varieties of Verdelho and Arnsburger and the red varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The wines of this Madeira VQPRD are called “Quinta do Moledo” and “Rocha Branca”.

The Madeira Wine Company S.A.
For some years this company has commercialized a white wine of the Verdelho variety originally from the north coast, and a rosé wine from the Tinta Negra Mole vine variety produced in Câmara de Lobos and Campanário.

Torcaz – Produção e Comercialização de Vinhos, Lda.
The producer of this Madeira V.Q.P.R.D., chose to produce only red wine, from the Tinta Negra Mole grape and labelled by the name "Torcaz".

Seiçal – Sociedade de Produtores de Wine do Seixal, Lda.
This wine is produced by a group of producers in the area of Seixal who created an association for this purpose.
The white “Seiçal 2003” wine won first prize in the 1st edition of the Madeira Wine Show .

Ricardo França – Sociedade Unipessoal, Lda.
This producer has vine growing areas in Ponta Delgada and Boaventura. He produces a white wine mainly from the Verdelho and Arnsburger varieties and a red from the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varieties. Ricardo França is the producer of “Enxurros” Wine, VQPRD “Madeirense” and “Terras Madeirenses” Regional Wine.

Vinhos Justino Henriques & Filhos, Lda.
Cancelas Tinto (red) was the name of the “Terras Madeirenses” Madeira regional wine produced by this company. It was first commercialized in the year of 2004 and in 2005 the company’s wines, both red and white, started to be sold under the name "Colombo".

Reis da Cunha – Vinhos Madeira Soc. Unip., Lda.
This company started to produce wine in 2005, from the Arnsburger and Malvasia vine varieties. The grapes of this Madeira VQPRD are produced in the area of São Jorge.

Wine from direct producers
Especially outside Funchal and in smaller restaurants you are often offered wine from so-called direct producers. This means that the wine is made from grapes of the Vitis labrusca or Vitis aestivaldis variety and not from grafted european vines. The wine is easy to recognize from a strawberry-like "fox-taste", but I find it quite interesting together with spicy food.

This often rather rough and spirity brandy is made from Cana de Azucar = sugar cane. With the closing of the Hinton distillery in Funchal in 1985 there are only 3 distilleries remaining, according to the CEHA. The distilleries are located in Ribeiro Seco, Porto de a Cruz (Companhia dos Engenhos do Norte Ltda) and Calheta (Lopes & Duarte). The old distillery of Peter Pires, founded in 1867 is now used for Vinhos Barbeitos. Standing in front of the building you can still see the long chimney. One ton of sugar cane produced 70-80 liters/20 gallons of aguardente. The only aguardente I could find in the shops was marketed by J. Faria & Filhos Lda.

This drink is said to help against a cold, but even if you are in perfect health you should give it a try anyway. Poncha is made from Aguardente, honey and lemon juice. It tastes quite refreshing and can therefor be somewhat tricky on a hot day after you had one or two Poncha to many...