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Wiehl Madeira Tasting 2008

Ever since the Great Seattle Madeira Tasting with Roy in January 2007 I had dreamed about a Madeira tasting in Central Europe. So a couple of months ago I set out to organize a tasting of about 15 old Madeira wines. But how soon was I to realize that Central Europe is not really the heart of Madeira wine lover country. Response was minimal and so the planned tasting did not come to life. But the idea still lingered in my mind and when I met three other Madeira aficionados a couple of months ago at the German Prowein 2008 wine fair in Duesseldorf, we decided for a small scale tasting as a start. So Sunday the 8th of June we met in Wiehl for a tasting of 8 old Madeira wines. Our hosts Maik and Claudia had prepared a delicious menu as a solid foundation. They are serious Madeira wine fanatics, in fact their home is the only place known to me that features a painting of -guess what- a Madeira wine bottle as decoration, it's a Blandy 1971 Boal to be exact. After a wonderful meal we went right to work with 8 old wines with a medium age of 103 years and a total of 821 years of Madeira wine history, the youngest wine being 52 years of age, the oldest being 173 years old.

Wonderful decoration for the Madeira tasting.

Wonderful decoration for the Madeira tasting.

The lineup was:
More than 40 years, Verdelho-Blend, Manuel Eugenio Fernandes Lda.
1955 Verdelho, Manuel Eugenio Fernandes Lda.
1882 Verdelho, AO-SM/Miles
1835 Brown Madere Imperial, Nicolas-Charenton-Seine
1925 Boal, H. M. Borges Lda.
1900 Boal, Adegas de Torreao Vinhos Lda.
1890 Malmsey, Cossart Gordon
1900 Moscatel, D'Oliveira

And as a special treat we had a port at the end of the tasting:
Porto Dom Rozès, more than 40 years, Tawny

The line-up of the Madeira wines.

The line-up of the Madeira wines.

More than 40 years, Verdelho-Blend, Manuel Eugenio Fernandes Lda.
This wine had been started by Manuel Eugenio Fernandes as a private reserve in his house in Seixal. For his 96th birthday the wine had been bottled by the Madeira Wine Company in 2002. Since the regulations of the IVBAM only allow a blend with a maximum age of 40 years, this wine had to be labelled as a 40YO, even though the age of the blend was 52 years. The wine had a bright iodine color and was quite turbid, with long legs in the glass. The nose was very subdued at first, lots of volatile acidity and only little fruit. But the bottle had just been opened the night before, so there was good hope for a positive development as the tasting went on. And indeed, after three hours the wine had opened up perfectly, with a wonderful fruity nose, vanilla as well. The palate had been rather spirity at first but now showed good fruit, perfectly balanced acidity with just the right amount of sweetness, then a creamy toffee aroma, impressions of an old cognac and a long fruity finish. A good wine that demonstrated perfectly how important a long decanting time is for Madeira wines.

1955 Verdelho, Manuel Eugenio Fernandes Lda.
This was a bottle without any IVM or IVBAM seal, the bottling company was not mentioned. The color was brilliant iodine with tawny rim. The bottle had also been opened just the night before, so the nose was again very subdued, with little toffee and small amounts of VA. After three hours the wine had also opened up, but not as much as the first wine. So a fair judgement of this wine was not really possible, since I am sure that the wine needed more breathing time. The palate was spirity with only little fruit and a bitter finish, in general very much alike the first wine, but lighter in style. I will have to come back to this wine at a later time.

1882 Verdelho, AO-SM/Miles
This Verdelho had been bought by the MWC from D'Oliveiras in the 1970ies or 1980ies, shown by the letters AO-SM (Anibal D'Oliveira, Sao Martinho) on the bottle. A lot of the bottled wines had these letters removed later since the mid 1990ies but this bottle had been older, so the letters were intact. The wine showed a warm and dark iodine color with long legs in the glass. The nose was wonderfully harmonious with just the right amount of VA to add complexity, toffee and dates as well. The palate showed a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, in fact the wine was quite sweet for a Verdelho, lots of fruit and raisins, toffee and creme brulée, also a background of roasted aromas that were also dominant in the long fruity finish. A wonderful wine and the first highlight of the tasting!

Three Madeira wine beauties.

Three Madeira wine beauties.

1835 Brown Madere Imperial, Nicolas-Charenton-Seine
After I had been able to taste this wine twice, now had been the third time. The bottle had been bought at auction and since it was leaking from the transport I had overwaxed the cork. Until the 1970ies, the Nicolas Company, wine merchants in Paris had a couple of small casks filled with old Madeira, and the bottle had been from one of these casks. I had decanted the wine 8 days before the tasting, knowing that it was a very concentrated wine. Initially the wine had displayed a disgusting nose of sweating horse and insane amounts of VA. Now the color was medium bright ebony and the nose still had some VA, but also fruit, toffee and violets, two days later I also noticed pipe tobacco and bees wax. The palate showed lots of acidity, but well balanced with medium sweetness, fruit and violets again, also some roasted aromas in the background that led to long and bitter finish. A concentrated wine and quite complex.

1925 Boal, H. M. Borges Lda.
This bottle had the typical wicker cover of the cheap three year old blends that are commonly used to scare tourists away from becoming Madeira wine lovers. It featured a small and round JNV seal of authenticity on the neck that insisted on sticking to the wicker. The color was medium iodine brown and the nose was perfectly mellow and harmonious, lots of toffee, fruity, violets and roasted aromas as well, after a while also a pleasant honey aroma. On the palate the wine even shifted to a higher gear, showing lots of fruit and even more caramel, lots of toffee as well, mellow and complex, a glimpse of violets and then a long toffee finish with a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. The wine had been opened a couple of months ago and now showed the full glory of a perfect and classic Boal, another highlight of the tasting.

1900 Boal, Adegas de Torreao Vinhos Lda.
This bottle with an IVM paper seal had been bought in Portugal. The stencils had been damaged by leaking bottle in the package, but they were still clearly legible and the cork was printed with "Adegas de Torreao, Vinhos, Lda, Madeira". The wine showed medium bright iodine and featured a mellow and harmonious nose of toffee and ginger cake. At the first sip the wine really jumped at you, with lots of acidity, just a little spirity at first, caramel, toffee and fruit and then... a short and bitter finish, leaving the mouth yearning for more. From the nose and the first attack I had expected a bit more length and body, but the wine was nevertheless interesting. After three hours in the glass it developed more length, even though the wine had been decanted 8 days before.

Shades of pleasure.

Shades of pleasure.

1890 Malmsey, Cossart Gordon
This wine was another highlight of the tasting. With dark iodine color and a very harmonious caramel nose it showed its full power in the mouth. The wine was very impressive with lots of sweetness but well balanced, raisins were dominant at first, but also bread, huge amounts of caramel and a creamy toffee taste as well, mellow and mouth watering, then a shift towards more darker and roasted aromas with coffee and molasses and finally a long toffee finish. The roasted aromas kept the wine from being cloying and so this malmsey was very pleasant. A perfect wine, a classic malmsey, complex and impressive.

1900 Moscatel, D'Oliveira
Even though I have known this wine a long time, liking it for a long time I am always happy to taste this Moscatel Madeira. These Moscatels are rare today, the only other two wines that are still available are the 1875 Moscatel from D'Oliveira and the Moscatel Reserva Velha from Artur de Barros a Sousa, two wonderful wines as well. This Moscatel showed a warm and dark chestnut brown with orange rim. The nose was all sweet figs with a little bread as well. On the palate the wine was very sweet, showing just enough acidity to balance the sweetness, and then there were lots of raisins, caramel and a little molasses. Also in the finish the wine showed a slightly roasted impression keeping it from being cloying despite the dominant sweetness. A wonderful wine that wins me over every time and a perfect wine for the end of the tasting.

Porto Dom Rozès, more than 40 years, Tawny
This interesting tawny in an old-style port bottle was our dessert. With a brilliant brick color and a fruity and grapy nose the wine reminded me almost of a Moscatel de Setubal. Also on the palate this tawny was very fruity and grapy, sweet and mellow, again with hints of Moscatel. What an impressive wine, especially for me as a port-only-twice-a-year drinker.

Three satisfied Madeira tasters.

Three satisfied Madeira tasters.

Five hours went in a hurry and even though the discussion still went on, especially about the Fernandez wines, we had to part. Also the European soccer championship was about to continue with the evening match up of Germany vs. Poland, even though I admit my sympathies are with the NFL. As a bottom line, we had tasted 8 wonderful and fascinating old Madeiras and the motivation was (and is) strong in all of us to work out another Madeira tasting on a larger scale of 12 to 15 wines. Anybody interested in a tasting in Central Europe/Germany is welcome to email me and as the planning moves ahead you will be notified.
A big thank you goes to the hosts Maik and Claudia for the perfect preparation and the delicious menu and to Gerd for three outstanding rarities. I will taste with you guys anytime!

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