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December 22, 2012

The Munich Madeira Tasting 2012

The Münchener Weinkreis (Munich Wine Circle) is a group of wine aficionados who meet regularly for tastings of a certain wine region or a certain producer. Over the last two years Viola von Ciriacy, one of the members, had collected precious old Madeira wines for a special Madeira wine tasting. The other participants bought their way into the tasting, so all costs were split even. Christopher Pfaff, who also hosts the well made Port blog Passion Port had offered me a seat at the tasting. Figuring this would make an excellent early Christmas gift I gladly accepted, making use of a direct ICE connection from my place to Munich. Hosted by Stefan Sedlmeyr and Hans Friedrich from the Munich Wine Company, the tasting took place on December 15th in Deisenhofen near Munich. Stefan and Hans had prepared a wonderful dinner (roasted cote de boeuf) for us that provided a more than solid foundation for the wines to come.

We tasted twelve Madeira wines and two pirates, covering a broad range of grape varieties and producers. Two facts are worth mentioning: First, the wines had only been opened a couple of hours before the event and that made tasting of the wines somewhat difficult in the beginning, since the wines never stopped changing and evolving once they were in the glass. However each of us got a generous 4cl of each bottle and that was plenty of wine to come back again and again and pick up additional impressions as the evening went on. This experience simply demonstrates (again) how crucial it is to open and decant old Madeira wines well before drinking and I am speaking of days here, not hours. Second, this tasting included four wines from the South Side Madeira Association. This producer, or better this export brand, is still shrouded in mystery. Only over the last few years a number of different bottles have surface at auctions, mainly in Germany. The most interesting of these SSMA wines certainly is the 1795 SSMA Terrantez and this wine had been included in the line-up of the Munich Madeira tasting. For more info about the SSMA please read the chapter about the 1795 Terrantez Madeiras here in the MWG. As time permits, I will take on a chapter solely about the South Side Madeira Association and its wines in 2013, covering the five vintage (?) wines that I know of.

The wines were tasted blindly in five flights. After the second and the fourth flight, the identity of each wine was revealed. After the tasting we had a great course of very old cheese, with a fantastic rancio-like goat cheese that went extremely well with the sweeter Madeira wines. The tasting notes of all twelve Madeiras follow below, not in the order of the tasting but in order of vintage year. I did not award points to two of the wines, since these very obviously faulty bottles. There were also two “pirates” in the line-up, both easily detected by the experienced group of wine veterans. One was an old dry Malaga, the other one an old Oloroso Sherry.

After the tasting Christopher Pfaff edited a video about the tasting well worth watching. It can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1WgJ0NoLuQ

A big thank you goes to Viola von Ciriacy for her great and rewarding effort in collecting these old beauties and bringing the amazing old cheese, to Stefan Sedlmeyr and Hans Friedrich for hosting and organizing this outstanding event as well as the perfect dinner, to Christopher Pfaff for inviting me to this fantastic tasting and to all the other participants. What a great way to start the Christmas season. Happy holidays to all of you, a merry Christmas and a happy new year!


1969 Miles Sercial

This wine shows sparkling bright iodine with straw-colored rim. The nose is vibrant with lots of citrus fruit, orange peel and just a hint of caramel. The first sip is all acid, the wine is certainly dry, but there is such an abundant and powerful base layer of fruit that you get an almost sweet impression of the wine. Orange peel, a little ginger and just a hint of tamarind tea hover above the acidic fruit, leading to a long and highly acidic finish with a slight bitterness in the end. Wow, what a wine to start the tasting! This is a wonderful example of a powerful young Sercial, reminding me of the Leacock 1963 Sercial and just as vibrant and lively. 94 points in 12-2012

1926 Cossart Cordon Solar do val Formosa Boal

The orange-straw colored wine shows a greenish rim, but this very promising color is immediately ruined by a very funky sulfur smell that absolutely destroys the wine. The palate too is completely overshadowed by sulfur. Some typical Madeira aromas shine through, but nevertheless this is certainly a faulty bottle. Even over the next two hours the sulfur did not blow off. No points awarded.

1900 D’Oliveiras Moscatel

This is a long time favourite of mine and 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 - wonderful wines as well. This Moscatel shows warm and dark chestnut brown with orange rim. The nose is all sweet figs, toffee and dates with a hint of yeasty bread. On the palate the wine is very sweet, showing just enough acidity to balance the sweetness, and then there are lots of raisins, caramel and a little molasses. Also in the long caramel finish the wine shows a slightly roasted impression keeping it from being cloying despite the dominant sweetness. There are none of the typical Moscatel aromas that you are used to in other Moscatel wines like Moscatel de Setubal, but it is still a wonderful wine that wins me over every time. 92 points in 12-2012.

1898 Henriques and Henriques Sercial Solera

The wine is somewhat cloudy, with a warm chestnut brown with greenish highlights. The initial nose displays a strong blast of volatile acidity, but it quickly softens to warm and spicy gingerbread with cloves and aniseed. The palate is very dry, highly acidic, with a basic bitterness that reminds of Terrantez (and with an old Solera wine you never know what different grapes went into the mother cask…). Hazelnut and nougat mingle with coffee and roasted malt. The wine has a general roughness that seems to be a little out of place with a Solera, but it features a wonderful oily texture and a bitter, almost smoky finish. I really wonder if they added a little Terrantez to this one. 91 points in 12-2012.

1895 H M Borges Malmsey

Another cloudy wine, but the brilliant reddish iodine brown sure makes up for it. The nose is rather one-dimensional with lots of caramel and just a hint of figs and dates in the background. Taking the first sip the wine is all toffee sweetness, almost too sweet, but the acid fights its way through and then the sweetness shifts to a grapey impression with a spicy background. The long finish is very sweet again, with grapes and raisins. 93 points in 12-2012

1880 South Side Madeira Association Malmsey

A little cloudy at first this wine shows a reddish iodine color with orange rim. It has a warm caramel nose, all sweetness and harmony, with hints of cinnamon and mashed bananas – very pleasant. On the tongue this Malmsey is very sweet but by no means cloying with a good amount of acidity. Lots of malt and toffee are kept interesting by a touch of bitterness in the background; the long sweet finish is all toffee. Very pleasant and easy to drink, a fun wine, and again this could be a very well made blend, lacking in individual character. Nevertheless a beauty! 95 points in 12-2012.

1880 Funchal Wine Company Maciera Verdelho Solera

The color of this wine is a very impressive dark cola brown. A sweet and oily nose shows vanilla and cinnamon, lots of caramel, but also a strange cucumber vegetable smell. The palate is soft and rather sweet with only little acidity, some chocolate is there as well, but the fun is absolutely ruined by that same vegetable taste that the nose already showed. What a pity after the impressive color had promised so much. I kept revisiting this wine again and again, but the disgusting vegetable note was still well detectable. It would be unfair to award any points, since it was definitely a faulty bottle.

1860 South Side Madeira Association Verdelho

Another SSMA Verdelho, this time showing brilliant iodine brown with orange rim. Contrary to its SSMA 1850 V counterpart, the nose of this wine is rather subdued, displaying just a little caramel and a hint of honey. On the palate the wine is definitely sweeter than the 1850; in fact the sweetness seems to be at the upper end of the typical Verdelho range. Soft caramel is dominating, but there are also lovage and toffee, all very mellow and rounded, with a warm and sweet caramel finish. Again this might well be a blend, but again a very good one. 92 points in 12-2012.

1850 South Side Madeira Association Verdelho

The color of this wine is absolutely gorgeous iodine with a brilliant orange core – amazing! The nose is also quite impressive with just a little VA, candied orange peel, honey and an overall impression of warmth. On the tongue this Verdelho shifts to a higher gear, with powerful acidity, a hint of sweetness and a slightly bitter background. There is caramelized sugar, hazelnut, a little coffee, but it is all rather soft and mellow and the overall impression of warmth stays with you till the sweetish end. This might well be a blended wine, but if so, it is well done! 93 points in 12-2012.

1845 Cossart Gordon Centenary Boal Solera

This Solera wine features a dark cola brown with cold, almost purple rim. The nose is rather one-dimensional with toffee and caramel, not very complex. The palate is quite sweet, with enough acidity as a counterweight, lots of caramel and toffee again and that is it. The wine ends rather short, but with a soft and pleasant caramel finish. It is a very mainstream, caramel-type Solera wine. 91 points in 12-2012.

1795 South Side Madeira Association Terrantez

The slightly cloudy appearance is offset by a wonderful chestnut brown with reddish core. In the nose there is a little VA to start, then caramel, cacao and honey, all wrapped in an overall impression of spicy warmth, very pleasant and very promising. The palate too starts with a sweet and spicy base layer, but the sweetness is well balanced with powerful acidity. Caramel shows in abundance, together with notes of coffee and cloves, molasses and just a hint of nutmeg, leading to a long spicy finish. So is this really a Terrantez and if so, is it the same wine like the CVM 1795 Terrantez? Very probably not! Like the other SSMA wines, this one seems to be a little too soft, too easy to drink to be genuine old and concentrated vintage Madeira. You could argue that this softness might be the general style of the SSMA, and I would have to admit that I really don’t know. If it is a blend, then it is certainly a very, very good one. If it is vintage Madeira then it is still very good, but not in the same league as the other 1795 Terrantez wines from Barbeito, Ferraz and the CVM that we had in NYC. This 1795 Terrantez (?) wine still is remarkable though and I would like to taste it side by side with the CVM wine one day. 94 points in 12-2012.

1794 (?) Adegas de Torreao Real Madeira Verdelho

The wine is rather cloudy with medium dark iodine color. The subdued nose shows sweet caramel and a little gingerbread. In the mouth this Verdelho has a smooth silky texture, it is astonishingly soft and light, on the sweet side, rounded and mellow, very mainstream with sweet toffee and Demerara sugar and a short sweet finish. I am pretty sure that this is not a vintage wine from 1794! Much more likely this is a blend and not even a very good one. When you take a close look at the label, it reads “Reserves from 1794” so this might rather attribute to the general portfolio of the Adegas de Torreao. The bottle neck carries the remains of an alternative JNV seal of authenticity. The grape variety is not mentioned on the main label, but on a small neck label. 91 points in 12-2012.