The detective awakens in me. Time to solve a mystery. An unknown bottle of Madeira wine just craving to be identified. Or is it? Madeira that is….
Unknown bottles are a gambling game. They can either be pure crap that necessarily isn’t old – someone’s just adapted to an old looking appearance.´Then there are those who really are old but was undrinkable already when bottled. Counterfeits come in many forms. It is not just the great names that are plagiarized. These bottles need to be extraordinary to trick the experts. But what about a worthless bottle you just write Vinho Velho 1920 on? And sell at a price most can afford? Isn’t this an even more lucrative business?
I’m prepared to take that risk. Sometimes you loose, sometimes you hit the jackpot. A few years ago I was offered a case from Jaimie Vaz, the owner of Garrafeira Nacional. A most reputed winestore. When you have a reputation to protect you got to think twice before selling. Hence the purchase was hard to turn down. Half of it were great names; the other half – unknown bottles with very little information. Considering the fact that one of the semi-unidentified bottles, the label said Terrantez and Adega de Torreao 190X, was divine and almost made me cry of joy, I considered the rest of the unknowns as a treat.
The one bottle saying Vinho Velho 1920 P.e Vale, I had my doubts about. However, from the same source I also had a 1898 P.e Vale Verdelho which I had tasted with good result. Still, I’m skeptical. No information is to be found in any literature and I have also been asking around a bit. This one simply remains unknown.
Only one thing to do; pop! The seal looks old and the cork definitely is. A miniscule piece of bark, totally soaked up. I’m decanting the bottle. Sediment and the appearance of the wine is cloudy. Lots of antocyans stuck on the inside of the bottle. Some good signs it, at least, is old. First sniff. No doubt, this is Madeira. A mature nose filled with old wood, spices, nutmeg, paint, vanilla and burnt sugar and some VA is detected. Quick taste. Not as sweet as I had expected, more Verdelho style. High acidity. After decanting the wine is allowed to breathe and find itself for 24 hours.
Day two. Harmony when sniffing. It needed the aeration obviously. Also the taste is more put together and not stubborn anymore. More green walnuts now, tobacco and oriental spices. No heavy-weight and I would be surprised if this was anything else but the likes of Tinta Negra, Complexa and Triunfo. How many percentages that are from 1920 I will most likely never find out and that annoys the detective in me. I want information. I want to know. But in the end, it doesn’t hurt to drink, not at all, and that’s what counts. Isn’t it?
PS. If you happen to know anything about it, you know where to find me!
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What’s hot, what’s not5 quick ones 10 Years Old 15 Years Old 20 Years Old 1940 1954 2011 2012 ABSL Adega do Torreão Artur Barros Sousa Barbeito Bastardo Blandy's Blends Boal Bual Camara de Lobos Canteiro Colheita Cossart Gordon Francisco Albuquerque Funchal H.M. Borges Henriques and Henriques Ivo Couto Justino's Luís d'Oliveira Madeira Malmsey Malvasia Mannie Berk MWC Pereira d'Oliveira Retailers Ricardo Diogo Freitas Sercial Single Cask Solera Terrantez The Rare Wine Co. Tinta Negra Uncategorized Verdelho Vintage
My Madeira photos on Flickr