3, 5, 10, 15 and 20 years old. Occasionally you will also bump into the 30 and 40 years old blends – the latter being the oldest stated blend allowed in the Madeira wine regulation. But are they all needed; is there a demand for the different ages or are the Madeira producers just making the choices too overpowering for the consumer?
I admit it; I rarely buy a 3 years old Madeira. Crassly speaking, they don’t excite me and I have only one liver. The quality of the these young wines has never been higher but it is still a simple wine without any complexity or depth. However, this is by far the most purchased wine. At the age of 5, things starts to happen. If only consumers who focuses too much on the price would start buying these, they would think of Madeira in a new way. Which leads us to the 10 years old versions. It’s here the real action starts; you get a lot of Madeira at a decade of age. There’s intensity, some complexity and grape style typicity if such a wine.
15 years old Madeira. Why should I buy that? A further five years added to the excellent ten years old blends but is the difference in quality or style noteworthy higher and hence justifying a higher price? Or is it just a ”nerd wine?”
At 20 years of age we’re actually at Vintage Madeira level but of course a blend’s purpose isn’t the same. Two decades old and at a fraction of the price compared to Vintage, it can be one of the island’s most exciting buys if you’re looking for bargains. For me, the 20 years old Madeiras, which is a relatively new trend, is a most welcome one. 30 and 40 years old blends are such rarities and few consumers are aware of their existance. But when you have Vinhos Barbeito’s Special Lot of 30 years old Malvasia in the glass I’m pretty sure you will be amazed by the extremely high quality, surpassing several vintage wines. That goes for Blandy’s selection of 40 years old wines also; the Bual is for example nothing but magical!
Besides the blends Madeira offer the Colheita wines, a kind of interrupted or stopped Vintage wine one could define it as. At least 5 years it has to be aged but generally it is kept for a longer time. A bold comparison could be a bit like the Douro Valley’s Late Bottled Vintage Port. A miniature version of a Vintage wine. Add Single Harvest wines and Single Cask wines to this section. And finally, the Crème de la Crème, the Vintage wines. At least 20 years old, most of the time much older, these beauties demand a high but fair price. The production is microscopic to put it mildly – especially when compared to a 3 Years Old.
Is the huge assortment too overwhelming; does it scare off potential consumers, or newcomers to Madeira? I’m pretty sure it does for some but in general I believe it also shows an open-mindedness amongst the producers, a flexibility and willingness to offer us a fantastic possibility to explore the wines. The losers in this are more likely the producers themselves, having to run lots of bottlings, change bottle sizes, packing and ordering different labels. Add a lot of extra work in general to promote all the labels.
It’s not cheap to produce Madeira having all this is in mind. Classified Bordeuax chateaux sell their inventories before bottled, Madeira producers sometimes wait generations before bottling and selling a wine, doing the hard work for you, the end consumer. That’s in my world actually a commendable action and one worth paying for.
What’s your thought? Do Madeira wine producers offer too many labels? Do you ever consider the prolonged risk and cost a Madeira producer takes when you buy a bottle?
Looking for something special?
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