One sip of Madeira and I asked myself “why don’t I buy and drink this wine more regularly?”
That question was the first thing that popped into my head when, after five years (according to my tasting notes) I opened a bottle of Blandy’s 10 Year Malmsey Madeira a few weeks ago.
It was one of two sample wines I recently received, the other was Blandy’s 10 Year Sercial.
Madeira is a Portuguese-owned archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, 600 miles (970km) southwest of Lisbon and 450 miles due west of the north African coast. It gives its name to one of the world’s great fortified wines. Both the wine and the island hold unique places in the history of wine, and the United States.
Historians estimate that during Colonial times, the Colonies were importing 25 percent of all the Madeira the Portuguese were producing during the period. In fact , it is believed that Madeira was the drink of choice to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776. George Washington was a huge fan of the wine and it was again the drink of choice to celebrate when he was sworn in as the first President of the United States in 1789.
The early Madeira wines were produced in the image of those from the Portuguese mainland, and lacked the structure and stability required to survive long sea voyages. Over time, it was discovered that an addition of high-proof spirit solved this problem, and by the middle of the 18th Century such fortification had become the norm. A second discovery – that this new style of fortified Madeira acquired complex, desirable flavors on long, hot voyages – led to the Madeira wine style that exists today. Wines which had pitched and rolled in the subtropical heat were known as vinho do roda(“wine of the round trip”). The wine’s very high acidity added to its appeal in hot climates according to winesearcher.com
Nowadays, the cheaper, more efficient estufagem method is used for large-scale production. Depending on context estufa can mean “kiln”, “hothouse”, or “incubator”, but the common factor is clear: deliberate heat. An estufa, or cuba de calor (“heat box”), is a stainless steel tank with heated pipes running through it. This heats the wine to 120°F (50°C) for roughly three months – an accelerated imitation of what happened to Madeira barrels during tropical voyages. During this time, the wine ages to a point that would require five years or so using the more traditional canteiro method (see below). The advantage of the estufagem method is that it significantly reduces production costs, making Madeira accessible at relatively affordable prices. The tangible downside is that the intensive heating causes some of the sugar to caramelize, creating a slightly bitter, burnt-sugar flavor in the wine.
High-quality Madeira is aged in large barrels placed on trestles (canteiros in Portuguese). These are stored for anywhere from 20 years to a century, in rooms heated only by the sun (some producers have even installed large windows to let in as much sunshine as possible). A compromise between the two methods is to age the barrels for between six and 12 months in an armazem de calor – an artificially heated warehouse.
Although deliberate oxidation is pivotal to various wine styles around the world (notably oloroso Sherry from Jerez, vin jaune from the Jura and the rancio wines of Banyuls), the practice was so strongly associated with Madeira that it became known as “maderization”. The term, when applied to lower alcohol wines, usually references a fault. (Source)
Here’s a great infographic from Wine Folly that provides an “At A Glance” overview of the grape varieties, quality levels and styles of production for Madeira.
…an opened bottle of Madeira lasts nearly forever. After everything it’s been through – fortification, extreme heat, long aging in the presence of oxygen – Madeira is pretty indestructible – Karen MacNeil, The Wine Bible
Blandy’s Madeira Sercial 10 Years Old
Sercial (“Ser-seal”) is a completely new to me wine. It is one of the four single-varietal styles of Madeira. It is the brightest, most crisp style of Madeira. Typically, it is served as an apéritif at the start of the meal, or alongside light fish and vegetable dishes.
Blandy’s 10 year old Sercial is a blend of wines with an average of 10 years in seasoned American oak casks. It made from 100% Sercial grapes. The wines were aged at the family’s Lodge in Funchal in the traditional ‘Canteiro’ system, whereby the wine is gradually transferred from the higher floors where the temperatures are higher, to the middle floors and eventually to the ground floor where temperatures are cooler. The process of transferring the barrels is absolutely critical to ensure the right balance of ullage and concentration. The process transforms primary fruit flavors of the wine
into tertiary dried fruit notes that produce unique Madeira hallmark aromas.
My tasting notes follow:
Color – Pale amber
Aromas – Roasted hazelnuts, dried apricot, ocean spray aromas stand out, but this wine is aromatically complex with hints of honey, almond brittle, toasted coconut, butterscotch and flowers make an appearance. There’s also a bit of oxidation here, which I find very appealing!
Body – Full-bodied, rich and fresh. It approached off-dry on the front palate but finishes dry on the back palate
Taste – Dried apricot, roast hazelnut, ripe peach, coconut, and candied lemon peel flavors with a touch of minerality.
Finish – Long
91pts|19% abv |SRP – $30|Sample
This is an interesting, complex and compelling wine. After finished drinking the wine, I picked up the glass 30-45 minutes later and I could still smell the plethora of aromas the wine offers. I love it when that happens!
Have you ever tried Madeira Sercial and Sushi? It’s a pairing that works very well together!Sercial is a white grape and a corresponding style of #madeirawine, one of the four recognized styles of this fortified wine. The Blandy’s 10 year Sercial ($30 SRP|500ml) has a rich full-bodied, very fresh (high acid), nutty, ocean spray, dried stone fruit, ginger character with (for me) an appealing bit of oxidation. It’s body is an ideal match weight-wise for sushi, and that bit of oxidation makes pair great with sushi dipped in, what can be a killer for other wines, soy sauce and wasabi. With its high acidity it makes for a great aperitif too. Other pairing options include salads with vinaigrette, fresh starters, almonds, young sheep or goat cheese, sashimi and other raw food, swordfish, scallops, and salty foods. . . . #wine #winelover #foodandwine #foodandwinepairing #sercial #madeira #blandyssercial #winegeek #enofylzwineblog #wineblogger #winewriter #winesofinstagram #instawine #10yearservical #trysomethingnew #sushi #sashimi #sample
I paired the wine with sushi. The pairing was a revelation. The body of the Sercial was an ideal match for the “weight” of the sushi, and that bit of oxidation makes keeps the pairing party going even when the sushi is dipped in , what can be a killer for most other wines, soy sauce and wasabi. This wine’s high acidity makes it a great option for other aperitifs too. Other pairing options include salads with vinaigrette, fresh starters, almonds, young sheep or goat cheese, sashimi or other raw food, swordfish, scallop or salty foods!
- Serve at cellar temperature
- Serve in a regular wine glass, but I don’t recommend a 5 ounce pour. The wines are typically 19-20% alcohol so it won’t take long to sneak up on you?
- Sercial is dry enough to drink with meals. Try it with grilled meats.
- Malmsey is quite sweet. It pairs wonderfully with cheese and chocolate.. Or have a small glass as dessert.
- The Bual is somewhere in between: Try it with savory and sweet flavors
- After the bottle is opened it’s fine to store it upright in a cool place. An opened bottle will last for months!
The Blandy’s family is unique for being the only family of all the original founders of the Madeira wine trade to still own and manage their original wine company. The family has been making a range of Madeira wines for seven generations, maintaining a tradition that dates back to 1811! The family has played a leading role in the development of Madeira wine since then. Click here for the family’s history.
Related post you might enjoy:
- A Match Made in Heaven: Blandy’s 10 Year Malmsey Madeira And Quesillo!
- My Sweet Goodness; The Cheesecake Factory’s Most Popular Cheesecakes Paired With Dessert Wines
- A Beginner’s Guide to Madeira Wine (Catavino)
Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vivino and Delectable, for all things wine. As a wino with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!
Copyright Notice: This entire site is Copyrighted 2010-2018. All Rights Reserved. No unauthorized copying of any section of this site is permitted. If you wish to use any part of this site, contact me. For information on Copyright Law, see the official U.S. Copyright Office home page.