Day 2 of our Madeira visit began in the new Blandy’s cellars, which are located near the main Port, just past the airport. They’ve been moving most of their production here from the lodge in Funchal over the last few years simply because it’s much easier to work here, and because it’s where the wines are shipped from. Funchal wasn’t designed for lorry access.
We had an extensive technical tasting with winemaker Francisco Albuquerque, who’s been at Blandy’s for a quarter of a century, even though he’s not that old. He prepared lots of samples, and we did a deep dive with Bual, looking at samples from 2016 (just vinified, tastes petty appalling and nothing like Madeira), all the way back to 1957.
We also looked at two very interesting young wines made from Tinta Negra, the island’s most widely grown grape variety. Tinta Negra is usually produced by the artificial heating process known as estufagem. It’s considered to be inferior to the traditional method of leaving barrels in warm lofts over summer. But Albuquerque has spent years examining the various parameters along with university scientists, and has come up with a protocol that avoids the problems of traditional estufagem, and replicates closely in quality the traditional process. The glass on the left is the same wine as the one on the right, only the one on the right has gone through four months of the Blandy’s estufagem protocol. The difference is amazing. It transforms an ordinary slightly sweet red wine into something quite compelling, even in its youth.
This is a page from an order book, from the golden age of Madeira wine, in the early 19th century. They used to write so neatly
The new warehouse has a lot of old barrels.
Then after our session at the winery, we headed out to discover more of the island. We hopped over to the much more remote north coast, and this is where we stopped for lunch at Quinta do Furão, where Blandy’s have 2 hectares of vines. This was the view we had for lunch! So impressive, and the north isn’t short of views like these.
After lunch we headed over to a new terraced vineyard planted by Blandy’s on land leased from the church. This is quite a project by Madeira standards. It’s called Quinta do Bispo and it’s located in São Jorge, and has 4 hectares of vines.
Carrying on round the island: more views!
The final vineyards we looked at were in São Vicente. It’s pretty spectacular here. This is one of the major vineyard areas.