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Madeira

What other wine needs to be baked in order to reach its full potential? The mid-Atlantic island of Madeira, about 1000km off the coast of Portugal, was for centuries a victualing point for ships en route to Africa and the Americas. The wines that rocked about in the holds in tropical or equatorial temperatures were deemed delicious, thanks to the burnt, caramel-y characteristics that overlaid their tangy flavours.

The effort to replicate this effect gave rise to a practice known as estufagem; 'baking' the wine in heated casks, or tanks with hot water pipes running through them, for at least three months prior to bottling. As well as caramelising all the sugars in the wine, this imparts a thorough oxidation, so the wine can age for decades. The wine itself is traditionally graded in sweetness according to the grape varieties used, from Sercial (dry) to Malmsey (sweet and dark), by way of Verdelho and Boal. And ours are all excellent, of course - you won't find anything half-baked here!

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  1. Blandy's 10 Year Old Bual 500ml

    Blandy's 10 Year Old Bual 500ml

    £20.00

    £20.00

    Good Madeira wine can be quite hard to find. They just don't make that much of the stuff, unfortunately. Take the forgotten Madeiran noble grape Bastardo, how much do you reckon the whole island produced in 2010? It's pretty low, what you reckon 2000 bottles? 1500 bottles? Nope, 4.5 litres... 4.5 litres! So, if someone tries to sell you a case of 2010 Bastardo you can be confident they're trying to rip you off. Thankfully there's a bit more Boal, so we can all get our hands on this delicious medium-sweet wine with notes of raisined fruit, butterscotch and vanilla. That being said, there are only 133 acres Boal plantings on the whole island, that's like a medium sized Bordeaux grower, so if you find any good quality Madeira, we recommend you get it home as fast as possible!

  2. Blandy's 10 Year Old Verdelho 500ml

    Blandy's 10 Year Old Verdelho 500ml

    £20.00

    £20.00

    The history of the island of Madeira is fascinating. In 1419 Madeira was discovered in the name of Portuguese Price, Henry the Navigator. Despite being dubbed the Navigator, unsurprisingly he stayed in Lisbon sipping on a White Port & Tonic, while he got two other chumps to sail around the coast of Africa. Legend dictates the Portuguese started a fire to clear some space in Funchal and the fires burned for 7 years & that's why the soil is so nutritious. That sounds apocryphal to us, we can't even keep a log burner going and we have matches, fire-lighters and rolled up copies of The Telegraph. Nonetheless, the soil is certainly well nourished and contributes to this astonishing wine, expressing a fresh and fragrant bouquet of dried fruits and spice with luxurious warm orangey aromas. Medium dry and full- bodied. Concentrated and fresh with a pleasant zesty bittersweet edge from a finally balanced acidity. Long lingering aftertaste of exotic fruits with spicy overtones.

  3. Blandy's Colheita 1999 Malmsey

    Blandy's Colheita 1999 Malmsey 500ml

    £47.00

    £47.00

    We've always found it slightly odd that this Madeira producer is named Blandy's... Nominative determinism suggests that if your name is Baker you're statistically more likely to make bread for a living, well, this wine is like the opposite of this principle. Blandy's Colheita Malmsey 1999 is possibly the most powerfully flavourful wine ever to sail into a British port. This vintage fortified wine is rich and full-bodied and expresses concentrated flavours of dried fruit, caramel, toffee and walnut, perfectly balanced by a fresh and zesty acidity. Of course, Blandy's refers to the name of this family owned business, currently under the management of Chris Blandy and has nothing to do with the style of wine. Here's to 7 generations of Blandy's make the least bland wine on the planet!

  4. Blandy's Duke of Clarence Madeira

    Blandy's Duke of Clarence Madeira 750ml

    £15.00

    £15.00

    We can thank the existence of this Portuguese sweetie to a very happy accident of history. Way back when, when merchants shipped their wares in wooden ships, the wine in the hold would often overheat, resulting in a delicious, caramelised wine.

    Winemakers have sought to recreate this effect by baking the wine ever since - and now Blandy's have perfected the technique. This Madeira, made with the more unusual Tinta Negra Mole, is toffeed, ripe and nutty Madeira, with ample sweetness and a clean, tart finish. A most serendipitous wine indeed.

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