In the mid-to-late 15th century, British merchant ships sailing to the East Indies would call at the Portuguese island of Madeira where they would replenish their supplies and take on board casks of the local wines. To preserve the wine during the long voyage through the tropics, brandy was added. Upon their return, sometimes years later, it was discovered that having crossed the equator twice and being tossed around during the long and often hot sea voyages had transformed the contents of the casks into complex, very aromatic, intensely flavoured wines. By the late 1700s Madeira wine was at the peak of its popularity, particularly in England and the American colonies. However, demand for these wines soon experienced an unexpected decline thanks to Prohibition in the U.S and a reduction in quality due to mildew and phylloxera affecting the island.

Today we have seen a resurgence in both demand and quality for Madeira, and while the wines no longer travel deep in the hulls of ships, they undergo many years of barrel age in the warm island warehouses. In fact, by law, vintage Madeira must be aged in cask for a minimum of 20 years before being bottled. In many instances it is then held in large, glass carboys for a much longer period. This deliberate heating and slow oxidation (contrary to everything we’ve ever been taught about handling fine wines) produces wines of infinite complexity and almost ageless longevity. In 2016 a bottle of then 301-year-old JCA & C Terrantez 1715 was sold at Christie’s Auction House for £30,700 with Edwin Vos, head of Christie’s Wine & Spirits department describing it as “remarkably youthful” when tasting another bottle from the same vintage just a few years earlier.

Vintage Madeira, like vintage Port, is from grapes harvested in a single year and fortified with the addition of high-quality grape brandy. Traditionally the grape variety is mentioned on the label and vintage Madeira must be 100% of the mentioned grape. The style can range from rich, sweet and almost opulent (Malmsey) to light, and almost dry (Sercial). However, all Madeiras, no matter the level of sweetness, have a distinct, refreshing tang on the palate that makes them so mouth-wateringly appealing. In addition, once opened, a bottle will keep for weeks, if not months, and a single glass can fill a room with its heady aromas.

The five most widely used grapes of Madeira are:

  • Malmsey (or Malvasia) – the sweetest and richest Madeira, but never cloying
  • Bual (or Boal) – often the darkest in colour, medium-rich, sweet
  • Verdelho – medium-dry
  • Sercial – the driest style and an excellent aperitif
  • Terrantez – can range in style from medium-dry to medium-sweet.

Today we are very pleased to offer a range of historic Madeira wines produced over the last 100 years by two of the island’s powerhouse families.

We have picked out a number of highlights from the list below for you, however all these wines are unique and special in their own way, receiving high scores from the critics. As you can see from the list , there is a wide selection of vintages available to suit a range of budgets. With Christmas fast approaching, a birth year bottle of Madeira is sure to put a smile on the face of a lucky recipient or make a welcome addition to any cellar. Please note, bottle sizes marked with * are also available in other formats.

Madeira Vintage Bottle Size Bottle price IB Score
Blandy’s Bual Heritage Collection 1920 75cl £1,514 97 WA, 19 JR, 19.5 RM
Blandy’s Bual 1957 75cl* £200 19 JR, 18.5 RM
Cossart Gordon Bual 1962 75cl* £240 19 JR, 96 WE, 94 WS
Blandy’s Bual 1966 150cl £329 94 NM, 97 WS
Blandy’s Sercial 1968 75cl* £175 19 JR
Blandy’s Verdelho 1973 75cl £153 18 JR, 96 WE, 92 WS
Blandy’s Sercial 1975 75cl* £133 95 WS, 96 DC, 91 NM
Cossart Gordon Terrantez 1975 75cl* £190 95 NM, 18 JR
Blandy’s Terrantez 1976 37.5cl* £79 89 WS
Blandy’s Verdelho 1976 75cl* £220 93 NM, 18 JR
Cossart Gordon Bual 1976 75cl £135
Blandy’s Listrao 1977 75cl* £206 18 JR
Blandy’s Terrantez 1977 37.5cl £82 97 WS
Blandy’s Malmsey 1977 37.5cl* £80 19 JR, 95 WE
Cossart Gordon Bual 1978 75cl* £210 17.5 JR
Blandy’s Verdelho 1979 75cl* £141 94 NM, 93 WS
Blandy’s Sercial 1980 75cl* £155 18 RM, 94 WA
Blandy’s Terrantez 1980 75cl* £125 91 WA, 18 JR, 96 WS, 96 JG
Blandy’s Malmsey 1981 75cl* £168 17 JR, 18.5 RM
Cossart Gordon Sercial 1985 75cl* £112 17 JR, 95 WS
Cossart Gordon Bual 1987 75cl* £100 17.5 JR, 94 WS, 95 WE
Cossart Gordon Bual 1989 75cl* £100 92 NM, 17 JR, 96 WE
Blandy’s Colheita Verdelho 2000 50cl £39 92 WA, 17.5 JR, 97 DC
Blandy’s Colheita Sercial 2002 50cl £30 16 JR, 92 WS, 94 WE
Blandy’s Colheita Bual 2003 50cl £31 18 JR, 93 WS, 92 WE
Blandy’s Colheita Malmsey 2004 50cl £44 18 JR, 93 WS
Cossart Gordon Colheita Bual 2005 50cl £24 92 WS, 92 WE
Blandy’s Colheita Sercial 2008 50cl £38 17.5 JR
Blandy’s Colheita Verdelho 2008 50cl £35 17 JR, 89 WA
Cossart Gordon Colheita Verdelho 2008 50cl £41 95 NM
Blandy’s MCDXIX The Winemaker’s Selection NV 150cl £4,160 95 NM, 18 JR, 19.5 RM

Blandy’s Bual Heritage Madeira 1920:

At the time of harvest, the world was still shaken after the recently concluded First World War, Maderia’s vines were recovering from a blight of oidium and the Spanish Flu global pandemic was drawing to a close. The island had lost two of its main markets as a result of the Russian Revolution and prohibition coming into force in the US. Globally wine production was a third of what it had been the decade before. Despite facing so many adversities, the 1920 Bual is one of the producers most iconic wines, paying testament to the hard-working men and women of Madeira who made it possible.

“Full-bodied, deep and immensely concentrated, this is a searingly intense, multifaceted and pungently sapid wine of immense vibrancy and persistence; indeed, given its protracted maturation in wood, this Bual represents almost a reduction of Madeira, and each small taste lingers on the palate for minutes.” – The Wine Advocate.

Just 1199 individually numbered bottles of this centennial wine were released.

Blandy’s MCDXIX The Winemaker’s Selection:

To celebrate the six centuries since the discovery of the Island of Madeira, in 2019 Blandy’s launched this exclusive special edition, designed and developed down to the very last detail. The Blandy family has an unparalleled stock of very rare old Madeira wines, which they blended to create the MCDXIX, or 1419 in Roman numerals. Medium rich in style, it is a unique blend of 11 different wines from the last 200 years from the 5 different Madeira grape varieties.

“We managed to integrate some of the best vintages from the family’s stock, the know-how and expertise of our winemaker Francisco Albuquerque, the historical components from the island and the handicraft of some of the best artisans from the country.” – CEO Chris Blandy

Brownish tawny with a green rim. Complex nose with obviously many ingredients. Mellow. Chestnut, butter, treacle, acidity! Passionfruit. Very fresh. Energetic. Even a note of brazil nuts. No shortage of interest in this extraordinary wine.” – Jancis Robinson

An exclusive 600 individually numbered magnums were produced.

Cossart Gordon Colheita Verdelho 2008:

At the opposite end of the price range, yet still warmly received by the critics, this 2008 Colheita Verdelho represents great value for money and offers the opportunity to try a single harvest wine from one of Maderia’s best producers, without breaking the bank.

“The nose is quite striking, grabbing you with both hands and bringing dried honey, orange zest, Seville orange marmalade and antique furniture polish, all with fine delineation. The palate is tangy from start to finish, featuring enticing marmalade and desiccated orange peel notes. But what I really admire is the crescendo of spiciness on the finish; the mouth feels “alive” two minutes after this Verdelho has exited, tingling with the wake of pepperiness. Superb.” – Vinous – Neal Martin

Like all vintage Madeira wines, volumes are small with only 2000 50cl bottles produced.

Enquire about this offer below:

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