Blandy’s Madeira Verdelho Colheita 2000
A change from the more common Weekend Wine themes today; a vicarious visit to Madeira, with this colheita wine from Blandy’s.
The choice of variety for this wine is Verdelho, these days a relative rarity, but this has not always been the case. If you were to travel through time back to the mid-19th century your next glass of Madeira would almost certainly have been made using Verdelho, as at this time it dominated the island’s vineyards, accounting for about two-thirds of all plantings. The remaining one-third was made up of a hotchpotch of other varieties including the other Madeira classics (Sercial, Boal and Malvasia di Lipari) and a cabal of local curiosities, such as Bastardo and the suggestively named Deliciosa.
It was phylloxera that turned the world of Madeira upside-down. Its arrival on the island in 1872 laid waste to the vineyards, and in the subsequent replanting Verdelho (and the other more ‘noble’ varieties) lost out, being usurped by Tinta Negra. Presumably this variety was easier to propagate and cultivate, although Tinta Negra’s versatility and its ability to mimic its peers with styles ranging from dry and acid-rich to super-sweet may also have been influential in its selection.
In recent years Verdelho has staged something of a resurgence, and while its 50 hectares still lag a long way behind Tinta Negra (which has more than five times this area planted) it is well out in front of Sercial (about 16 hectares), Malvasia di Lipari (similar to Malvasia), Terrantez (less than 2 hectares) and the like. After the success of the 2000 harvest the Blandy family set aside 35 casks of Verdelho from this vintage in the warmth of their lofts in downtown Funchal, for eventual release after the requisite twenty years of aging. But the wine proved impossible to resist; as a result Michael Blandy, a member of the sixth generation of the family to run the firm, selected a proportion of the harvest for a limited earlier bottling.
The Blandy’s Madeira Verdelho Colheita 2000 is sourced from cask number 26452, and just 1210 500ml bottles were bottled back in 2017 (this is bottle number 997). It the glass it displays a fabulous toasted bronze-ochre hue, with a giveaway green tinge to the rim. The nose is full of sweetly toasted nuts and raisins, with baked and candied citrus fruits, with a saline sense of energy, spicy pepper and some more oxidative notes which call to mind baked earth. The palate arrived with a great sense of energy and definition, driven forward by its acidity, which is immediately followed by a wave of honeyed sweetness, with notes of walnut, olive and dusty earth. It is that forceful acid energy which drives it forward though, with a richly grained and minerally definition which frames the sweetness through the finish and length. It has great vivacity, but also a persistent and warming length, going on and on. All in all this is an excellent Madeira, with many decades ahead of it yet. The declared alcohol is 19%. 94/100 (14/3/22)