Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

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Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

#1 Post by NoahR » November 5th, 2015, 7:05 pm

To those with experience with vintage Madeira:
1. How do you go about selecting what vintage Madeira you are interested in purchasing?
2. How do you compare the Rare Wine Co historic series to good or great vintage Madeiras?
3. If you've tasted late 19th C or earlier "pre-phylloxera" era vintages, how would you say they compare to early 20th or mid-20th century Madeiras? Is there a significant difference you can put a finger on?

Thanks in advance for advice and input!
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Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

#2 Post by Anthony Lombardi » November 5th, 2015, 7:24 pm

The RWC ones are really really good. That said, they are NV blends of young Madeira & to quote reps from RWC "not the material of great vintage Madeira". I have kept RWC bottles for almost a year & they lose a little vibrancy, they are extremely durable. For $50, they are a fantastic value.

I've had one short pour of an 1800's Madeira with dessert at the Herbfarm & at the time I didn't have any idea what I was drinking.

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Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

#3 Post by GregT » November 5th, 2015, 9:44 pm

What Anthony said. The RWC wines are pretty good for what they are. I've put co-op Garnacha wines from Spain into blind tastings involving CdPs and the co-op wines have done well. So I'm not against close approximations and the RWC bottlings aren't bad. They're not the same as a 100 year old wine, but then they're not as expensive either.

As far as describing a wine that's from say 1890, how do you describe taste? For example, you taste a wine and you just know it's from Bordeaux but what is it precisely that clues you in? The words you use can describe wines from other places as well, and yet somehow you know what it is you're tasting.
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Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

#4 Post by Chris Blum » November 6th, 2015, 3:21 am

If I would have had those bottles and never had another Madeira, I probably would have lived my life "not liking Madeira". I think they are interesting, but not anywhere near as enjoyable as vintage Madeira. Think of them as a nice introduction, but by all means, try some older vintage.
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Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

#5 Post by Erich Sachse » November 6th, 2015, 3:43 am

They include some aged Tinta Negra Mole, which adds a bit of the character found in these bottling so vs a "typical" non-vintage Madeira. Obviously under the EU regulations that is limited to 15% for most of the bottlings.

Always enjoy them, and definitely a big step up vs basic Madeira, but nowhere near the complexity of the real old stuff.

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Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

#6 Post by Markus S » November 6th, 2015, 4:26 am

I think it depends on what variety. I was disappointed with the Charleston Sercial, but then tried the Baltimore rainwater and really enjoyed it. I'd put them on par with some of the 5-10-15 year blends from the Madeira shippers.
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Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

#7 Post by Keith Levenberg » November 6th, 2015, 7:31 am

I'm surprised to see so many lukewarm comments here. I think the wines are terrific. Note that not every wine in the series is created equal. The basic varietal bottlings (NY Malmsey, etc.) are excellent (do they have the character of a 100-year-old vintage wine? of course not; but they are well beyond entry level material). When I see them BTG on a restaurant list in place of a generic 5- or 10-year bottling from a big name shipper, it is a sign to me that there is someone at the restaurant who knows what they're doing. And some of these are more ambitious than others. The Baltimore Rainwater is a deliberate attempt to recreate the taste of an 1821 Rainwater that Mannie Berk unearthed. I had the Baltimore Rainwater next to that same 1821 at an RWC dinner and found a remarkable resemblance. Since the Rainwater style is not one designed to spend a long life in cask, either now or then, the ~180-year age difference is not as pronounced as you might imagine.

Then there are a number of bottlings that are on another plane altogether. The Jefferson Special Reserve might not taste like a 100-year Madeira either but there is in fact 100-year-old malvasia as a major component of the blend, and the result to me is one of the most texturally refined Madeiras I've had - this is the Madeira for Burgundy drinkers. And then the Porto Moniz bottlings are not only equal to pricier vintage Madeiras in literal age - the cask was estimated 40-50 years old when found in the mid-2000s - but it is a bona fide terroir wine from a cooler northern microclimate on the island. I have both the verdelho and malvasia open and prefer them to many vintage Madeiras at 2x the price.

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Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

#8 Post by Corey N. » November 6th, 2015, 7:56 am

That's a lovely write-up Keith. Thanks for sharing.
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Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

#9 Post by J. Ashourian » November 6th, 2015, 8:33 am

There is so much to learn about these wines I suggest three things. 1) pick up a copy of Mannie Berks book on the subject which is a very interesting read. Also, buy the entire range of the Historic Series wines and sample them from driest varietal to sweetest varietal to get initially acquainted with what Madeira wine is. Seek out 50-75 year old vintage examples of the varietals you like. RWC has them available, and KL has had a lot of them lately up for auction. Some very old ones as well. Cheers!

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Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

#10 Post by Aaron Nix-Gomez » November 6th, 2015, 11:19 am

I echo what Keith and Justin have written. I find the range of the Historic Series exciting and there are certainly selections that I prefer over the others. The Jefferson is top-notch and based on just a glass, I think the recently released Library Company has very strong potential.

While the Historic Series has old Madeira blended into them, I do not think of them in comparison to old vintage or even solera Madeira sourced from the Island. Nor even to the old American bottles of which only a small number still exist. If I generalize though, the Historic Series can have the pungent aromas and acidity driven flavors I find in 19th century examples.

It can be a bit tricky to compare very old Madeira to more modern Madeira. Madeira was traditionally purchased by shippers already finished as wine. The shippers would then blend what they bought that vintage. Now the houses make the wine themselves.

Definitely get Mannie's second edition of Cossart's "Madeira The Island Vineyard" and several from the Historic Series. I find they improve after a few months of opening.

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Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

#11 Post by Jay T. » November 6th, 2015, 12:13 pm

I love the Jefferson Special Reserve and have a few bottles at home. I also agree that the basic bottlings are delicious and interesting, especially side by side. These wines are what got me interested in Madeira. I haven't had a lot of very old Madeira, but what I've tasted hasn't made me stop drinking my Jefferson Special Reserve.

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Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

#12 Post by Jim Karegeannes » November 6th, 2015, 2:15 pm

I'll have to try the Jefferson. I really wanted to like the Charleston but it was not to be. My favorite so far was the New Orleans released after Hurricane Katrina. Nice balance of sweetness to acid/aged flavors.

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Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

#13 Post by Drew Goin » November 6th, 2015, 3:34 pm

I have had the New Orleans Terrantez (sp?), as well as the New York Malmsey. Both were yum. I have an unopened bottle of the Malmsey for the Winter months.

I believe that the source wines are around 10-years of age. The Southern city-name designated ones are drier; the Northern ones, sweeter. The Charleston Sercial gets good write-ups, but I have not tasted it.

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Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

#14 Post by Doug Schulman » November 7th, 2015, 6:39 am

A vintage bottle with a similar level of mature characteristics to the Jefferson would be far more expensive. That one in particular really is exceptional. It seems that a small amount has been re-released recently (after RWC sold out of the first release pretty quickly). I don't know if we'll see any more after this round. It's worth jumping on while you have the chance. I'm extremely happy to have a couple of bottles put away for myself.

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Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

#15 Post by Stuart BeauneHead Niemtzow » November 7th, 2015, 8:07 am

Thread drift, but hopefully to the right targets.

I have never known much /appreciated much about Madeira. Last month I went to a tasting here in Philadelphia where Manny was present with some other producers. I plan to save up to buy one of RWC's vintage Boals.

The wine I liked the best of the day was a vintage Boal/Bual from Henriques and Henriques. I'd like to buy a bottle or two, but cannot figure out who imports it into the US or where in the PA-NJ-NY or New England area I can buy it at a competitive price (Winesearcher shows one store: in DC only....) Any idea who imports this maker or distributes it in those areas? or any suggestions...


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Madeira: how do RWC Historics compare to vintage?

#16 Post by Eric Ifune » November 8th, 2015, 6:46 pm

The original release of the New Orleans after Katrina had 10% of old Terrantez in it and was superb. It was a one off and used to raise funds for the city. The subsequent releases do not have the Terrantez and are good, but not the quality of the initial release.

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