Madeira newbie, looking for advice

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Nate Simon
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Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#1 Post by Nate Simon »

Madeira seems a magical mystery wine. Made on islands in the middle of nowhere, intentionally and severely oxidized, off-dry or even sweet.
I feel like it’s a void in my wine knowledge. Anyone have recommendations on where to start? Labels, styles, food pairings? Would love to get more familiar with it, but it’s such an odd duck.

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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#2 Post by PeterH »

Start with a selection from the Rare Wine Co. historic series, going from the dry Sercial to the sweet Bual or Malmsy. That will give you an idea if you like Madeira, and steer you to a preference. Price is mid-$50s. Don't go cheaper unless you are looking for cooking wine.
The drier Madeiras can be apertifs or accompany rich food, the sweeter ones after the meal, or with dessert. They all have sufficient acidity to keep them from being cloying.

If you find love them you can go for the higher end, prices starting the $100s, but don't go buying from the extremely limited stock before then.
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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#3 Post by NED VALOIS »

Turn the clock back 30 years and you could have bought the best from the 1800's for a song ! [swearing.gif] [cry.gif]

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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#4 Post by Tomás Costa »

The first tip is I could give you is that Madeira doesn't spoil. A friend of mine kept a bottle open for 30 years; it was just fine. There isn't much that the passing of time can do to a wine that is already thoroughly oxidized from the get go.

The other tip I could give you is that Barbeito is producing the zippiest, most acid driven Madeiras out there, and Ricardo Diogo's work on the Bastardo grape is particularly outstanding.
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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#5 Post by Kirk.Grant »

PeterH wrote: November 26th, 2020, 3:17 pm Start with a selection from the Rare Wine Co. historic series, going from the dry Sercial to the sweet Bual or Malmsy. That will give you an idea if you like Madeira, and steer you to a preference. Price is mid-$50s. Don't go cheaper unless you are looking for cooking wine.
The drier Madeiras can be apertifs or accompany rich food, the sweeter ones after the meal, or with dessert. They all have sufficient acidity to keep them from being cloying.

If you find love them you can go for the higher end, prices starting the $100s, but don't go buying from the extremely limited stock before then.
Great advice here...

The RWC bottles are such a value.
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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#6 Post by Keith Levenberg »

+1 on the RWC's but especially look for the one-offs. Their regular ones are high quality but the one-offs like the Jefferson, Porto Moniz, etc. are special.

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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#7 Post by Nate Simon »

Thanks very much for these recommendations. I had looked at the RWC bottlings, but was not sure how they compared to “gold standard“ bottles, or how “typical“ they are. I will definitely seek them out.
Anybody have any strong feelings on food pairings with these? Seems like there could be some very interesting possibilities, but I do not know which direction to go in.

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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#8 Post by Cris Whetstone »

The thing is low end Madeira isn't all that great. At least if you are looking for typical wines that people enjoy. The lower end wines are almost a whole 'nother thing.

The Rare Wine Co bottlings give you a nice window into better Madeira without breaking the bank. Madeira isn't really like other regions where you can play around in the kiddie pool while you figure it out. But the RWC bottles give you a medium range to play around with to see if you want more. Plus, they're just good wines and cover a good range of styles. And as Tomas mentions they'll live in the fridge for a long time. The bigger ones make nice late night sniffs. The lighter ones can work with dinner.
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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#9 Post by Keith Levenberg »

Nate Simon wrote: November 26th, 2020, 7:08 pm Anybody have any strong feelings on food pairings with these? Seems like there could be some very interesting possibilities, but I do not know which direction to go in.
I went to one of RWC's Madeira dinners where it was served with every course. All went fine, but the most memorable was that they were the only wines I ever had that really jived with a soup course.

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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#10 Post by Sarah Kirschbaum »

Keith Levenberg wrote: November 26th, 2020, 8:22 pm
Nate Simon wrote: November 26th, 2020, 7:08 pm Anybody have any strong feelings on food pairings with these? Seems like there could be some very interesting possibilities, but I do not know which direction to go in.
I went to one of RWC's Madeira dinners where it was served with every course. All went fine, but the most memorable was that they were the only wines I ever had that really jived with a soup course.
Agree with Keith about Madeira and soup, which is usually so hard to pair. I've also been shocked by how well it can pair with some difficult savory foods like Szechuan and even some Indian dishes. It's one of those wines that's worth trying when nothing else seems to be working. It doesn't always come through, and the sugar level obviously makes a huge difference, but there can be high highs.
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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#11 Post by Laurent Gibet »

Hoping it can help (I love these wines, among the very best in the world) …
History, grapes, classification, market + some glories, mostly Barbeito here (report by Attila Aranyos) :
http://www.invinoveritastoulouse.fr/les-maderes/
www.invinoveritastoulouse.fr

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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#12 Post by A. So »

Sarah Kirschbaum wrote: November 27th, 2020, 4:58 am
Keith Levenberg wrote: November 26th, 2020, 8:22 pm
Nate Simon wrote: November 26th, 2020, 7:08 pm Anybody have any strong feelings on food pairings with these? Seems like there could be some very interesting possibilities, but I do not know which direction to go in.
I went to one of RWC's Madeira dinners where it was served with every course. All went fine, but the most memorable was that they were the only wines I ever had that really jived with a soup course.
Agree with Keith about Madeira and soup, which is usually so hard to pair. I've also been shocked by how well it can pair with some difficult savory foods like Szechuan and even some Indian dishes. It's one of those wines that's worth trying when nothing else seems to be working. It doesn't always come through, and the sugar level obviously makes a huge difference, but there can be high highs.
I've also had good experiences pairing some of the drier Madeiras with dishes that used nuoc cham as a component.
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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#13 Post by Eric Ifune »

Barbeito makes the Rare Wine Company's Historic Series. Agree it's a good and easily found place to start.
If you can find them, Borges 15 year old series are terrific.
One food pairing I really enjoy is Verdelho with fried chicken. The high acidity really makes the combination shine.

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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#14 Post by Laurent Gibet »

Eric Ifune wrote: November 27th, 2020, 3:00 pm Barbeito makes the Rare Wine Company's Historic Series. Agree it's a good and easily found place to start.
If you can find them, Borges 15 year old series are terrific.
One food pairing I really enjoy is Verdelho with fried chicken. The high acidity really makes the combination shine.
Barbeito, Pereira d'Oliveiras, Bland'ys, Cossart & Gordon, Henriques y Henriques, ...

Looking for high acidity, sercial should also be an interesting pairing …
But globally, verdelho is for me the most qualitative grape (compared to sercial, boal ans malmsey).

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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#15 Post by Patrick Stella »

Nate, you are spot on in calling Madeira a magical mystery.

My advice would be to read Noel Cossarts book Island Vineyard.

https://www.rarewineco.com/Noel-Cossart ... -Vineyard/

Also, if it's possible for you I would strongly recommend visiting Madeira itself whenever you are able. It is a beautiful and wonderful place.
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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#16 Post by Michael_D »

In 2013, I had dinner with a few friends at the Herbfarm in Woodinville, Wa. Just for the hell of it, we all had a 2 OZ pour of what they were calling "The oldest wine in the world". It was a 1795 Barbeito Terrantez Maderia, and the story was it was in Napolean's collection. They even printed certificates for all of us, attesting we drank it. I can still recall the nose and finish. It was the most amazing wine I've ever had. I just kept smelling it. I could not help myself, even after the glass was empty. It may have been the experience, as well as the wine that made it wonderful to me, but I'll take it either way.......
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#17 Post by Otto Forsberg »

Michael_D wrote: November 29th, 2020, 1:14 pm In 2013, I had dinner with a few friends at the Herbfarm in Woodinville, Wa. Just for the hell of it, we all had a 2 OZ pour of what they were calling "The oldest wine in the world". It was a 1795 Barbeito Terrantez Maderia, and the story was it was in Napolean's collection. They even printed certificates for all of us, attesting we drank it. I can still recall the nose and finish. It was the most amazing wine I've ever had. I just kept smelling it. I could not help myself, even after the glass was empty. It may have been the experience, as well as the wine that made it wonderful to me, but I'll take it either way.......
Sounds like an awfully familiar bottle!

Because we had this one a few weeks ago:
terrantez1795a_resized.jpg
I can attest to the nose here being quite profound.

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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#18 Post by Robert.A.Jr. »

Otto Forsberg wrote: November 29th, 2020, 1:29 pm
Michael_D wrote: November 29th, 2020, 1:14 pm In 2013, I had dinner with a few friends at the Herbfarm in Woodinville, Wa. Just for the hell of it, we all had a 2 OZ pour of what they were calling "The oldest wine in the world". It was a 1795 Barbeito Terrantez Maderia, and the story was it was in Napolean's collection. They even printed certificates for all of us, attesting we drank it. I can still recall the nose and finish. It was the most amazing wine I've ever had. I just kept smelling it. I could not help myself, even after the glass was empty. It may have been the experience, as well as the wine that made it wonderful to me, but I'll take it either way.......
Sounds like an awfully familiar bottle!

Because we had this one a few weeks ago:

terrantez1795a_resized.jpg

I can attest to the nose here being quite profound.
WOW!

Move had pre-Civil War Madeira at Berns, but damn, that’s pre-1800s!!!
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#19 Post by Eric Ifune »

Also, if it's possible for you I would strongly recommend visiting Madeira itself whenever you are able. It is a beautiful and wonderful place.
Yes. It's the Hawaii of the Atlantic but European rather than Asian influenced. The local table wines have improved immeasurably the last few years. The food is fantastic!

I wouldn't call the 1795 Barbeito Terrantez the oldest wine in the world. There was at least 4 other producers of Terrantez that year. Christies sold several bottles of the Borges 1720 Pather and 1760 Terrantez just last week. Probably from one of the Borges family. The oldest wine for sale was probably the 1715 JCA Terrantez, last seen at auction a few years ago. The 1795 Barbeito originally belonged to the Hinton family before Mario Barbeito bought it in the mid 20th Century. Last year, Ricardo Freitas found a small demijohn of this that his mother stashed. The Rare Wine Company got it but I haven't seen if for sale. Mannie Berk of the RWC probably is keeping it for himself.
Last edited by Eric Ifune on November 29th, 2020, 3:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#20 Post by Otto Forsberg »

Eric Ifune wrote: November 29th, 2020, 2:50 pm I wouldn't the 1795 Barbeito Terrantez the oldest wine in the world.
Neither do I, since I've seen at least 1772 and 1715 drunk here in Finland within the last couple of years.
The oldest wine for sale was probably the 1715 JCA Terrantez, last seen at auction a few years ago.
I suppose that isn't the same bottle that was drunk here in Finland about a year ago? One of my acquaintances who is quite an avid collector of fortified wines (especially those older ones) managed to purchase one a few years back or so. Didn't get to taste it, but I've seen the empty bottle.

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#21 Post by Eric Ifune »

Burgundy styled bottle with broken lettering? That's what the JCA looks like. I haven't tasted it, nor the 1720 Pather. I have had the 1760 Borges Terrantez. The last bottle of the JCA that I know of for sale went for $39,000.00!

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#22 Post by Otto Forsberg »

Eric Ifune wrote: November 29th, 2020, 3:13 pm Burgundy styled bottle with broken lettering? That's what the JCA looks like. I haven't tasted it, nor the 1720 Pather. I have had the 1760 Borges Terrantez. The last bottle of the JCA that I know of for sale went for $39,000.00!
Since I wasn't there in the tasting, I didn't take a bottle pic meself. However, managed to snag a pic from this friend's FB wall. Does this one look right?
1715andstuff.jpg

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#23 Post by Eric Ifune »

Bottle on the far right? Hard to tell from the photo. Christies auction catalog from the end of 2016 in New York has a photo.

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#24 Post by Otto Forsberg »

Eric Ifune wrote: November 29th, 2020, 3:36 pm Bottle on the far right? Hard to tell from the photo. Christies auction catalog from the end of 2016 in New York has a photo.
Doesn't seem to be the same bottle, as the Christie's catalogue bottle is much cleaner, but the bottle shape, wax and the stencil letters do match.

Also, I remember him paying thousands of €s for it, but not tens of thousands.

Here's a close-up on the final four bottles.
Screenshot_20201130-014056__01.jpg

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#25 Post by M.Kaplan »

This bottle of 1795 Barbeito Terrantez, generously brought by Saul Cooperstein to a crazy dinner in 2012 (blind steaks from all over the world), is on my life list.
9BF60EEF-06AF-4B81-BFF4-9ECE6BF94767.jpeg
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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#26 Post by Michael_D »

Eric Ifune wrote: November 29th, 2020, 2:50 pm
Also, if it's possible for you I would strongly recommend visiting Madeira itself whenever you are able. It is a beautiful and wonderful place.
Yes. It's the Hawaii of the Atlantic but European rather than Asian influenced. The local table wines have improved immeasurably the last few years. The food is fantastic!

I wouldn't call the 1795 Barbeito Terrantez the oldest wine in the world. There was at least 4 other producers of Terrantez that year. Christies sold several bottles of the Borges 1720 Pather and 1760 Terrantez just last week. Probably from one of the Borges family. The oldest wine for sale was probably the 1715 JCA Terrantez, last seen at auction a few years ago. The 1795 Barbeito originally belonged to the Hinton family before Mario Barbeito bought it in the mid 20th Century. Last year, Ricardo Freitas found a small demijohn of this that his mother stashed. The Rare Wine Company got it but I haven't seen if for sale. Mannie Berk of the RWC probably is keeping it for himself.
I just re-read the certification we got from the Herbfarm. It calls the 1795 the Oldest Wine in the World, then clarifies it as "oldest known wine being offered by the glass".

Frankly, I couldn't care less about that triviality. It was freaking excellent, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to drink it. I can't imagine a life where I could afford to actually own (and drink) an entire bottle.
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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#27 Post by Chris Blum »

Cris Whetstone wrote: November 26th, 2020, 8:06 pm The thing is low end Madeira isn't all that great. At least if you are looking for typical wines that people enjoy. The lower end wines are almost a whole 'nother thing.

The Rare Wine Co bottlings give you a nice window into better Madeira without breaking the bank. Madeira isn't really like other regions where you can play around in the kiddie pool while you figure it out. But the RWC bottles give you a medium range to play around with to see if you want more. Plus, they're just good wines and cover a good range of styles. And as Tomas mentions they'll live in the fridge for a long time. The bigger ones make nice late night sniffs. The lighter ones can work with dinner.
I wholeheartedly agree.
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Re: Madeira newbie, looking for advice

#28 Post by Eric Ifune »

Just 10 years ago, the 1715 JCA was well under $10,000. The 1795 Barbeito Terrantez was under $1,000.00. Madeira, and especially old Terrantez, has really escalated in price.

Otto, on that close up photo, the 1842 was likely a Borges bottling, another famous Borges Terrantez. The saying on the label is an old Madeiran one, "The grapes of Terrantez are not for eating, nor to give them away, but for wine as god created them."

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