TN: 1870 Madeira Malmsey Reserve

I feel a little disingenuous posting this because readers may expect a retelling of a life-changing experience upon drinking a 145-year-old wine. The best I can offer is my surprise in finding that the wine was still alive! Lots of burnt sugar and shoe leather…and plenty of vinegar too. I could still see when I woke up this morning. Tried to attach a photo of the bottle but Wineberserker didn’t like the extension.

Laughed out loud with the “could still see in the moring”.

Good stuff, and I appreciate the honest note. I , could imagine my own impressions being similar based on my limited experiences with madeira.

I am surprised you could still be able to write a note in the morning after downing an entire bottle of Madeira by yourself!

There were six of us. We poured it through a coffee filter btw.


No surprise it was alive, Madeira is basically immortal. Also, probably volatile acidity, not ‘vinegar’.

I have never had a wine anywhere near this old, so I could certainly be missing something, but it seems to me that if it had to be poured through a coffee filter then it wasn’t allowed to sit upright long enough. My experience with nebbiolo suggests that such a bottle might show much worse than its potential, a coffee filter really only catches the largest particles of sediment. For very fine suspended sediment, several weeks upright is not excessive.

Terrific as an experience!

I’m glad to learn about the limitations of coffee filters. It’s a little hard to describe the setting where we drank this wine, but it was too dark to see sediment as it was poured, so some kind of screening was needed. Cheese cloth, I take it, is preferred?

Producer: Funchal?
Alcohol: 19%

I wish I could claim I have the knowledge to answer this, I was honestly just trying to express the possibility that such a wine might have been much more enjoyable as a clear, bright, unsedimented drink.

For example, we are just polishing off a1964 Carema which I stood up last October. It decanted clear and beautiful down to about 3 tablespoons of almost solid, red-chocolate-looking crud. In the past, I have tried stainless steel filters down to about 60 microns, which is pretty much the smallest screen through which the wine will actually flow (real winemaking filters are pressurized, obviously). Even at that fineness, the wines, while certainly better than unfiltered, poured cloudy, and I think did not realize their potential.

Funchal is a town. Perhaps Barbeito, Blandy’s, etc. Figure out the right steps to post the picture and I can tell you.

I’ve had several 1870 Malvasia (Malmsey). A well regarded vintage for Malvasia. If no producer name, then probably a grower. No initials? Some bottles have producer initials stenciled rather than labels. Funchal is the capital of the island. I don’t recommend coffee filters, usually a decant through cheese cloth. And I like long decant times. Days, even weeks sometimes. Madeira revels in air. The rule of thumb is a day of decant time for every decade in glass.

Coincidentally I am in Madeira as I write this and we have been shown some very ancient bottles at the Blandy’s Relais & Chateaux hotel above Funchal and at their building and tasting facility in the city itself.

However volatile acidity is primarily acetic acid [although some also include its ester, ethyl acetate] which is the significant chemical together with water in vinegar so perhaps ‘vinegar’ might have been a dominant aroma if there was an excess of volatile acidity [naturally present below threshold in Madeira] which also increases with age in Madeira - and this was really old.

Uh oh! I had better get to work. My 1875s must be on their death bed.

They’re probably no good anymore. Just mail them to me and I’ll check on them for you.

Such rich information! Thank you. Here’s my last try at attaching a photo.