Discovering Madeira at the Big Fortified Tasting

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I’ve got my Unit 6 exam for the WSET Diploma coming up, and in terms of timing, it’s just tied in great with the Big Fortified Tasting. This was exactly what it sounds like, a big room, full of producers, looking to sell their wares to the on-trade (bars and restaurants). And a few lucky bloggers and wine students managed to sneak in too!

Now I’ve never drunk much Madeira before. It’s a fortified wine from the Portuguese Island of Madeira and more importantly, at least for me at the minute, it’s on the syllabus. I’d better get to grips with it!

I managed to find the lovely Pamela and Geoffrey Cole from Bovey Wines, who specialize in importing Madeira wines from the island over to the UK. Between them and my good mate Archie, they started me through it all.

So what have we got? 4 main “noble” grapes (Sercial, Bual, Malvasia, and Verdelho) and the work horse that is Tinta Negra. Smells of cinder toffee, caramel, and orange rind, and acidity til the cows came home. Why had I not tried this stuff before?

Well it’s not really very easy to sell at the minute. Wines from any of the 4 noble grapes cost a bit. The yields are low, and the production process is costly and lengthy. You’re not going to be able to stick one on the supermarket shelves for much change from £20.

But things might be changing. Tinta Negra is now ok to be called fully fledged Madeira, and although the production still costs, the yields are much higher, and prices should come down to the £12-£13 mark. A bit more entry level for us all to start loving the stuff.

It might be a bit late for me and my WSET course mates, but soon hopefully you can all get drinking this luscious liquid. Cristiano Ronaldo shouldn’t be the island’s most famous export!





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