This months Wine Blogging Wednesday is hosted by our good friend Joe at 1winedude. He chose the sweet topic of “baked goods” or wines that have been Maderized. Wines of this nature are ones that have been purposefully oxidized and “cooked” in hot houses after fortification with the result being a dessert style wine filled with nutty, caramelized aromas and flavors.
For my “baked” wine I chose the Blandy’s 5 year Bual Madeira. Bual is one of the 4 grapes typically used for Madeira wines, the other 3 being Sercial, Verdlho and Malmsey. Blandy is the “only family of all the original founders of the Madeira wine trade to still own and manage their own original wine company; nearly 2 centuries of fine wine production.” The story of Madeira is similar to the story of Viagra, they started out with one thing and ended up with another. Wines from Madeira are named for the Portuguese island they are made on, 400 miles from the African coast. As the story goes, Madeira was an important stop for sailing vessels headed to the Far East and to the Americas. In order to insure that wine being transported from the islands was not spoiled and to prevent re-fermentation, it was fortified with Brandy or grape spirits. Over the long sea journey, the combined tropical heat of the Caribbean and the slow rocking motion of the boats transformed the wine into a whole new product when sailors reached their final port.
Today, the process is done more scientifically either through heated water coils that are submerged in the wine, aging the casks in heated warehouses and the third and longest method being placing casks in non-temperature controlled facilities letting mother nature take her natural course. Madeira has 6 quality levels, Granel or bulk, Finest, Reserve, Special Reserve, Extra Reserve and Vintage, with the main distinction being years of cask aging.
Technical Specs on the Blandy 5 Year Bual Madeira ($23)
Various quality vineyards at Campanário and
Calheta at altitudes of between 100 and 300m.
Blandy’s 5 year old Bual underwent
fermentation off the skins with natural yeast at
temperatures between 18°C – 21°C in
temperature controlled stainless steel tanks.
After approximately 3 days, fortification with
grape brandy takes place, arresting
fermentation at the desired degree of
Blandy’s 5 year old Bual was aged in American
oak casks in the traditional ‘Canteiro’ system.
This comprises of the gentle heating of the
wine in the lofts of the lodges in Funchal. Over
the years the wine is transferred from the top
floors to the middle floors and eventually to the
ground floor where it is cooler. After this
gradual ‘estufagem’ the wine underwent racking
and fining before the blend was assembled and
Alcohol: 19% ABV pH: 3.4 Residual Sugar:
100 g/l Total Acidity: 6.3 g/l tartaric acid
Nose – golden raisin, prune, caramel, almond
Taste – raisin, hazelnut, burnt toast (very recognizable)
Mouthfeel – fairly viscous but not syrupy
Finish – long, smooth not hot, lots of nutty flavors lingered
The wine was really nice but it is hard to be too critical of a deliciously sweet wine. As Gary Vaynerchuk always says, “Americans are suckers for sugar.” There is a fine balance though between being so sweet that and syrupy and having a rich and smooth mouthfeel. The 19% was barely noticeable surprisingly enough, although if I had more than one glass, I would physically start to notice it. Pairings for this would be similar to ones for a vintage port. Maybe a savory cheesecake, aged blue cheese or dried figs would go great with this Madeira.