During a recent stay with friends in the LA area and prior to going out for dinner at the fabulous Beverly Hills Spanish restaurant, Bazaar by Luis Andres, we were treated to a once in a lifetime tasting of 13 rare Madeira in the phenomenal candle lit cellar of our host.
Over the many years of being a wine geek, I`ve had a few Madeira usually one or 2 at a time. I`ve always enjoyed them and like that they are intentionally maderised as opposed to too many wines I`ve had that were not.
I passed on making notes and taking pictures to allow for the upmost privacy of the distinguished cellar we were in and to just enjoy the experience.
My writeup is stated in general terms and there probably are some errors of omission and commission.
My knowledge of higher quality Madeira is limited to some of the basics [even if I have these correct] such as knowing there are 4 levels of dry to sweetness, names of a few of the white grapes used, a few of the producers and that some are vintage specific as opposed to employing the solera system grouping vintages.
I`ve heard that if the label does not indicate the varietal, it could be a blend including Tinta Negra Mole, a red grape that is a cross between Pinot Noir and Garnacha. .
Beyond that, I have much to learn. This special opportunity served to add further enlightenment.
The tasting was done in order of driest to sweetest in the 4 categories of such.
We had Sercial from 1875 and 1937, Verdello from 1912, 1839 and 1840, Bual from 1907 and 1948, Malmsey from 1854, 1875 and 1895 and Malvasia of Terrantz from 1880, Bastardo from 1927 and Moscatel from 1875.
It was difficult to observe the names of most of the producers, but I believe they at least included Blandy, Henriques & Henriques, Cossart and Vinhos Babbeito.
The various taste profiles included nutty, caramel, smokey, raisin and roasted coffee.
I know some of these were vintage and many were of solera type.
As stated, I have much to learn about Madeira and probably have made some errors in this writeup; nonetheless, this was an unbelievable experience and one that I/we were deeply grateful for.
Please excuse typos and unintended auto-corrects