Madeira Wine Tours and Tasting at Blandys

Beside Christiano Ronaldo and loads of pretty flowers, Madeira is also known for its special wine. What is so special about the Madeira wine you may ask, well if you don’t know, I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait a bit to find out. Everything in due time little padawan! Let’s start from the beginning. T has developed a taste for good wine the last couple years so wherever we go, I try to find a local variety of wine to try, and to learn more about. So, during our visit to Madeira, much like we did in Lanzarote, Madeira wine tours were a must on the menu.

After careful research, I came across Blandy’s, a 200 years-old Madeira wine company in the heart of Funchal. To date, we were used to the typical vineyard in the countryside, surrounded by vines and wine-producing paraphernalia. Not at Blandy’s. This family-owned wine company, founded in 1811 by the Briton John Blandy, is located in an old Wine Lodge acquired in the mid 18th century by the family. Inside this majestic building you can find and taste wines dating back to the 1920s, as well as other rare wines, and if you take one of the Madeira wine tours offered, you can also visit the museum and the different wine ageing rooms.

Madeira Wine Tours and Tasting at Blandys | Wanderwings

Wait, what?! Wine ageing rooms? What are you talking about? No, no, I didn’t go crazy, I promise. It’s all part of the reason why Madeira wine is slightly different from your traditional wine. The Madeira wine has a long and windy (yes!) story, dating back to the discovery period (15th and 16th Centuries). During this time ships would stop in Madeira to collect supplies for their trips, including water and wine barrels. Story tells, that one of those ships returned on its way back from India with part of the wine barrels picked up on the way out. The owner of the wine then realised that the quality and character of the wine had improved considerably thanks to the tropical temperatures. Thus started the trend of sending wine barrels on a trip around the world. With the years it got more expensive and wine producers started using the Canteiro method for their wines. Which consists on ageing the wines in seasoned oak casks for at least 4 years in warm attics, where the wine is stored and exposed to the natural warmth of the sun. A few years later, the wines will be slowly moved down to cooler rooms until eventually reaching the ground floor in order to finish the ageing process. None of the casks is ever 100% full, thus allowing the wines to breath and oxidize resulting in richer stronger character.

Madeira Wine Tours and Tasting at Blandys | WanderwingsMadeira Wine Tours and Tasting at Blandys | Wanderwings Madeira Wine Tours and Tasting at Blandys | Wanderwings Madeira Wine Tours and Tasting at Blandys | Wanderwings Madeira Wine Tours and Tasting at Blandys | Wanderwings Madeira Wine Tours and Tasting at Blandys | Wanderwings

But hey, that’s not all, Madeira wine is also a Fortified wine, or what’s the same, a wine to which strong grape liquor is added once enough of the grape sugar is transformed into alcohol. Depending on the grape it’ll take between 24 hours and 7 days to happen.

According to Blandy’s website and the information we were given during the Madeira walking tours we did, all this results on two main types of Madeira wines:

Blended Wines
Blended wines have an average age of the blend which is made from wine of various harvests. The allowed categories are 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 and over 40 years.

Dated wines
The Madeira dated wines are of distinctive quality, produced from a single year and single grape variety.
These wines are identified at harvest time, based on the exceptional potential quality of the fruit, and placed into the company’s vintage specific ageing program, in seasoned American oak casks, which are placed in the warehouses of the Blandy’s Wine Lodges. The Lodges, once part of a 17th century Franciscan Monastery, are a key part of the process, with thick volcanic stone walls and wooden floors, and close to the ocean, they provide a unique micro climate within which our premium wines are aged.

Then there are 2 categories, “Colheita” and “Vintages”.
Colheita wine matures in cask between 5 to 18 years, due to its qualities gives a hint of the characteristic and complexity of a young Vintage.
Vintage wine ages for a minimum of 20 years in cask before bottling.

Madeira Wine Tours and Tasting at Blandys | Wanderwings Madeira Wine Tours and Tasting at Blandys | Wanderwings

 Oh and lets not forget that these wines will last you forever if you take good care of them. If left unopened, they will either improve with the years (Vintage wines of 15+ years) or maintain its taste perfectly (all other younger varieties). So it’s the perfect wine for special occasions. Well definitely so as it can be quite pricey!
Anyhow, if you want to learn more about this unique sort of wine, you can book one of the multiple Madeira wine tours, tastings and experiences at Blandy’s Lodge. They do have them in multiple languages and price ranges. More info about the Madeira wine tours they offer can be found on their website.
Blandys, Madeira Wine Tours | Food and Drinks to Try in Madeira (Portugal) | WanderwingsMadeira Wine Tours and Tasting at Blandys | Wanderwings

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