20 wines with an average age of 60 years each!
I’ve been a member of several serious, professional-level wine groups for >35 years. Over the decades, I’ve attended some “Holy Grail” tastings, including a fabulous one at the American Embassy in Paris, another rock-star event in London with the International Society of Wine Educators, and finally a “Cult Cabernet” tasting in San Francisco (the average price per bottle was $700, the highest $1,600….and that was >10 years). But, recently I had the privilege to organize a tasting in the Madeira Islands that just may top all of the others.
Wine-Knows took a group to Madeira last month. I knew it was going to be a serious tasting when a 7 page portfolio solely for tasting notes was placed at each table setting. Quickly leafing through the papers I simply couldn’t believe my eyes. Surely there had been a mistake. How was it possible that such a tasting could even be assembled?
I must applaud Oliveiras Wine Company for putting together this totally mind-boggling array of 20 wines, the oldest of which was the 1900 vintage (yes, 117 years old!). The wines were divided into 4 segments: dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet, and sweet.
For those who don’t know Madeira, let me say a few words. Madeira is in no way comparable to a table wine. Madeira’s oxidative process and long aging can result in a rainbow of colors that range from brilliant terracotta to deep mahogany. Madeira also offers a symphony of flavors including carmelized fruits, honey, a variety of nuts, coffee-toffee profiles, candied citrus, and even cigar box and leather nuances. These are serious wines for a serious wine lover.
In short, we tasted 20 wines---five of which were over 100 years old and ten of the wines were over 50 years in age. Most everyone was surprised at how well they liked the sweeter Madeiras----which didn’t appear sweet due their great balance with the wine’s acidity. From my point of view, the stars of the show were the following (listed in order of age):
- 1932 Verdelho
- 1908 Boal
- 1907 Malvazia
- 1900 Moscatel