Tasting Madeira wine at Blandy’s
Before I arrived in Madeira, the main thing I knew about this beautiful island was the name ‘Madeira wine’. Before the onset of tourism, this fortified wine was one of two major exports from the island, alongside the local rum which is formed from sugar canes grown on the slopes of the volcanic mountains.
So, in an attempt to get some culture, and a few holiday drinks, S and I headed over to the Blandy’s Wine Lodge in the heart of Funchal to find out about Madeiran wine four ourselves.
The lodge is located off one of the main roads in the middle of the city. The street-front store draws shoppers in, but the real discoveries are up the alley beside it. Walking past boards explaining the major types of Madeira wine, you head up into a courtyard which is the epicentre of the lodge itself. Here, you have two choices: take the tour or go tasting.
We were there to try the product, so we skipped the guided walkaround and headed off to the left to the dedicated tasting bar. An old store room has been converted into an enchanting tasting space, with small tables fashioned from old barrels, where groups can perch and taste at their leisure.
There are bigger tables for larger groups and one end of the room offers long trestle tables for tutored tastings and pairings.
However, if you are in a DIY mood, as we were, you can simply head up to the bar and choose your tasting set. We took the advice of the lady behind the bar who directed us to the 10 Year Old tasting set. This included a 10 Year Old version of the Sercial (Dry), Verdelho (Medium Dry), Bual (Medium Sweet) and Malmsey (Sweet) varieties. After that, she advised, we would then choose a favourite style and try different age expressions. Who were we to argue?
After a very dedicated tasting session, we settled on the Verdelho; it had more body and flavour than the Sercial, which was very easy to drink, but we thought a full set of the sweeter varieties might be heavier than we wanted.
So it was back to the bar to get a Medium Sweet tasting set – and some chocolates to accompany them. From this set, S picked the Rainwater as her favourite, while I was torn between the 10 Year Old and the 2008 variety.
Finally, having watched many parties come and go while we sat, tasted, chatted and relaxed, we strolled back out into the afternoon, satisfied that we had got a true taste of Madeira.