Wine Professional 2011: Madeira, Vinhos Barbeita

When I saw that Horizon Wines was hosting a master class on Madeira, Vinhos Barbeito at Wine Professional, I knew I couldn’t miss it. This was for me the highlight of the three-day long wine exhibition, the largest in the Netherlands.

Madeira is a tiny gem on the world wine map, producing a range of fascinating wines, some of which can last a couple centuries. But strangely it has been in a period of decline since the mid-19th century, when the island was hit by the powdery mildew and phylloxera plagues. Vintners chose to replant with inferior American grape varieties, then lost major markets in Russia and America to a revolution and prohibition. Eventually, the public perception of Madeira was downgraded to a cooking wine, and to some extent that misconception still exists today.

The future of Madeira became a bit brighter in the late twentieth century, when producers began replacing hybrid and American vines with the noble varieties Sercial, Verdelho, Boal and Malvasia (listed from dry to sweet). The red-skinned Tinta Negra Mole remains the workhorse of Madeira, but Ricardo Diogo Freitas, the owner and winemaker of Barbeito, showed that it is also capable of producing worthy wines. more>>

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