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John Blandy first set foot on Madeira in 1807. In 1989, the Symington family became partners with the Blandy family and is helping to reinvigorate the Madeira trade. Grapes are grown in volcanic soil and hand harvested due to steeply terraced cliffs. The resulting wines are highly acidic and were found by historical accident to benefit from being heated - a process that would destroy any other wine. Originally, Madeiras were heated by the sun, stored in casks on the decks of boats exploring the world during the 18th century. Today, Madeiras are heated in a process called “estufagem,” which gives them great concentration and an incredible capacity to age while retaining some of the vibrant acidity unique to these wines.
The Blandy family is unique in being the only family of all the original founders of the Madeira wine trade to still own and manage their own original wine company. Throughout its long history on the island, the family has played a leading role in the development of Madeira wine throughout its long history. Members of the family continues to live on Madeira, maintaining a tradition that goes back to 1811; 2 centuries of fine wine production.
Best known for intense, impressive and age-worthy fortified wines, Portugal relies almost exclusively on its many indigenous grape varieties. Bordering Spain to its north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean on its west and south coasts, this is a land where tradition reigns supreme, due to its relative geographical and, for much of the 20th century, political isolation. A long and narrow but small country, Portugal claims considerable diversity in climate and wine styles, with milder weather in the north and significantly more rainfall near the coast.
While Port (named after its city of Oporto on the Atlantic Coast at the end of the Douro Valley), made Portugal famous, Portugal is also an excellent source of dry red and white Portuguese wines of various styles.
The Douro Valley produces full-bodied and concentrated dry red Portuguese wines made from the same set of grape varieties used for Port, which include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão, among a long list of others in minor proportions.
Other dry Portuguese wines include the tart, slightly effervescent Vinho Verde white wine, made in the north, and the bright, elegant reds and whites of the Dão as well as the bold, and fruit-driven reds and whites of the southern, Alentejo.
The nation’s other important fortified wine, Madeira, is produced on the eponymous island off the North African coast.