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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.
A steep, volcanic island in the Atlantic Ocean that rises to over 6,000 feet at its highest point, Madeira actually sits closer to Morocco than Portugal, the country to which it belongs.
Today the vineyards of the island cover tiny step-like terraces called poios, carved from the basalt bedrock. Aptly named Madeira, this fortified wine comes in two main styles. Blended Madeira is mostly inexpensive wine but there are a few remarkable aged styles. Single varietal Madeira (made from Sercial, Verdelho, Boal or Malmsey), is usually the highest quality and has the potential to improve in the bottle for decades.