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What I Learned About Madeira

During a Zoom tasting of four Madeiras with Chris Blandy of Blandy’s Madeira Lodge in Funchal he said

  • France takes the majority of Madeira exports - they use it in cooking (!)
  • Madeira should not be stored on its side as its high acidity will destroy the cork
  • Vineyards are small and mostly family owned and farmed, and the farmers children don’t want to take over. Chris is worried about the future supply of grapes
  • For such a well known wine, there’s not many hectares of vineyards and thus not much Madeira is produced.



He was slightly cagey about it, but it seems you should avoid anything under 5 years old because they are still using the inferior grape, tinta negra, for that; the traditional names may sound like grapes to you (perhaps because they are), but for the cheaper ones, the names indicate style not content. And interesting that they are reviving terrantez: this used to be only available rarely or in very old wines.


Blandy’s Rich Duke of Clarence Madeira is made from Tinta Negra…

Ref Terrantez…

Blandy’s Terrantez, 20 years old 50cl - Bestsellers - Popular - Offers - The Wine Society

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Don’t write off Tinta Negra Mole, I think Henriques do a posh aged version these days. But the general principle that sub 10 year old madeiras are pants is true, but I think this has more to do with the shortness of ageing rather than the variety. My opine only.


Makes great steak sauces!! :tophat: :coat: :running_man: :taxi:

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Well this is good to know, given I have a 1980 Bual on the side… must correct ASAP!!


What other drinks need the same treatment?!

There was a stash of Madeira found somewhere in the Southern states in America (bricked in behind a wall ISTR). Some of the bottles had no cork on at all, and were considered none-the-worse for it. They had been there in excess of a century - so I probably wouldn’t worry too much :smiley:


It’s already oxidised, so keeping a cork is about stopping it spilling and other things getting in. I’d guess if it’s in a room where other stuff can’t get in and people can’t knock it over no cork would be fine.

It’ll have spoiled, you’re better off just give it to me :thinking:


Some people say the same of Champagne. Blandy’s are the only people I have heard say it for Madeira, and I really doubt how important vertical vs horizontal is for any wine, other than horizontal being a lot more practical if you have a lot of bottles.

In any case, Madeira is not designed for long-term bottle aging. It is aged in cask, and bottled when ready to drink. Of course you CAN age it in bottle, and many would keep a bottle for a few years, but keeping it for decades in-bottle is to miss the point.


I do wonder if what he’s saying is “my kids don’t want to take over the Blandy’s empire, and we’ve bought most of the major producers”.

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I’m not sure what your point is about the kids, but Blandy’s are indeed a massive player in the Madeira world, and as such their opinions must count for something. Of course, it is also fair to say that just because I have not heard other shippers say it does not mean that they disagree.

I’ve read something recently about this; questions have risen whether the belief that corks will shrink without being kept wet by wine is a myth, and whether contact with wine rots the cork.

I understand some research is being done, but of necessity it will take time to get answers.

But we already know that keeping wine upright for 5 years is proven OK.

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I’m not sure Madeira without a cork would work. It might not become undrinkable as most wine would but Madeira does change in a decanter. The old ones need at least a week in a decanter to show their best and while the will keep for months in a decanter eventually they start to lose their definition.


I’ve never kept Madeira in a decanter, so I can’t comment on that, but from my limited experience of older Madeiras, they were fine from a recently opened bottle and, when kept in a re-corked bottle at room temp, were fine after several months. By “older”, I mean 1950s and a few decades later

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Short answer: any wine that doesn’t have a cork requiring a corkscrew to remove it.

Madeira and many sherries have a T-cork

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The garrafeira (old vintage) Madeiras have normal wine corks fully inserted into the necks, usually at least. And when I was told at Blandy’s to store Madeira bottles vertically, that was definitely the context - we were in the posh tasting room and the speaker was pointing at a shelf of garrafeira bottles, all standing up.

(I do realise that is not inconsistent with T-cork bottles being designed to stand upright, as you wrote)

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Just a note that I have just (re?)discovered that, despite the shippers’ preference, some collectors do cellar bottles for many decades

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‘A Madeira party’ by Silas Weir Mitchell* has that lovely quote about Madeira was never meant to be retailed in a bottle but improved most in ‘it’s own society’ (ie in a barrel or demijohn) ‘as greatness is apt to do’ and this would seem to be the case still as fresh bottling from cask tend to attract the best scores. But seeing as buying almost any Madeira in a five gallon demijohn is a bit out of my price range I will have to content myself with a bottle.

*Mr Mitchell was not a lovely man, a proponent of the rest cure for women. It was a course of his treatment which inspired ‘The yellow wallpaper’ a creepy story of the disintegration of a person by Charlotte Perkins Gillian. I digress.


I think bottles which have been kept a long time do taste quite ‘stiff’ to me, they often benefit from a long decant, by which I mean more than a week.

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