Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Currently the 3rd largest producer on the island, and the only winery to own 11.5 hectares of vineyards (28.6 acres), Henriques & Henriques was founded in 1850 by Joao Joachim Henriques, but today is co-owned by CEO Humberto Jardim and partners from France. Paulo introduced Lupe and me to Humberto, who toured us through the winery and regaled us with fascinating tales of history and his long friendship with John Cossart, the very illustrious winemaker who passed away in 2008.
Innovative Barrel Program
Fascinating Quotes from Humberto
As the tour progressed, we became more enchanted with Humberto’s obvious love and pride for Madeira wines, his exceptional knowledge of the island and its history, and his poetic and charming eloquence when describing his wines. My favorite quote was: “We enslave the wine to all thing it doesn’t like, such as oxygen and heat, until finally it says, ‘I give up. I’m Madeira.’”
• Sercial is an excellent aperitif on a hot day, where its searing acidity can wash away fatigue. Generally 49 – 65 grams per liter residual sugar.
• Verdelho is bolder and makes a good pairing with fish. Generally 65 – 80 grams per liter residual sugar.
• Boal is like an English tea where you can have it with cakes and sandwiches. Generally 80 – 96 grams per liter residual sugar. We were also informed that Boal is known as “Malvasia Fino” in Portugal.
• Malvasia (they prefer not to use the British word “Malmsey”) is a perfect dessert on its own, but can also work magically with custards and creamy based desserts. Generally 96 – 120 grams per liter residual sugar.
A Tasting of More Than 20 Magical Madeiras
For the tasting, Humberto escorted us to the technical tasting room next to the lab, so we were able to watch some of the workers analyze the wine as we enjoyed more than twenty different Madeiras. He explained that the best Madeiras are like a perfectly balanced triangle of sugar, alcohol, and acidity. Nothing should stick out, but all three should work together in harmony.
My favorite wines of the tasting were as follows:
• 1998 H&H Single Harvest Tinta Negra Mole, Medium Rich with wonderful texture on the palate
• 1964 H&H Sercial – mind-blowing, with a classic nose of nuts, cheese, dried orange and refreshing acidity
• 15 Year Old H&H Verdelho – very well balanced, dried fruit & nuts
• 20 Year Old H&H Verdelho – honey notes with a finish that goes on forever
• 2000 Vintage H&H Boal – toffee, carmel, salt, yum!
H&H Wine Labels & Visitor Center
I was impressed with the memorable labels of Henriques & Henriques wines with their distinctive H&H symbol highlighted in a box, and color coded to match the different wine levels, such as generic (3 years of age), 5 year, 10 year and 15 year. Very easy for consumers to spot on a store shelf and easy to remember – however perhaps a tad tall for distributor’s tastes, I was told. Colheita and Vintage wines are wisely sold in the traditional dark Madeira bottle with the white stencil letters.
We were honored when at the end of the tour and tasting Humberto accompanied us to a wonderful 5-course lunch at Restaurant Vincente with local food and – of course – Madeira wines. (See prior posting)
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Barbeito produces around 170,000 liters of wine per year (around 19,000 cases), including a variety of third-party labels such as the famous Historic Series. Ricardo said they purchase all of their grapes from local farmers with an ideal brix of 17 (quite low!), but needed to achieve the fresh acidity for which Madeira is known.
Fermenting Madeira Grapes and Achieving Sugar Levels
* Extra dry (< 49 grams per liter of sugar) * Dry (49 – 65 g/l) – usually Sercial * Medium-Dry (65 – 80 g/l) – usually Verdelho * Medium-Sweet/Rich (80 – 96 g/l) – usually Boal * Sweet/Rich (> 96 g/l) – usually Malvasia between 100 -120
For the Tinta Negra Mole (making up 85% of the island’s production), Ricardo destems and crushes lightly, and then will often ferment in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks outfitted with robotic lagares – one of his innovations. Interestingly the ancient method of making Madeira was to trod by food (lagares) in the same method that port is made.
If needed for coloring or palate feel, carmel may be added after fermentation when the wine is fortified. However, it should be noted that the carmel is not for flavor, but more to achieve a desired color which consumers prefer.
Estufa and Canteiro Aging Methods
By law, generic Madeira (made with Tinta Negra Mole) must be aged a minimum of 3 years. For this less expensive type of wine, the estufa method is generally employed. Here the fermented wine is fortified with alcohol to 17.5 – 22%, and then placed in large stainless steel tanks with hot water circulating around the wine to heat it to 47 – 52 degrees Celsius for a minimum of 3 months. It is then aged in either tank or large wooden neutral barrels for an additional 2 years before it is blending and bottled for sale.
Ricardo pointed out the unique zinc-covered cement ceilings in his canterio aging room, as well as the large windows that he opens at night to cool the room. He explained this helps to slow down the sugar and allow the acidity to balance the wine. His viewpoint is that a room that is always hot is not as good for the wine, and that natural cooling at night is more similar to the ancient sea voyages that helped to create the original Madeira’s. Overall, he reported that his average evaporation rate is 3 to 8%, depending in which of his 5 aging facilities the wine is stored.
Blending and Fining
Ricardo and his staff taste through the wines in order to determine which ones will be labeled generic, 5, 10, or 15 years. For Colheito and Vintage wines, there are only declared in very good years. After the wine has aged according to the desired number of years for the label, it is blended. By law up to 15% of another grape varietal can be blended, so many of the wines labeled as noble grapes, e.g. Sercial, often have some Tinta Negra Mole added. This is because Tinta Negra is much easier to grow and provides good flavors. Ricardo said he currently has around 33 different blends.
Small Sercial & Verdelho Vineyard
Tasting of 15 Wines
We then tasted through a variety of vintage wines ranging from 1988, 1992, 1996, 1997, and 2001. My favorites of the tasting were the Barbeito 1992 Sercial, 2001 Malvasia, and a Barbeito 20-year-old Malvasia.