At the Portuguese wine day in Stockholm about a month ago, a single Madeira producer was present, namely Vinhos Barbeito. This is a high-class producer, and their wines are elegant i style as well as slightly lower in sweetness than other Madeira wines of the same category. This together with the high acidity gives them a nice freshness.
Unfortunately all sweet wines and fortified wines in general seem to be underrated wine types, which is a shame since they can offer marvelous aromas. Among wine geeks of “broad interest”, Madeira is primarily known for really old wines, often the oldest (still drinkable) wines that can be found. Unfortunately, this seems to have led to some of the younger versions dropping behind the radar of many wine-interested people. This is is shame since there is a lot of interesting Madeira that is not ancient Frasqueira, i.e., the classiscal vintage Madeira. Give the younger wines a try as well!
Barbeito Delvino Reserva Dry 5 Years Old
Grape varieties 80% Tinta Negra and 20% Sercial; residual sweetness approx. 45 g/l.
Nose with apricot, some caramel, some spice notes, honey, and some flowery notes. The palate is somewhat in the off-dry direction with good concentration, high acidity and therefore a lot of freshness, also caramel. 90 p
Note that “Dry” in connection with Madeira means something else than for other wines, i.e., more in the off-dry direction. Due to the quite high acidity typically shown by a Madeira, the perceived sweetness can be lower than the analytical value of the residual sweetness, and they can come across as “just barely off-dry”.
Barbeito Rainwater Madeira Reserva Medium Dry 5 Years Old
Grape varieties Tinta Negra and Verdelho.
Nose with caramel, some nuts (walnuts), some spice notes, and dried fruit. The palate is off-dry with dried fruit, some tropical fruit, spice notes, and good acidity. 88 p
Rainwater is supposed to be a lighter style of Madeira with e.g. a bit lower alcohol than the other versions. This doesn’t mean that any power is lacking in Barbeito’s version, which is shown by this wine also being poured in another corner of this wine fair, where Portuguese wine and food pairings where shown. In this case, it was dark chocolate with almond, and it worked excellent.
Barbeito Boal Reserva Velha 10 Years Old
Classified “medium sweet”.
Nose with nuts – walnuts and hazelnuts, caramel, dried fruit, a hint of honey, and discrete flowery notes. The palate is semi-sweet with a fresh bite from the acidity and powerful concentration, dried fruit, some spices notes, high acidity, and slight fiery notes. Good balance, more marked acidity than the 10 Year Old Malvasia, 92 p.
Barbeito Malvasia Reserva Velha 10 Years Old
Residual sweetness 106 g/l, classified “sweet”.
Nose with walnuts, some nut “peel”, dried fruit, caramel, spicy honey, and slightly flowery notes. The palate is sweet with powerful concentration, dried fruit, honey, spice notes, and an aftertaste with nuts, fruits and sweetness. 92 p
Barbeito Verdelho 1992 Frasqueira
Bottled in 2013
Nose with caramel, nuts, dried fruit, honey, some smoke, and a bit of flowery notes. A bit more weight and complexity in the nose than the 10 year olds. Off-dry to semi-sweet on the palate, powerful concentration, high acidity, and spice notes. 92 p.
Frasqueira is the classical type of vintage Madeira that must be over 20 years old when they are bottles, i.e., earliest the 21st year after harest. It is not uncommon for them to be bottled decades later than that.
Barbeito Malvasia 20 Years Old Ribeiro Real
85% Malvasia as well as 15% Tinta Negra from 1952, 1953, and 1954; residual sweetness 100 g/l
Nose with prominent spice notes, nuts (in particular walnuts), smoke notes, some dried fruit and classical notes of maturity. The palate is semi-sweet with noticeable spice, high acidity (quite a good acidity that provides freshness), nuts and dried fruit. 93 p.
Here, Barbeito has found a creative way to use the regulations to produce good and interesting wines. If one grape variety is indicated on the label, there must be at least 85% of that grape variety in the wine, according to common EU rules. In this case, the other 15% are used to “pimp” this wine with over 60 years old Tinta Negra wine, providing notes of maturity beyond what’s usually found in 20 year olds, together with the Malvasia character. Madeiras from this grape variety have so far not been allowed to be sold under their own varietal wines (but this will change this year).
Anyone interested in Madeira would be wise to check out Niklas Jörgensen’s blog Mad about Madeira. Niklas also lives in Stockholm, and during parts of the Portuguese wine day he took up station at the table of Barbeito and their Swedish importer Vinopia and helped out presenting and pouring the wines, with a great deal of enthusiasm.