Saturday, January 26, 2013

Verdelho dinner, 17th Jan 2013

A week ago last Thursday, it was off to the Savile Club for this year's Madeira dinner hosted by G. This year's theme was Verdelho and there were 12 examples on show, 8 tasted en aperitif and 4 with dinner. I was lucky enough to participate in the "pre-tasting" to determine the running order, so got my photos in early.

1. ABSL (Artur Barros e Sousa) Verdelho, 1983.

A good one to open the show with. It was a nice amber colour and was a lighter style of Verdelho. I thought it was medium-sweet and detected caramel and citrus but then G said apricot which was spot on. Very nice, with great length, and we gave it 4 stars out of a possible 5. At the tasting, T dismissively referred to soap and turpentine but we'll forgive this as he'd been indulging a Terrantez habit and clearly his palate needed to be recalibrated. Indeed, this wine did grow on him.

2. Blandy's Verdelho, 1968.

This was a relatively recent (2009) bottling so had spent 41 years in cask. It was noticeably darker than the first wine, and there was a lot of sediment. At the pre-tasting, there was something not quite right on the nose, which was probably bottle-sickness - by the main tasting whatever it was seemed to have gone. It was very rich on the palate and had an immediate appeal (I might have mistaken it for a Malmsey) but quite a short finish. 3 stars.

3. Mario Eugenio Fernandes, "More [than] 40 Years of Age" Verdelho

Check out the hideous label! And on this occasion, the Inverse Law of Labels did apply. G somehow knew that this had been bottled in 2002 and was unofficially from the 1950 vintage, which (going into beancounter mode) means that it had 52 years in cask and just over 10 years in bottle. Amber in colour again, at the pre-tasting I got turps and/or paintstripper on the nose, but again this had receded by the main tasting. It had a lovely mouthfeel with a lot of glycerin, and nuts and sultanas on the palate. It was quite dry, but all in all tres Verdelho and with a finish that went on for ages. I note that T liked it very much and apparently guzzled some more at the end when no-one was looking! We gave it 4 stars.

4. Joao Marcello Gomes Verdelho Imperial

For some reason I appear to have failed to take a photo of this bottle, which is a shame as it would have served as a useful aide-memoire to avoid this wine in future. At the pre-tasting, G was behaving slightly strangely as he poured tiny quantities of this one and clearly knew something I didn't, which served as a warning signal. Sure enough, "It's our old friend, the alcoholic vomit!" he beamed as I put my nose in the glass only to take it out again very quickly. Nevertheless, in the interests of research, we did actually go on to taste it and it didn't taste as bad as it smelled, but I observed that it had "unravelled". At the main tasting T disputed this, saying that it implied that it had ever been together in the first place. Fair enough. Mine went straight in the bucket. Needless to say, nul points.

5. Power's Ponta do Sol Meio Seco

One advantage of helping out at the pre-tasting is that you get a good look at the bottles and this one was a particularly pleasing two-part moulded bottle with lovely slightly bulbous neck and shoulders. Apparently this firm stopped making wine around 1952 so G's best guess was that this was probably pre-war and a blend of late 19th and early 20th century wines. Again, it was a little bit bottle-sick - interesting how many of them were, given that G had opened them at least a week earlier - and at the main tasting it still had that heady, volatile acidity thing going on. I found it quite creamy with nuts and sultanas, and enjoyable but not quite as good as, say, 3, so it only got 3 stars from us. At the main tasting, T opined that it had a rum base, and as soon as he said that, I could see it too - hence the rum and raisin thing.

6. Leacocks Velho Verdelho

G picked up industrial quantities of this wine at the Leacock's sale a couple of years ago and we've had to agree to disagree about it. For me, the bottle is the best thing about it, a fascinating shape. On the palate I find it bitter and grapefruity, not in a good way. T alluded to floor polish, and Baron McG mentioned gas, at which point T realised that it reminded him of "old fashioned town gas" which I'm not old enough to remember. I'm happy for G that he likes it, though! The notes indicate that we gave it 2 stars, but I think that was quite generous, or perhaps it was an average of 3 (his opinion) and 1 (mine).

7. Barbeito 1918 Verdelho

This was a relatively dark brown colour and a bit murky which is a technical term for sediment. Unfortunately it was another bad 'un. Comparisons to a "Pullman car loo" were made only for this to be replaced with second class London Midland as a more apt comparison. Sadly it had to go in the bucket, although at least one person at the main tasting said he was enjoying it! It takes all sorts. Nul points.

8. Henriques & Henriques Verdelho Solera 1898

This was the last wine served at the tasting before dinner. Again it was quite dark in colour, and a bit bottle-sick at the pre-tasting. On the palate I found it very sweet with elements of creme caramel and nuttiness. The general opinion was that it had an old cognac base. G's father said Henriques & Henriques were always reliable and this was indeed proved to be the case. We gave it 4 stars.

Then it was on to the dinner, which was a chicken consomme, steak pudding (served with 2003 Chateau Musar), poached pears and cheese. I should mention at this point that as always the food and service provided by the Savile were exemplary.

9. Blandy's Verdelho Solera 1880

This was a clear mahogany in colour. I seem to have written some rude words in my notes indicating pleasure. It was a lighter style of Verdelho but absolutely textbook, and the finish went on forever. Complex and coherent, an excellent example of the genre. G has written "dried unsulphured apricots, poached quince and hazelnuts" which I don't remember us discussing but all sounds very impressive. 5 stars.

10. Rutherford and Miles Verdelho Solera 1870

Not that you would know it from the label, which had disintegrated in G's cellar! Again, a clear mahogany colour and an enticing nutty nose. On the palate it was quite sweet but not too sweet - G mentioned fruit cake but I didn't think it was that sweet. My notes say "perfectly balanced, not over the top,well-defined, precise." I'm now going to contradict myself because we had it with the consomme, and while I still loved it, perhaps it was a bit too sweet to work with that. Some thought it a little "blowsy" compared with no.9. Nothing wrong with that. 5 stars.

11. D'Oliveiras Verdelho, 1905

A wine from "Dollies" as apparently they are known in some quarters. This bottle had a Junta Nacional do Vinhos (JNV) seal indicating that it was bottled before 1980. It was dark brown in colour - "old oak, not mahogany" said G, and a gravy-like nose. It was quite rich and sweet in style with toffee and burnt sugar, and the most fabulous finish. It warmed the cockles and was absolutely lovely. 5 stars.

12. Leacock Verdelho, Very Old

And finally, the 12th wine of the night was this "very old" Leacock's, which G said was a solera of 19th century wine including some very old stuff. It was an absolutely beautiful clear dark brown colour. The nose was deep, rich and intense and G detected prunes. This was congruent with the palate and we thought it had a rum base as I could almost taste dark rum in it. Really lovely - another stunner to end with. 5 stars.

Muitíssimo obrigada to G for the time, effort and expense he put into collecting such a great range of fascinating wines for us to drink and compare. As always, there were highs and lows, but to get to drink four 5 star wines of such age and quality was a privilege. Bring on 2014!

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