“Historic & Legendary” (Madeira and Port Ringers from Wine Future 2023 in Portugal)

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Ridiculous awesomeness at Wine Future 2023

If, like me, you’re a fan of fortified wines, then the Wine Future 2023 conference held in Coimbra, Portugal saved its best for last. The final guided tasting event at the conference, helmed by Portuguese fortified wine expert Richard Mayson, was titled “Historic and Legendary Madeira and Porto” and, considering my history with both, the only way I was going to miss this one was if I’d died (I didn’t) from fandom bliss after having met Bruce Dickinson earlier during the conference. [ Note: this the third and final installment on the tastings from WF 2023, so if you missed them go check out part one and part two ].

Anyway, this lineup included some of the best fortified wines that I have ever tasted, so fans of the stickies are NOT going to want to ignore these tasting notes. Have a seat and strap yourselves in, people; this ride is wild…


1999 Justino’s Frasqueira Verdelho Vintage, Madeira, $490

First, major kudos to the organizers for jumping in first thing with a Verdelho, the oft-overlooked Madeira category. This one is glorious: nutty, with fantastic acidity, great length, and almost overwhelming amounts of dried fig, Christmas spices, burnt sugar, brandy, dry sherry, dried herbs, and toasted caramel. It was an epic kick-off, and things got even better from there.


1995 Barbeito Frasqueira Verdelho, Madeira, $NA

Sourced from vines planted on the northern side of the island of Madeira, there’s plenty of sea-like salty freshness here to accompany the white fig, herbal spices, leafy greens, nori, and nuts. It’s a lighter style, but not lacking for richness or substance, or steely acidity. It’s in a wonderful drinking window, and is a fantastic showing of the complexity of the variety.


Blandy’s 30 Year Old Bual, Madeira, $NA

You’d better really be into toasted nuts to tap into this one. If you are, then few Madeira’s would suit you better than this. Saline, dark caramel, baking spice, sultana, and dried apricot aromas all make appearances, followed by a wonderful palate richness with flavors of rum raisin and figs. Powerful, long, and expertly crafted… but again, the toasted nut action makes its presence known forcefully, and frequently!


2001 Henriques & Henriques Single Harvest Malvasia, Madeira, $NA

This Malvasia also hits heavy with the nuts (this time crushed walnut shell), and on the caramel. Supple, sultry, and seductive, you’ll find resin, raisin, and plum compote in abundance. There is probably no dessert on Earth heavy enough to topple this finger-licking delight.

crowd pleaser

D’Oliveiras Tinta Negra 20 Year Old Doce – Sweet Madeira, Portugal, $NA

This is a premium take on what is usually considered the lower-end, working horse grape variety of the island. Roasted nuts, dark dried fruits, Christmas cake, caramel syrup, and toast all dance around in smooth harmony in this sweet, savory, upscale, but affable expression.


1968 Niepoort Colheita White Port, Portugal, $840

Well… uhm… HOLY SH*T. A white port from when Mrs. Robinson was on the charts… Green herbs, white figs, rancio hints, and almond-like nuttiness… this was a truly unique treat even for those well familiarized with older Port wines. A little hot, quite on the dry side, and not as complex as most red vintage Ports, it was still a fascinating sipper, and a wonderful rarity.


2000 Ramos Pinto Vintage Port, Portugal, $NA

A blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Barroca, two-plus dacades has barely scratched this spicy, savory, muscular, rich, and broad-shouldered Port. Spiced blueberry and blackberry compote, including dried and fresh fruits, minerals, and tobacco all make for a complex nose. In the mouth, you’re still getting a sh*t-ton of structure. Incredibly, this is only just starting to come around, and will seemingly live forever…


Quinta do Vallado 20 Year Old Tawny Port, Portugal, $90

Long and smooth are the names of the game with this Tawny. With all of the baking spice and dried fruit action on the nose, you’d expect a sweeter, sultry palate, and that’s what you get. BUT… Swirling amongst all of the sugar, nuttiness, caramel, and toast is a surprising freshness that lifts every sip of this excellent 20-year ambassador.


2001 C. da Silva Dalva Colheita Tawny Port, Portugal, $55

This commemorative edition vintage Tawny is dark. And I mean, dark. A touch of rancio kicks of the nose, then you get dried red fruits, raisin, and beautiful baking spices. Again, the freshness in the mouth comes as a bit of a pleasant surprise, countering the balsamic concentration and waxy richness. Daaaaaaamn, this one is just a powerhouse.


1978 Kopke Colheita Port, Portugal, $175

Figgy, savory, nutty, toasty, and refined, this was a ringer in the lineup and the audience was practically silent when we were tasting it. The nose has so much going on, and that’s just talking about the spice component. Even some graphite started showing up. Wines don’t get much sexier than this one; Deep richness, lovely freshness, intense spiciness, great balance, all in one package. It’s the real deal.


1976 Quevedo Colheita Port, Portugal, $NA

From a birth year of one of the Quevedo family children, this Port has a beautiful nose that’s almost reminiscent of a Fino Sherry, mingling with spices and dried figs, saline, and minerals, all showing fantastic purity. I loved the poise and power, with the savory notes taking on ridiculous length on the finish.


Sandeman 50 Year Old Tawny Porto, Portugal, $450

While 50 is the average age of the wines in this blend, mix contains stock that ranges from 40 to 70 years old. Muscular, pure, long, nutty, concentrated, and focused, you could spend days detailing the complexity on this. Salty sea air, toasted nuts, caramel, sultanas… It feels wonderfully complete, and it seems as though with this entry into the 50 year TP fray, Sandeman is flexing its muscles and showcasing itself as a leader in the category.


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