Welcome to this opening chapter of MWH Wine’s guide to the finest Madeira wine shippers.  In this series of blogs, we’ll look at the best wines from this tropical volcanic island and try to decide which is the best shipper and why?  Like vintage Port, to the uninitiated Madeira’s wines can seem to be pretty much the same irrespective of who has produced them.  But, as we’ll see, there is significant variation in styles from those who bowl one over with their power to those who take a subtler approach.

The MWH Wine team have been lovers of Madeira since we joined the wine trade and, in that time, we’ve come to appreciate the brilliance and the beauty of this unique wines.  We’ve tasted everything from bone dry, lip puckering cask samples of vintage Sercial through to the caramelised grapefruit and coffee liqueur tones of 1898 Malmsey and pretty much everything in between.

Such a breadth of tasting experience, coupled with more than a little research into these fascinating fortified fine wines, has left us well-placed to demystify these misunderstood fine wines.  This latest series of tastings has reinforced our belief that Madeira is one of the greatest wines in the world.

We hope you will find this blog of interest, but if you would like to know more or would like some help finding the right Madeira for you, then please get in touch.  You can call Mike on 0118 984 4654 or email MWH Wines here.  A recognised authority on these wines, he’ll be happy to advise you on which wine is right for you.

So, let’s take a look at our first contender to the Madeira wine throne, D’Oliveiras.

D’Oliveiras: Fine Wines Since 1850

D’Oliveiras is one of the greatest of the classic Madeira shippers. While it was officially founded in 1850, its roots actually date back to 1820.  Though now owned by the Madeira Wine Company, D’Oliveiras remains a family run concern.  Luis and Filipe D’Oliveira, are the fifth-generation descendants of founder Joao Pereira D’Oliveira who founded the company. This unbroken line of succession has helped ensure that the Joao Pereira’s founding values of excellence and respect for tradition have been maintained.  

By virtue of marriage and acquisitions, D’Oliveras grew over time so that by the early 1970s they were producing 150,000 bottles per year and were a globally admired winery. One of the things they were most famous for was their extensive stocks of vintage Madeira.  While most producers used the vast majority of their wines in either solera wines or for their 3, 5, 10 or 15-year-old bottlings, D’Oliveiras kept barrels of vintage wine in their 17th century cellars.  To this day they remain one of the best sources of vintage wine and currently offer around 20 different years.

D’Oliveiras Style

While its difficult to be precise about a Madeira producer’s style given the range of wines they produce, common traits can be identified.  In D’Oliveiras case the wines are typically luscious, well-fruited and concentrated.  These are traditionally produced wines and that is reflected in the flavours which tend to be bold, rich and highly complex.  We’ve often noted them as being amongst the more powerful wines with firm acidity and a natural capacity for aging which makes their vintage examples such a joy.  Their old Sercial, Terrantez and Verdehlo are particularly worth seeking out.

Which Vintages To Go For?

Unlike vintage Port where declarations are made roughly three times a decade and where choice of vintage is about whether its drinking or not, choosing vintage Madeira is more about the grape.  If your taste is for drier wines then look to Sercial or Verhehlo.  On the other hand, if you prefer a lusher style then Moscatel, Malmsey and Boal are the ones to choose.  Age is also a factor.  Very old – anything with more than about 30 years in cask – Madeira will tend to dry out so even the sweetest styles will lose some of their sweetness as they age and will take on secondary flavour characteristics.  In our experience vintage Madeira – irrespective of style – can be magnificent.

D’Oliveiras: Madeiran Royalty?

There’s no doubt in our minds that D’Oliveiras are serious contenders to the throne.  Their respect for tradition, nigh-on two centuries of expertise and ability to source the finest grapes has earned them a reputation for quality.  If you like Madeira that’s full-bodied, saturated with flavour and which, through their peerless collection of vintage wines, shows you how this incredible wine can age, then look no further.

Like Some Vintage Madeira Help?

We hope you've found this blog of interest, if you would like to know more or would like some help finding the right Madeira for you, then please get in touch.  You can call Mike on 0118 984 4654 or email MWH Wines here.