onsdag den 26. august 2015

Mayson and Madeira

Wine writer Richard Mayson is the author of several books about Portuguese wine and port. “The Wines and Vineyards of Portugal” and “Port and the Douro” are both excellent books, written by and expert in wine and in Portugal. Recently Mayson released a new book, and it was not a surprise that it was about madeira – the other great fortified wine from Portugal. Mayson writes about both port and madeira for the wine magazine Decanter.  
The new book, “Madeira”, has a lot in common with the book about Port. Both begin with a historical chapter followed by chapters about vines, vineyards and vinification, presentations of producers and vintages and some notes about wine tourism. Besides that the book contains small portraits of “Men who shaped Madeira” – like the portraits of port personalities in the last edition of his book about port. But of course there are differences as well. The vinification of port and madeira is not the same, and the types are different. Furthermore there is a big difference when it comes to the amount of tasting notes in the two books.
The island Madeira was official discovered in 1420, and soon afterwards the first vines were planted. As early as 1450 wine was exported from the island, but as with Port it is not possible to tell when Madeira was “invented”. As Mayson writes:
“Suffice to say that madeira probably followed the same trajectory as port, which gradually evolved into a sweet, fortified wine from the end of the seventeenth century onwards.”
The first time it is mentioned, that the wine was fortified is in 1530, and it is not until 1730 that it became normally to heat the wine – at first by the sun (vinho do sol) and later artificially (estufagem).
Among the grapes recommended are the white varieties Sercial, Verdelho, Malvasia and Boal, the red Tinta Negra and other varieties like Terrantez, Bastardo, Moscatel and Listrão. The types of Madeira range from the very dry ones (Sercial) and the medium dry ones (Verdelho) to the the medium sweet (Boal) and sweet ones (Malvasia). The cheapest wines are normally 2-3 years old, while the quality categories are from 5 until 50 or more years old. Besides that you have Colheitas from a single year, Soleras and Frasqueira, where “the wine must be made form a single “noble” variety and aged in wood for at least twenty years before bottling.” This category used to be called Vintage until IVDP (the Port Institute) objected.
In the second half of the book, Mayson describes the producers one by one. Late in the 19.th Century there was more that 150 producers, but now there are only seven companies that export Madeira – one of them, Madeira Wine Company, covering a broader palate of brands. One of them is Blandy, which has a special position in Richards Mayson´s heart, due to the fact that he is married to the daughter of the late Richard Blandy.
After each description of the producers there are tasting notes on the available wines from the company and in the following chapter notes on “Vintage madeiras and historic wines”. The many tasting notes in this second part of the book changes it into a work of reference instead of a book that you read from A to Z.
The first half of the book is great reading if you want to know about the history of madeira, vines and wines. And you can use the second part to compare tasting notes if you suddenly have the change to try a Lomelino 1914 Bual. The book is deep and full of knowledge – and well written as well.

Richard Mayson: Madeira – the Islands and their Wines. The Classic Wine Library, Infinite Ideas Limited 2015, 258 sider.

You can by the book from webshops and directly from the author from his own site 

torsdag den 6. august 2015

Modern Cathedrals of Wine

Around the world there are a lot of beautiful buildings hosting wineries and many of them are designed by architects. Some of them are old, but more often they are designed and build in the last couple of decades. In La Rioja in Spain you will for instance find Bodegas Ysios designed by Santiago Calatrava and Frank O. Gehrys City of Wine.
I spent my summer vacation in the north of Spain close to Tarragona. Driving around I came across two very different but both beautiful designed wineries.

The first is called Cathedral of Wine and is situated in Nulles in Tarragona DOP. It was built in 1917, when the local farmers decided to union and build a winery and cellar. The architect behind the modernistic building with references to cathedrals, Cèsar Martinell, was a pupil of Antoní Gaudi who created the famous La Sagrada Família and other buildings in nearby Barcelona. Cèsar Martinell created several cathedrals of wine around in Catalonia. The one in Nulles is hosting Adernats, a company that produces both Cava and still wines made of varieties as Macabeu, Xarel·lo, Moscatell, Parellada and Chardonnay among the whites and Ull de LLebre and Merlot among the reds.

Driving inland to Aragon we passed another very modern winery in Somontano close to Barbastro between Huesca and Lleida – Sommos Bodega, designed by Jesús Marino Pascual. The building is very futuristic, spreading its wings out in the middle of the vineyards like a giant butterfly. Sommos is producing both white, rosé and red wine. For the whites they use varieties like Chardonnay and Gewütztraminer – a speciality in Somontano just south of the Pyrenees. The reds are based on international varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah and off course Tempranillo.

I only tasted a couple of wines from Sommos – a white and red blend in the entry level under the name Glárima. The white was a blend of Chardonnay and Gewütztraminer. It had the spicy character, but was lacking acidity in my opinion. The red was a blend of Tempranillo, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark and intense with a lot of dark fruit, but with too much flavours from the oak.

Why do the companies invest a lot of money in creating a special designed winery? One of the reasons is to send a message about high quality and exclusiveness. Another is pure marketing. Wineries are often places in open spaces just surrounded by vineyards, which gives the architect a chance to create an eye-opener. I stopped at Sommos and paid them a visit; because I noticed the building from the main road and I might even unconscious recognize it form pages on the internet paying attention to wineries and architecture.
Finally another trend is connected. Wine tourism is growing and modern wineries like Sommos includes a shop, a restaurant, a gallery and even the possibility to ride in the vineyards on the back of a horse. Other new wineries are including small hotels. The competition among wine producers is not just a matter of quality and price. It is a matter of event and entertainment too. It is a matter of combining the possibility to taste wine with cultural experiences in the modern Cathedrals of Wine.