Saturday, 12 January 2013

FW#1: Henriques & Henriques 15 year old Bual Madeira Wine

Having got into fortified wine over Christmas in the form of port - reviews pending - I've branched out a little further, into the world, or should that be small Atlantic island, of Madeira. I've gone in at the deep end with this 15 year old bottle (extra reserve) I picked up from Waitrose for £19.99. A separate section on the basics of Port and Madeira will be up soon so I'll just stick to the tasting notes (and a tiny bit of background detail) here in this post...

The drink comes in an elegant, slender 50cl bottle. The colour of the liquid is somewhere between sunset yellow and burnt orange. The nose oozes pungent christmas cake, booze-soaked raisins and those sugared pecan nuts available at christmas markets. Strong, syrupy and sappy! Powerful dried fruits - figs, apricots and currants - pop up first and slink into a long finish with lingering nut and caramel notes, somewhat similar to how I imagine a hazelnut creme brulee could be. The full, round flavours of dried fruit are counteracted by a bright herbal acidity all the way through attributed in no small part the use of Bual. One of the 4 noble white grapes commonly used for Madeira (which is always single-varietal from what I can tell) the bual grape is considered a medium-sweet (meio-dolce) variety sitting in between Verdelho (drier) and Malmsey (richer). In fact, when I get a spare £25 I plan to compare this Bual to a 15 year old Malmsey to discover exactly how much more sweetness and body that variety contributes. No doubt 15 years of barrel-ageing also aids this wine's great depth of flavour and sap-like herbal notes. The nutty character and fine balance of dry and sweet also makes this wine a good antidote, of sorts, to the sometimes overbearing sweetness of ruby port.

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