A few weeks back I was invited to a Madeira tasting put on by Manny Berk, the owner of The Rare Wine Company. He had brought Ricardo Freitas over from Madeira to introduce the new collection of Signature Madeiras from Barbeito. Ricardo is the grandson of Mario Barbeito de Vasconcelos who founded Vinhos Barbeito in 1946. In the early days, it was possible to travel around the island buying up large quantities of privately owned wine, some of it dating back to the 18th century. The company earned a reputation as the source of mature, aged Madeira as well as younger wines bought from small local wine makers.Today Ricardo Freitas carries on the family tradition while simultaneously marketing the new collection of single harvest and single cask Madeiras that are distinctly different in style from the older wines. These new wines are not blends of many different wines over numerous vintages as has been the tradition in Madeira. They are instead an expression of unique characteristics of the climate, geography and geology of Madeira. This unique “terroir” driven style is new to the island and the resulting wines are prized for their balance and precision.
We are proud to be among the first retailers to carry these distinctive and delicious wines. Here are some details on these new arrivals:
2001 Boal The 2001 Boal Madeira is a blend of two exceptional casks of vintage wine from the same year. This is a bright amber gold colored wine with aromas of toffee and woody essence. Flavors of toasted almond and light raisin sweetness support bright acidity and feather light texture. $39.99 (500 ml)
2000 Malvasia Single cask ’44a’ The 2000 Malvasia is a rare single cask Madeira. Just 1026 bottles were produced from this exemplary batch of mature Malvasia that was selected by Ricardo Freitas fot its concentrated and aromatic qualities. Light amber in color the wine possesses aromas of brandied raisin and toffee. Flavors of walnuts and dried fruits precede a rich,warm finish laced with dusty minerality. Drier than a typical Malvasia, this wine exhibits a complex elegance that reflects the care with which it was created.$54.00 (500 ml)
1994 Sercial Single Cask ’70b’ The 1994 Barbeito Sercial is a rare single cask Madeira. Just 252 bottles were produced from this exemplary batch of mature Sercial that was selected by Ricardo Freitas from a small batch of fruit grown on the north side of the island in Arco de São Jorge. The fermented wine was aged in a single old 450 liter French oak cask called a “Canteiro”. Light amber in color the wine possesses aromas and flavors of almonds and toasted walnuts. The texture is feather light and precise. The alcohol is warming yet not obvious or intrusive. This is a fabulous choice for pairing with rich cream soups and cured meats.$49.99 (500 ml)
VB Reserva This is the second lot of rare blended Madeira that combines Verdelho and Boal grapes. Varietal names are not permitted on Madeira labels unless the wine contains at least 85% of the varietal in question, thus this wine is labeled ‘VB’ as a sort of coded allusion to what is in the bottle. Two single casks of wine, one (“cask 12d”) of 2001 Verdelho and another (“cask 46a”) of 2003 Boal were aged separately and blended by Ricardo Freitas in roughly equal proportions (a bit more Verdelho than Boal) to create a medium dry wine with the bright acidity and dry nutty character of the Verdelho balancing the darker, richer, light raisiny character of the Boal. $42.99 (500 ml)
An exciting new non-wine shopping opportunity has started this week and I thought you should know about it. The Spanish Table in Berkeley will now have Portuguese bread deliveries every Thursday from Silva Bakery in Hayward. Available this weekend in limited quantities: massa sovada (Portuguese sweet bread), pão de mihlo (Portuguese corn bread), papo secos (dinner rolls), biscoitos (crunchy cinnamon twists) and pasteis de nata (custard tarts). This is a new venture for us, so we’re starting slowly. If you know you want bread or pasteis next weekend, let us know so we can special-order them for you for delivery next Thursday.
We tested out the new bread with another newly arrived Portuguese product (also available only in the Berkeley store at present) called Bifanas de Porco. The good folks over at Barcelos Linguica just started making these traditional thin cut pork cutlets that they marinate in lemon juice, piri-piri pepper and garlic. Quickly grilled and served on a Silva’s roll this tasty and traditional Portuguese snack needed only a few grilled onions, some fried potatoes and a cold Sagres beer (or a glass of Vinho Verde) to complete the picture. Muito tasty!