You are currently viewing the International Edition. You can also switch to the Hong Kong Edition.
Thursday 2 July 2015

Madeira struggles to simplify message

18th July, 2013 by Gabriel Stone

Madeira must find a simpler, more unified message if it is to emulate the recent surge of interest in Sherry and Port, according to Henriques & Henriques CEO Humberto Jardim.

Henriques & Henriques vineyards in Madeira

Henriques & Henriques vineyards in Madeira

Noting the resurgence of interest in Sherry, driven by special editions such as en rama, and Port, thanks to the success of its 2011 vintage campaign, Jardim acknowledged the need for Madeira “to bring to market something that will catch the attention of someone.”

At Henriques & Henriques this involves new initiatives such as the introduction of six-year-old barrels from Kentucky. Describing this as a move which “brings something new to Madeira,” Jardim suggested that he might use the barrels to create a special three-year-old style for the US market.

Although pointing to the similarly fresh outlook and dynamism now in evidence from other Madeira houses – “we are all a new generation” – Jardim noted a weakness in marketing the ever-improving quality of their wines.

In particular, he acknowledged the lack of a unified release strategy from the island’s eight producers, which might help to focus the world’s attention in a similar way to the Port industry’s “very smart” shared springtime declaration.

However, Jardim also noted the far more limited promotional capacity of Madeira’s industry. “Port produces 80-90 million litres in one year; in Madeira it’s 4m – the cost per litre is incredibly high compared to Port or Sherry”, he explained.

Above all though, Jardim argued that the complexity of Madeira’s presentation was the most pressing issue to tackle, conceding: “The message of simplicity never came from Madeira.”

At the large volume end of its youngest 3-year-old expressions, Madeira produces six different styles: dry, medium dry, medium sweet, medium rich, rich and Rainwater, which is most commonly found in the US market.

Just above this comes the 5-year-old expressions, which feature four different sweetness levels and, in common with the three-year-old category tend to be based on the high yielding Tinta Negra grape variety, which accounts for around 85% of the island’s total vineyard plantings.

Suggesting that so many different styles at this entry level could be over-complicating the category, Jardim remarked: “For example, medium-dry and Rainwater – either one would be ok so why do we produce two different wines at very similar levels of sugar?”

Above this come the 5 (Reserve), 10 (Special Reserve), 15 (Extra Reserve) and 20-year-old expressions. Each of these can be made from any one of the four “noble” Sercial, Verdelho, Bual and Malmsey – or Malvasia – grape varieties.

The 20-year-old category may also feature the rare Terrantez variety, which Jardim described as “somewhere between Verdelho and Bual with a very nice aroma, but its skin is very thin so it’s a very sensitive grape.”

As part of a wider move supported by European Union funding to decrease the proportion of Tinta Negra plantings in favour of Madeira’s noble varieties, Henriques & Henriques planted a small amount of additional Terrantez in 2011. However, Jardim noted that Madeira’s total production of this variety is no more than around 3,700 kilograms.

Next come a variety of colheitas, wines from a single vintage, which must mature for a minimum of five years before bottling, although Jardim noted that 10 years is more usual.

Finally comes the vintage expression, which must be matured for at least 20 years old, although again this can vary considerably between houses.

Although banned when Portugal joined the EU, examples of Madeira’s rare, often very old solera expressions still remain available on the market.

To complicate this message still further, Jardim remarked: “I have different styles of Malvasia and my style is different to, say, Blandy’s or Justino’s.”

Despite stressing the need for Madeira to present itself in a less complicated fashion, Jardim warned against abandoning the current classification system entirely, arguing: “If we simplify, we get simple.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

If that's interesting, how about these?

World's best beer and wine festivals

Forget Glastonbury, these are the festivals you should be making a beeline for more...

Santa Rita launching new Irish campaign

Chilean wine producer Santa Rita Estates is spending €500,000 on a new more...

Australia puts quality centre stage

Wine Australia has pledged to invest AUD$35m annually for the next five years more...

London Sales Manager / Key Account Manager

London, United Kingdom

Competitive - depending on skills and experience

Armand de Brignac launches its most expensive Champagne ever

Jay-Z’s Champagne brand Armand de Brignac has launched its most expensive more...

Hart Davis Hart biggest in US

Chicago-based wine auctioneer Hart Davis Hart is the market leader in the US in more...

Rise for Haut Bailly in Liv-ex 2015 classification

Liv-ex’s bi-annual “re-classification” of Bordeaux saw Haut Bailly leap more...

Head of On-Trade Sales

London, United Kingdom

Diageo appoints North America president

Deirdre Mahlan, Diageo's chief financial officer, has been announced as the more...

UK reviewing alcohol intake guidelines

Health officials are to review the government's drinking guidelines, as more...

UK customs seize 550,000 litres of alcohol

More than 550,000 litres of illegal beer, wine and spirits have been seized by more...

Global Wine Buyer

London, United Kingdom

Competitive

Lidl hints at plans for online wine shop

UK supermarket Lidl has not ruled out launching an online wine shop, reporting more...

World's cheapest city for a beer revealed

The average price of a bottle of beer is £1.07 in Krakow and Kiev, making them more...

Rioja revellers soaked in wine battle

Thousands have taken part in Rioja's annual wine fight, drenching each other more...

Marketing and eCommerce Manager

London, United Kingdom

Competitive, includes equity options

Sud de France launches Wine Hub

An "innovative" tool designed to support wine producers and importers operating more...

WOSA woos UK indies and on-trade

Wines of South Africa has announced plans for a new UK trade tasting later this more...

The Proust Q&A: Didier Mariotti

Mumm's chief cellar master talks to db about Alexandre Dumas, disliking more...

Business Development Executive

London, United Kingdom

£25-£30K + benefits, depending on experience

Mumm releases Santana sparkler

Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana has teamed up with Mumm Napa to release a more...

Pimm's and English wine sales leap

UK supermarket Waitrose has noted a surge in sales for Pimm's, strawberries and more...

Diageo confirms Gleneagles sale to Shoreditch group

Diageo has confirmed the sale of its luxury hotel and golf resort in more...

Warehouse Supervisor

London, United Kingdom

£27,000-£30,000 depending on experience

China recognises 'Bordeaux'

China has said it now recognises the term “Bordeaux” as a brand after what more...

Deadline looms for IWSC digital post

The International Wine & Spirit Competition has made a final call for more...