Blandy’s buys first vineyards

Madeira producer Blandy’s has bought eight hectares of vineyard around the island in three different parcels.

2968_newsBLANDYSAlthough a member of the Blandy family used to own vineyards, they were sold in the late 1990s.

CEO Chris Blandy told the drinks business: “The dream was to go back to having vineyards.”

However, as well as being able to own vineyards Blandy added that, to some degree, the move was an act of preservation.

“Things are changing drastically on Madeira,” he explained, “Many of our farmers are now over a certain age and their children and grandchildren aren’t as interested in working in the family business.

“They work in the cities or have emigrated. We wanted to take matters into our own hands, particularly with the white grapes.”

The three sites are located at different points on the island. The first is a 1.5 hectare plot in Funchal called Quinta do Santa Luzia, which was owned by one of Blandy’s cousins and has now been taken fully under the company’s control. Blandy said it is particularly good for white grapes and hopes it will become a top Terrantez site.

He explained that Terrantez (along with Bastardo) had fallen out of favour with growers because of its tendency to fall victim to disease and its low yielding nature.

Nonetheless, he declared it “the most valuable white grape we have” and that the company was conducting tests to see if it was possible to make it a better cropper as well as working hard to increase plantings.

The second site in the north of the island, called Quinta do Furão, covers 2ha and is predominantly Sercial and Verdelho.

Finally, the largest site at 4.5ha is Quinta do Bispo which is completely new. Owned first by the King of Portugal and then the church, the land was last planted with vines 20-30 years ago.

Blandy said that planting had already begun and the make-up would be 50% Malvasia, 25% Sercial and 25% Verdelho.

Blandy said that while the news that a producer in the wine world had bought some vines “may not be big news”, it was for Madeira and the move was about securing the future of the company.

He added that, “if I find the right bit of land than we might expand further.”

If Blandy’s can reproduce the results of last year then that may be necessary. Blandy, who took over the company in late 2011, told db that 2012 was a record year.

The company sold 100,000 cases, up from around 80-85,000 cases in 2011, with sales up across the board.

Sales were strong in the traditional markets of the UK, US, Japan and France and Blandy added that there had been a good boost from sales in new and growing markets such as Brazil and Australia.

“We can’t really sell anymore,” he admitted, “but everyone is now expecting the same this year.

“It’s a lot of work and responsibility but I get a lot of support from the team and my family.”

Pictures of the new vineyards and in particular of the planting at Quinta do Bispo can be seen here.

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