Federal Wine & Spirits

29 State Street, Boston, MA 02109

Read about the wines in this tasting

Read what our customers thought

This Week's Tasting

January 17, 2018

Madeira has been making a comeback. Still only made in small quantities in the Atlantic island of that name, it has the appeal of port or sherry, with its own distinctive piquant flavor.


John Hancock

John Hancock




Madeira Drinker




John Hancock, whose office when he was governor of this state was catty-corner to our store, is famous for signing the Declaration of Independence in script "so large that King George could read it without his spectacles."

Hancock had more than patriotism to be angry with the king. A decade before, the king's agents had confiscated one of his merchant ships. His offense? He had imported wine and evaded the hated tax.

The wine was Madeira.

Fortified Madeira was the wine of choice for our colonial ancestors. Not only was it warming in the cold, but the heave and sway of a transatlantic ship under sail mellowed and focussed it, not spoiling it as it could often do to the era's more fragile table wines. the time Then as now, madeira keeps a long time after it is opened, without the need for refrigeration.

Madeira has been making a comeback. Still only made in small quantities in the Atlantic island of that name, it has the appeal of port or sherry, with its own distinctive piquant flavor. The only change is that its character is no longer burnished by eighteenth century nautical rock 'n roll, but baked in the winery low and slow.

This winter's day we'll taste several Madeiras, most of which bear the name of the grape variety that gives them their distinctive characters. Like tawny port Madeira more often bears the number of years it has aged in barrel - we see mostly 5 or 10, than it does a vintage, called colheita. Nearly all comes from white grapes and sometimes get a dark color through aging.

Madeira is sipping wine. A little goes a long way and you can savor the opened bottle for months

Our madeiras will come from two of my favorite sources.

Hancock would not have gotten his contraband madeira from Blandy's they did not become merchants until 45 years later in 1811. Chris Blandy, the 7th generation of the family, visited us last fall with several excellent Blandy's wines. From their basic Alveda, a roughly five-year Bual-Malmsey blend, to the rare 2002 Sercial Colheita, all expressed the firm's finely delineated style. Older wines are bottled in 500 ml to make them less expensive to try.

Rare Wine Company creates its own blends from wines that are 15 to 20 years old. I find their versions slightly richer in style, perhaps in part due to age. It is their conceit to name each variety after a colonial city that would have imported madeira. Whatever - the wines are very fine.

Sercial wines are dry and lighter bodied, with fresh, and present intense and vibrant aromas. Sercial begins its life pale in color, but over the course of time it deepens and darkens to amber. Drink it as aperitif or with very rich dishes.

Verdelho is vinified to produce medium-dry fortified wines, more fruity and round than sweet.

Bual has good acidity that balances its sweetness, making very perfumed medium bodied, copper-colored medium-sweet wines that are intensively perfumed, rich in spice and dried fruit. They age very well.

Malmsey is more a style than a single grape variety. Young, it is gold colored, Old Malmseys become dark amber. They are rich, smooth and luscious on the palate, with complex notes of mocha, dried fruit and honey, hints of tropical fruit, butterscotch, toffee-nuts and marmalade.



We will taste all the wines below.

Special tasting prices are good this week whether you can make it to the tasting or not.


 Blandy's Sercial 5 yr Madeira; Color: Light brown tan; Aroma: Clean, light & fresh, crisp minerality; Mouth: Light rather fresh clean firm very fresh herbal crisp but rounded in body; Very Good - Excellent 29.99, Tasting Price 26.99

Rare Wine Co. Historic Series Charleston Sercial Madeira; Color: light reddish tan; Aroma: clean tight, chewy round, a pronounced sweet nuttiness; Mouth: sweet rounded on the attack, firm structure, fleshy, rather tight acid, clean long; Very Good - Excellent 60, Tasting Price 53.99

2002 Blandy's Sercial Colheita 500 ml; Color: very light; Aroma: fresh rather clean, pretty, light fresh, elegant; Mouth: very fine pretty fine acid, elegant, rather firm, fine acid, poise, clean ; Excellent 68, Tasting Price 58.99

 Rare Wine Co. Savannah Verdelho Special Reserve; Color: Light yellow tan; Aroma: Clean rather dryish lightly sweet, pretty subtly floral ; Mouth: Bright acidity light, sweet clean leanish, good intensity, firm, well-structured spicy, clean, fine; Very Good - Excellent 60, Tasting Price 53.99

 Blandy's Alvada 500 ml; Color: Brown ; Aroma: Lightly fresh rather pretty; Mouth: Semisweet, light lifted clean racy and fresh, light toffee on the finish; good length; Very Good Plus 23.99, Tasting Price 21.59

 Blandy's Bual 10 Year old 500 ml; Color: medium dark; Aroma: earthy, rather clean, pretty, light mocha chocolate; Mouth: sweet rather clean fleshy, brightly juicy, rather tightly clean, fine acid, long; Very Good - Excellent 33, Tasting Price 29.99

 Blandy's Malmsey 5 yr; Color: Light medium tan; Aroma: Clean fresh light nutty; Mouth: Rather thick herbal firm well structured, chewy sweet middle, clean light, long very satisfying; Very Good - Excellent 29.99, Tasting Price 26.99

 Blandy's Malmsey 10 Year old 500 ml; Color: light tan; Aroma: light mocha, rather dense, heady; Mouth: bright clean forward, clean racy fine acid, ; Very Good - Excellent33, Tasting Price 29.99

Rare Wine Co. Historic Series New York Malmsey Madeira; Color: light tan red; Aroma: chewy thickish, chocolate infected caramel; Mouth: light sweet delicate, sweet acid caramel,very clean, long finish; Very Good - Excellent 60, Tasting Price 53.99


Order by phone at 617.367.8605, or reserve here: order@federalwine.com


Please pass this on to any friends who are wine enthusiasts!


           - Len Rothenberg


(c) Federal Wine and Spirits Inc. 2018