Port and the Douro – book review

port and the douroHere I review Port and the Douro by Richard Mayson. This is the 3rd edition, which was originally published in 2013, but I have a paperback version published by Infinite Ideas in April 2016. It has an RRP of £30, but I didn’t pay a penny of my own money as I was sent a review copy. This printing was apparently “heavily revised” – from the first printing of the 3rd edition presumably. But as I do not have the original 3rd edition, I cannot really comment on that, apart from to say that all vintages are described up to and including 2015, and the sales and production statistics now go as far as 2014.

The look and feel is very similar to Biodynamic Wine, which I reviewed in my previous blog post: a 234 x 156mm paperback with clear printing and a rather nice general feel to the book. But this is a bigger book of 308 pages and a slightly smaller typeface. Most of the illustrations are hand painted sketches, but there are a few diagrams and maps, and several colour plates clustered together in the centre of the book. The text is also broken up by boxes. This is something I generally do not like, as I would much rather the author figure out for me how best to incorporate everything into the flow of the narrative, but here I thought the series of boxes on the theme Men who shaped the Douro worked rather well.

The book is very much in the mould of many other specialist books on wine regions, and in that sense it works well – very well indeed, to extent that it is difficult to fault. Better maps perhaps? But I am very much aware how much good quality cartography costs. Tasting notes? Maybe, but I personally find them of very limited value. Another possible criticism is that it somehow fails to excite. But what sort of excitement can one reasonably expect from a book on Port and the Douro? For me, perhaps only in the sense that I regard the Douro region to be the most atmospheric wine region I have ever visited, with its vastness and haunting beauty, and it would have been nice to have more of that feeling communicated. Though I admit it is a big demand on a specialist wine writer – there are only so many Andrew Jeffords in the world 🙂 However, still on the subject of the feel of the Douro region, I was delighted to find that Mayson mentioned Miguel Torga’s novel Vindima (Grape Harvest in English translation). It is a novel I had been intending to dig out after visiting Quinta da Cavadinha, which features in it, but later forgot the name of the author and book –  now I am grateful to be reading it in translation on my Kindle, and it is giving me my required shot of Douro poetry. But I digress… there follows below a description of the contents of Port and the Douro.

The first chapter covers in some detail the history of Portugal – Porto and the Douro in particular. This is followed by one on the vineyards, vines, major grape varieties, and quintas (farms or estates). Then a description of the various types of Port, with a separate chapter devoted to Vintage Port. Port producers and shipper then get their own chapter, which is followed by one on Douro (unfortified) wines. Finally there is some guidance for the visitor to Porto and the Douro.

So – a very good solid book with very little to criticise (even if I seem to have spent most of this review writing about my criticisms).

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Biodynamic Wine – book review

bd wine monty waldinjpgThis is a review of Monty Waldin’s Biodynamic Wine, published by Infinite Ideas on 4th July this year, and with an RRP of £30.00 (not to be confused with another book by the same author that has a very similar title, Biodynamic Wines, published in 2004). I read a review copy. It is a paperback, 234 x 156mm, and has 222 pages. The paper is a little coarse and the photographs are black and white, but the design is smart with clear chapter and section headings, and it feels good to hold.

After the introduction and a short chapter on the origins of biodynamics, we go straight into what effectively defines biodynamic agricultural practice: the nine biodynamic “preparations”. In what is by far the longest chapter, the preparation are described in detail, including instructions on how and when to make them, and with references to the original sources for the snippets of advice. This is then followed by shorter chapters on other subjects at the core of biodynamic agricultural: how to make compost incorporating the preparations, and how to dynamise liquids. Then we move onto the more optional parts of biodynamics: shortcut methods of composting, plant teas, decoctions, liquid manures, and oils. Finally in the main biodynamic-practice part of the book, there is a discussion of how the moon, planets and stars determine the best time for performing specific tasks. Then there is a discussion of the various types of biodynamic regulations and organic certification schemes, and (in appendices) a bit about Maria Thun’s advice on when best to taste wine, and how to learn more about biodynamics.

Do note that there are no profiles of particular biodynamic producers and their wines. I did not particularly miss that aspect, but other readers might find it disappointing as typical specialist wine books do tend to include that sort of thing. Details of what some producers really believe about biodynamics, and their actual biodynamic practices, might have been good, but I can easily live without a superficial round-up of producers giving their marketing spin on the subject.

Cards on the table here, with no mincing about the bush – I think biodynamics is complete tosh, but I have discussed the topic several times on my blog now, and see no reason to go over old ground to explain why. It is however a subject that I still find fascinating, and one that I am keen to continue to learn about. With that in mind I found Biodynamic Wine to be a very well-structured and clear exposition of the subject, and would certainly recommend it at that level. What I already knew about biodynamics was confirmed, and I also learned a lot from the book. The vast majority of it is unscientific nonsense that I would not want to endorse, but is as far as I know the book contains an accurate description of what people believe. I got the impression that Monty Waldin does not set out to proselytise, but rather set out the stall of biodynamics and let the reader decide, which he did well. I suspect that sceptics will come away from the book feeling even more sceptical, while believers will be further enthused and enthralled.

I have very few criticisms of the book, and all of them are rather superficial. For example, there were one or two sentences that could have done with some editing, and some turns of phrase were rather odd and lead me to believe that the author was a lot more familiar with viticulture than winemaking. And the last time I checked, contrary to what Monty wrote, I was convinced I found that the EU definition of organic wine did in fact have slightly tighter restrictions on wine production than non-organic wine. (If anyone is really interested I can redo my analysis of the regulations, but otherwise, even I am not feeling sufficiently motivated to double-check that sort of geeky detail.)

In summary, if you want to learn about biodynamic wine I strongly recommend this book. It takes a lot of effort to go directly to Steiner’s lectures and the work of his immediate followers, and no amount of reading magazine articles on the subject can in my opinion give a better feel for the subject.

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Exploring & Tasting Wine – book review

Over the last few months I have been reading introductory wine books, partly out of an almost academic interest in how different authors approach the task of communicating to beginners, and partly because I was (maybe still am) toying with the idea of doing the same. As a side effect of this, I think I now have a pretty good overview of the introductory wine books that are currently available.

I still prefer the book that I cut my wine teeth on, but it is sadly now out of print, and getting increasingly out of date. That book was Essential Winetasting by Michael Schuster, which actually covers a lot more than just tasting. Unlike many more modern books that rely heavily on graphics with bits of text scattered around in between the pictures, Essential Winetasting has a proper author who has taken the time to figure out how to present his subject in a more-or-less linear fashion to anyone that wants to follow him on the journey. It is still available second-hand and I would still recommend it, but to anyone who would prefer something more modern as an introductory text, I suggest Exploring & Tasting Wine by Berry Bros & Rudd Wine School. The £30 BBR themselves are selling it for is ridiculously expensive, but it recently became available from Amazon for the more reasonable £16.59, which was when I became tempted to buy it.

9781910904701Let’s get my negative opinions out of the way first. There is no single author, and limited editorial control over the text, so the book can seem disjointed, with occasional conflicts in what the different authors write, e.g. when explaining the French concept of cru. In one sense, it good to see different styles, and get different takes on the same issue, as that reflects the real world of wine, but I feel the beginner needs a more authoritative voice. I also felt the “fluff” images – artistic photographs of vineyards and the like – were overdone, and obstructed what remained of the flow of the text. And for me the graphics were annoying and generally unhelpful. Having said that, it is clear that this style of book is popular with many people, and compared with another introductory wine book I could mention (Wine Folly), I regard this book to be a model of literacy and good design.

More substantially, I found I was taking issue with a few things that were written. Perhaps nothing too bad about that, as none of the views expressed were far from the mainstream, but somehow I never feel that way when I return to Essential Winetasting. Most substantially, I found it very strange that sweetness was not considered to be a “component of balance”. How can you discuss balance in sweet wines, including many German wines available in the UK, without taking sweetness into account? I thought it also a bit odd that complexity was included as component of balance. Of course it is important, but is it really something to balance against acidity, fruit ripeness, alcohol, tannin and oak? Can you have too much complexity? As this concept of balance is used throughout the book as an important feature, what might be regarded as a minor niggle grated with me more and more as I read.

On the positive side, I thought it was good that the book did not attempt to cram in too much information. And the overall structure was good: based around 16 of the most important grape varieties while still considering geography. I also liked the idea of the background and discussion sections, which give the book more depth without cramming in dry facts.

So, on balance, if you want a modern introduction-to-wine book, this is the one I would recommend. But if you find your appetite is whetted, I would suggest that you additionally get a copy of The Oxford Companion to Wine as soon as possible – to extend your knowledge and resolve any outstanding questions you might have. Don’t be put off by the size of The Companion and its expanse of text. It might seem daunting at first, but each entry is quite readable, and very authoritative.

If you are considering any other wine book, introductory or not, you might want to take a look at a list of all my book reviews here. Do check back, as I intend to add more to my in the near future.

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How smell is like vision, and what that means for wine

Considering the very different impressions that vision and smell make on us, there are surprising similarities in how the two senses are processed before they reach the brain. And it is quite possible that these similarities may throw some light on how we describe the aromas we find in wine.

The olfactory bulb (we actually have two of them) is an elongated protuberance lying close to the underside of the brain, but attached only at the back end. The surface of the human olfactory bulb has on it some 6,000 spherical bundles of cells called glomeruli, each one being connected by neurons to several thousand olfactory receptors in the nasal cavity. When odorous compounds enter the nasal cavity, each glomerulus is activated to a greater or lesser extent, creating a pattern of activity on the surface of the olfactory bulb that is a representation of the odours. That pattern can be regarded as analogous to the pattern of activity on the retina of the eye when an image falls on it. In fact the similarity does not stop there, because just as the image on the retina is further processed to facilitate detecting edges and motion, the activity pattern in the glomeruli is also enhanced by subsequent layers of cells in the olfactory bulb. Examples of smell images, reproduced from Gordon M Shepherd’s book Neurogastronomy (reviewed here), can be seen below – click to enlarge and make the text legible.smell images

In the same book, Shepherd proceeds to speculate that the smell images created by glomeruli activity are similar to visual images of faces. He suggests that this explains why smells, like faces, are difficult to describe in words but relatively easy to recognise. As a result, if asked to describe a smell we need to resort to comparisons with the smells of well-known objects. Also, neither smells nor faces are processed as the sum of distinctive component parts – we tend to recognise both of them holistically, not so much by the detail as a general impression. Only occasionally can we recognise a face if we only see a small part of it, and usually only for faces we are very familiar with.

This speculation of Shepherd’s can be plausibly taken even further, and related to how we recognise and describe wines. Regardless of whether we are nosing a complex wine or sniffing a single chemical compound, at one level in our perceptual system the result is a glomeruli smell image. I would propose that, in the case of wine, certain aspects of that smell image may remind us of the smell images of other objects – blackcurrant maybe, or lemon – which then become the descriptors we use for the wine. In some cases, the aspects of the smell image that cause us to identify other objects in wine may arise from chemical compounds in common, but this need not necessarily be the case and similarities might be coincidental. The aspects in common may be as simple as discrete fragments of the smell image, or possibly with their root in common relationships between different parts of each image. To continue with the face analogy, the identifying of blackcurrant in a wine could be like saying that a baby’s face has his grandfather’s eyes – the eyes need not be identical, but there is however something that seems somehow similar. Something else that has a counterpart in wine is the idea that if we are very familiar with a face is it easier to recognise it from a partial image. In a smell image of wine, presumably the other objects we may recognise in it are only partially represented, and that could explain why it we are more likely to recognise the aromas we are more familiar with, either in normal life or through other wines.

I totally accept that most of this is speculation, but nevertheless I think how we experience and describe wines is consistent with the idea of smell image recognition, and an interesting way of conceptualising it. Only time and more research will be able to refute or support these ideas.

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Tsantali Rapsani – straight, Reserve and Grande Reserve

tsantali rapsani
Let me start by disclosing that the Reserve and Grande Reserve wines were samples sent to me following a press trip to Northern Greece. More about the Rapsani part of that trip can be found here, including vine locations, varieties used etc. The straight Rapsani was bought with my own money in the UK – because on the trip I liked it a lot, and thought it represented good value for money. At the time I paid £10, but I see it is available cheaper now. You can get it from Amazon, Agora and Evington’s. As far as I know, the Reserve and Grande Reserve are not available in the UK, but I would guess their retail prices would be around £16 and £29 respectively.

I was taking the wines to Hawksmoor Manchester to use their Monday BYO offer, and double decanted them two hours or so before arriving, straight from my 12ºC wine fridges. As it turned out, there was hardly any sediment to remove. A few minutes after the decant, I tasted them. It was a hot day, so the wine had probably warmed up a couple of degrees before tasting.

Rapsani, 2012, 13.0%
Medium pale garnet.  Intense and very attractive nose. Fresh aromatic spices. Slightly mature red fruit. Medium acid. Supple and fruity. Medium high tannin. Intense aromatically on palate. Soft, rounded and gentle fruitiness, despite the tannin. Excellent length. Drink now, but no hurry *****

Rapsani Reserve, 2011, 13.5%
Medium pale, more ruby than garnet. Aromatic spices on nose. Tight. Blackcurrant with hard edge. Medium acid. High tannin. Intense on palate. Hard, but with icing-sugar-like sweetness. Excellent length. Good now, but would benefit from 5 years or so ****

Rapsani Grande Reserve, 2008, 13.5%
Very similar characteristics to the Reserve, but with even more aromatic intensity. A definite step up in quality. Potential is easier to imagine than with the Reserve, and it is a better drink now ****

As the wines warmed up in the restaurant I enjoyed them less. They all became more soupy, the Reserve wine became obtrusively oaky, and the Grande Reserve even more obtrusively oaky. However, my order of preference remained the same: straight Rapsani, Grande Reserve, Reserve. But that was just me – other people I was with who expressed a preference liked the Reserve best. I hasten to stress that my scores and preferences were for the wines as they showed on the night. The straight Rapsani was great for drinking now, but I did think that the Grande Reserve in particular had good potential.

The practical conclusion for me is that, when I can find more storage space (I have just returned from Germany, Alsace and Champage with more than 8 cases), I should buy more of the straight Rapsani – and drink it slightly chilled.

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Tasting order and wine scores

It is well known that your perception of a wine is affected by the wine you tasted immediately beforehand. This is similar to how other senses behave. If, for example, you sit in the dark for several minutes and then expose yourself to normal daylight, it seems to be exceptionally bright until your eyes adjust. With wine, if the previous wine was flabby, your current wine will tend to taste sharp; if it is was very dry, then sweet, etc.

anon_flight

However, in addition to that effect, the order in which you taste wines can help determine how much you like them. I have already written about Antonia Mantonakis’ research, where she presented sequences of wines to consumers, and asked which wine they liked best. In actual fact the same wine was offered in each glass, but the tasters still expressed a preference. For shorter sequences (2 or 3 glasses) they tended to prefer the first wine tasted, while for longer sequences (say 5 glasses) they preferred the last one. If you are thinking “that just goes to show how little the average consumer knows about wine”, you should be chastened by the fact that those with better wine knowledge were even more prone to this bias. But how much practical significance does it have? The consumers were after all asked to distinguish between identical wines, and they may have thought any differences were very small.

Later work[1] by French researchers throws more light on this order effect. Here the experiments were performed on wine professionals  tasting in competitions that awarded medals to Beaujolais Nouveau wines. Here, in each of two competitions of around 400 wines, approximately 100 tasters scored wines on the 100 point scale, each taster being given two flights of between 10 and 12 wines. But into each tasting sequence of wines registered in the competition, the experimenters put the same (unregistered) wine into the first and penultimate positions. For each competition, the average score for the penultimate wine in the sequence was greater than that for the first wine: 82.99 vs 79.78 for one competition, and 83.93 vs 81.78 for the other. Those differences are not only statistically significant, but also significant from a practical point of view. To get some feel for the practical significance, note that the difference between a silver and gold medal winning scores is 6 points. Also, as the required score to achieve a silver medal was 81, in one of the competitions the position of the wine would have affected the colour of the medal awarded .

If wine scores are important to, then you should probably be concerned about the sequencing used in tasting flights. On the other hand, if you do not pay much attention to scores, you can now add order effects to the list of reasons that justify your position.

[1] Carole Honoré-Chedozeau, Jordi Ballester, Bertrand Chatelet and Valérie Lempereur, “Wine competition: from between-juries consistency to sensory perception of consumers”, BIO Web of Conferences 5, 03009 (2015)

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COS Pithos Rosso 2011

pithos_rosso_2011Made in the Cerasuolo di Vittoria region in Sicily, this has the correct grape varieties – Nero d’Avola and Frappato – to be called Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOC were it not for the winemaking. What is wrong with the winemaking? Well, there’s nothing actually wrong, but it’s made in large clay vessels that are often called amphoras. After fermentation the wines remain in amphora for several months until bottling. See here for more about the producer and the winemaking, and here for note on earlier vintages of Pithos Rosso.

Note that the label design has changed since those vintages, and it changed again for the 2012, which also has the new designation Vittoria Rosso DOC. If you’re trying to find this wine on your wine merchant’s shelf, it is the words Pithos Rosso on a squat-shaped bottle that you need to look out for.

This is a wine that I have drunk many bottles of, from several different vintages, and it never fails to impress me. A recent bottle of the 2011 seemed particularly good, and that is what persuaded me to put fingers to keyboard on this occasion. If you understand what I like in this wine, I think you will have gone a long way towards knowing how my vinous mind works.

Here’s the tasting note for my recently drunk 2011, pictured above… Pale garnet ruby. On the nose, intense, delicate, fragrant, soft cherry, spice and herb complexity. High acidity. Medium low tannin. Aromas as on the nose, though the cherry aromas seem more vibrant with the acidity. Excellent length. A green note that reminds me of shelling broad beans – also on the nose now – nothing negative about this. Sweet red fruit now I am more accustomed to the acidity, which does not seem so stark after a few sips. Drink now I think. There’s a lot of enjoyment here. Can it really get better? Tossing up between 5 and 6 stars, I’ll go for ******

To try to put into words the aspects of this wine that I like so much, I think it is the delicate complexity of the fruit, spice and herb notes. It is almost as if this is a wine mature before its time – in a good way that is. In fact, I would say it is mature in the best possible way as far as I am concerned, as there is absolutely no tendency towards oxidation. Good acidity is also important – I like my wines to be refreshing and food friendly. Combine that with a price tag of around £20 and good availability, and it is a winner for me.

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Open letter to TONG Magazine

Dear TONG Magazine

On 14th July 2015, I started subscribing to TONG, which at that point was a hardcopy specialist wine magazine. I have the PayPal receipt in front of me now, for €€199.00 paid to Millefeuille BVBA . What exactly was I buying? In the description field on the receipt it reads “Subscribe to TONG (2 years/8 issues)”. So, just over nine months later, how many magazine issue should I have received? Immediately after subscribing I was sent the then-current issue, so by reckoning it should be four. What have I actually received? The hardcopy issue just mentioned, and one issue sent to me by email as a PDF. So my basic gripe is that I am clearly not being given what I paid for. I want a refund, but you insist on keeping my money.

Here is how things played out in more detail after my subscription and initial hardcopy issue…

2nd October 2015 I was informed that TONG was going to be published in PDF format only, and that by way of compensation I would receive ten issues rather than the eight I paid for. I thought “I am not totally happy with that, but will see how it goes”.

5th October 2015 I received an email with a new issue as PDF. I was even less happy when I realised how difficult it was to read online, and how unsuited it was to printing at home, but still didn’t think it was worth kicking up a fuss.

24th March 2016, I realised that as it was a quarterly magazine I should have received a second PDF issue by then. At this point I lost patience and just wanted to cancel my subscription and get a refund for the magazines I had not yet received, something which another high quality wine magazine would do even under normal circumstances. But the only email address I could get a response from was orders@tongmagazinedigital.com, where Filip Verheyden told me “TONG is published by a Belgian company, our South African company only sells the digital [back] issues and we have legally nothing to do with the other company”. Neither could he give me contact details for the Belgian company. I found this response unsatisfactory, as orders@tongmagazinedigital.com was the email address I had received the PDF issue from, and Filip’s email sig still read “Editor and Publisher” with a TONG logo. Also, all communication since 26th January had been, and would be, from that email address.

14th April 2016, I was sent an email announcing a collaboration with the publisher of SABOR to create a journal that will bring “food and wine together in a new publication which will replace TONG as we know it”, and “[s]ubscribers to the printed TONG journal will receive their first issue in June 2016”. So, no more PDFs as proposed before, but another flavour of jam tomorrow. On repeating my request for a refund, Filip wrote that none will be forthcoming “since the publication does not stop. It will only be refreshed”.  That is not how it sounded to me in the previous announcement. Incidentally, judging by its Facebook page, SABOR’s publication track record is not exactly confidence-inspiring – it too switched to PDF publication at one point, stopped for a while, and then restarted in print.

Sadly, PayPal will not help me as my payment was over 180 days ago, and charge-backs on credit and debit cards apparently often have a similar limit. I am sure that Belgium has solid consumer protection laws but I really don’t feel like taking legal action outside the UK for less than €200. So I am stuffed. My one consolation is to indulge myself by whinging publicly 🙂

If you are reading this, Filip, I would like to thank you at least for continuing to communicate politely with me throughout. I do understand that running a specialist magazine is not easy, but alienating new subscribers is not the answer. If you really believe in your new venture, let me make the decision whether to subscribe to it or not; don’t take that decision for me. I subscribed to a different magazine, and for a different time period.

Thank you for reading – if you have been.

Steve Slatcher

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Prince Ştirbey Feteascǎ Regalǎ 2007

stribey feteasca regalaFirstly, let me apologise. I honestly thought I had blogged about this before. But I didn’t, and now it is probably too late to find any for sale however hard you look. So the best I can do is to encourage you to be adventurous in your wine drinking, and find other gems like this. Oddbins sell the 2013, so that might be a good place to start, but I have not tried that vintage yet.

Over a few years I have bought at least two cases of this from The Daily Drinker, at prices that I think varied between £9.00 (on special offer) and £14.00. The producer is Prince Ştirbey, the grape Fetească Regală, it’s from the Dealurile Olteniei region of Romania, 2007 vintage, and 13.5% ABV. It’s a limited edition of 2,400 bottles – 200 cases or 8 barriques – So I am responsible for the consumption of a small but significant percentage of the entire vintage!

There are a few Fetească grape varieties, which seem to be named in the old-school tradition of anthropomorphic wine description, Fetească meaning young girl. Fetească Regală is a royal young girl, and makes white wine. You may also come across Fetească Albă, which is a parent of the young princess grape, and means white young girl. Then there is the black grape Fetească Neagră – you guessed it – she is black.

Ever since I started drinking this wine in 2012, I have noticed bottle variation, but the bad ones were never that bad, and the good ones were excellent. Checking my notes, it seems that I only recorded the better bottles, and the last one was particularly stunning – the sort of experience that makes me wonder why I ever bother with white Burgundy. All my notes seem very much to describe the same wine, so I shall combine them – the net result of which contains a few more descriptors than normal for me.

Medium gold. Intense and complex nose. Seville orange peel, sweet lemon, and fresh apricot. Perhaps a little oxidation, but nothing to worry about. For one bottle I noted honeysuckle, and perhaps Turkish delight. On the palate it is on the high side of medium acidity, dry, and with a hint of astringency. Intense aromatically, generally reflecting what was observed on the nose, but also incense-type notes as it warms in the glass. With the most recent bottle, Sherry, or cherry brandy. Excellent length, with spicy finish that has a liquorice edge. Drink now I think – some bottles are wonderful now, but others have seen better days *****

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Q&A – Food matches for Madeira

QA

Here’s a question I received recently from my Ask me a wine question page:

Hello, I received Madeira wines : 1) Tinta negra de madeira “Natal” 1946 by artur de barros e sousa and 2) special madeira 1988 by cossart gordon and 3) malmsey madeira 1994 by cossart gordon. Can you tell me with what kind of food I can drink them, please ? Regards, Bobo.

It sounds like you have some nice wines, there, Bobo – I presume your “special” Madeira is actually an auto-correct glitch, and it is really a Sercial.

Tinta Negra, Sercial and Malmsey (also called Malvasia) are the names of grape varieties, and also indicate the style of the wine when used for Madeira. Of the four principal varieties in terms of quality and availability, Sercial is used to produce the driest style, though there is usually a little sweetness to take the edge off the acidity, and Malmsey is very sweet indeed. The grape Tinta Negra, also called Tinta Negra Mole,  is not one of those four varieties. It is not so highly regarded, and these days is used to make cheaper Madeiras of any style. Don’t let that put you off – I am sure a 1946 Tinta Negra from ABSL will be good, and quite possibly the best wine of the three – but I have no idea about how sweet it will be.

My honest answer to your question is that I think Madeira is best drunk a glass at a time without food, or possibly with nuts and dried fruit. Madeira also lends itself to drinking like that because open bottles will last for several months. You could even have all three bottles on the go at the same time. If offering to guests, I would choose Malmsey as an after-dinner drink, and the drier Sercial as an aperitif, when it would also work with olives. But if I were the drinker, the Sercial would be liable to be sampled at almost any time in the afternoon or evening.

If really want to try your Madeiras with food, madeirawine.nl offers some suggestions. For the Tinta Negra, you would have to open it first to check whether it is closer to the sweetness of the Sercial or the Madeira. If it is somewhere in between, follow the recommendations for Verdelho or Boal. When you have checked the wines for sweetness, you will also have a much better idea about whether you really want to drink them with food at all. I might be wrong, but the cynic in me thinks that the idea of drinking Madeira with food comes mainly from those eager to persuade punters to drink more.

I hope that helps, Bobo. If you have further questions, do get back to me. Also, if you check back here later, you might find other people have added helpful comments to this post.

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