The 1795 Terrantez Vintages

There are at least four known Terrantez wines from 1795. There is the 1795 Terrantez of Barbeito, the 1795 Terrantez of Companhia Vinicola da Madeira, the wine “Messias” of F. F. Ferraz, probably a Terrantez too and the 1795 Terrantez by Blandys, probably the same wine like the 1795 Terrantez by Lomelino. I find it fascinating, that there are so many wines from the same year, more then 200 years old and with the same grape variety, but from different companies, that have no business connections with each other. For a long time I wondered if these wines are from the same source. Even if they were, they are different for sure, because of the different period of time spent in cask and bottle. (As you can see in the chapter about types of wine under “vintages”, the time spent in cask is very important when it comes to concentration and taste of a vintage.) When I asked Alex Liddell, author of “Madeira”, published by Faber & Faber and being the number one publication on the subject of Madeira wine, about the “same source theory” he gave a very quick and tremendously helpful answer. He pointed out that even after 200 years it would not be unlikely for a few different wines from the same year of vintage to have survived. In fact he quoted the late Richard Blandy stating “that the range of what had been produced on the island in the past was no less, and perhaps much greater, then what is produced today”. So, what I once thought to be a mystery seems to be solved. However for those of you who own one or more of the 1795 Terrantez vintages I would like to share the information gathered on these wines. I am greatly indebted for Mr. Liddell for the wealth of information he supplied, not only through his excellent book but also especially on the subject of the 1795 Terrantez vintages.

1795 Terrantez by Barbeito

The 1795 Terrantez by Barbeito is one of the most famous Madeira wines, if not the most famous one. Not only is it still available, it is also still in rather good shape for a wine that is more then 200 years old. As Alex Liddell explains in his book “Madeira”, this wine originally belonged to the Hinton family. Oscar Acciaioly bought the wine from the Hintons. Later the wine was divided between his descendants. Mario Barbeito bought part of the remaining wine and returned it from demijohns to wood. To my knowledge Barbeito themselves do no longer sell this wine, due to the small number of bottles remaining. But you can still get this wine in other stores on and off the island. The wine is also available on the internet. When I looked for the number of bottles remaining in the beginning of 2002 I found about 50 bottles that were still for sale. In the beginning of 2003 this number went down to 18 bottles still available. In the beginning of 2004 there were only 7 bottles left and there is reason to believe that at least some of the shops that offered this wine did in fact “share” the same single bottle. Part of the reason that this Terrantez is still available may be the rather high price that easily exceeds USD 1200,- or Euros 1200,-. There is also a considerable amount of this wine hidden in private collections. I know a collector who owns a two-digit number of the 1795 Terrantez by Barbeito. Also a lot of people collecting Madeira wines have at least one or two bottles of this reference wine. But even with the high price, the amount of bottles is obviously shrinking fast. According to my reliable source Reidar, all the remaining wine is bottled now, so there is no cask reserve left.


1795 Terrantez by Barbeito, shown with friendly permission of Reidar Andersen

1795 Terrantez by Companhia Vinicola da Madeira

This wine seems to be much more rare then the 1795 Terrantez by Barbeito. In 2002/2003 I did some extensive research in the internet, auction catalogues and lists of retailers and I could only come up with 5 bottles in existence altogether, including the one I own. In the beginning there was just one bottle left, being auctioned by Christie’s. I bought my bottle on an auction in May 2002. The original owner had bought a case of six bottles in Lissabon in the 1970ies and had auctioned off two bottles already years ago, drunken one, one was leaking, and another one was also auctioned in May 2002. The layout and design of the paper label suggests that the wine has been bottled in the 1960ies or 1970ies. Most of the producers also stopped using the straw caps on the bottles not later than in the 1970ies. The Companhia Vinicola da Madeira by then was an independent company that sold few vintage wines. The remaining stock of vintages of the Companhia was sold by Justino Henriques after Sigfredo da Costa Campos bought Justino in 1981. Before that, Justino had belonged to the previous owners of the Companhia. Anyway there seems to be no business connection to the Barbeito company that would suggest the same source for the two 1795 Terrantez wines. Thanks to the help of Reidar Andersen and the people at the Rare Wine Co. I could also find out, that the Barbeito family thinks, that the 1795 CVM wine comes from a different source than the Barbeito wine. I also asked Justino Henriques about this wine, but they have no records about a 1795 Terrantez by the CVM. A bottle of CVM Terrantez 1795 was auctioned by Christie’s in February 2003. It reached a price of 550 British pounds.

According to Patrick Grubb there are variations between the bottlings of the CVM wine, presumably because the bottlings were spaced out over some time and some wine had longer time in wood. There are versions with stencils and versions with labels, Patrick Grubb thinks the former wine superior.

When I wrote to Alex Liddell about the 1795 Terrantez vintages he was very helpful, replying “that the CVM 1795 Terrantez was at one time (the late 70s or early 80s) sold in England by Corney & Barrow, the reputable city wine merchants in London. I was told (verbally) by a member of the company that it was believed that the wine had been ordered by the Russian imperial family, but remained unshipped before the 1917 Revolution! (I take this conveniently romantic story with a pinch of salt, and know of no independent substantiation of it.) The bottles sold by Corney & Barrow had labels and foil capsules. The labelled bottles with wicker tops appear to be a much earlier bottling. The stencilled bottles were specially bottled by the firm (in the 70s, I think) for a Madeira enthusiast who asked for stencils rather than labels. As far as I know there were only ever 2 dozen of these. I have also encountered slightly differing versions of the label, suggesting bottlings at different times.” Carlos sent me a picture showing a CVM 1795 Terrantez bottle just like the one shown here, but the bottle bears the letters of company name as a relief, just above the label. This fact also supports the theory that this wine was bottled at different times.

I would like to taste this wine together with the 1795 Barbeito Terrantez one fine day. But right now my bottle appears to be in very good shape, there is no reason to recork it, even if the cork should be more than thirty years old.


1795 Terrantez by CVM

1795 “Messias” (Terrantez?) by F. F. Ferraz

It is only because of Alex Liddell’s bible on Madeira wine that we know of a 1795 wine from F. F. Ferraz called “Messias”. I have spent lots of time to find another bottle of this wine, but without success. Liddell had purchased his wine in 1970 at Christie’s and tasted it in 1996/1997. The wine had been bottled before F. F. Ferraz joined the Madeira Wine Association in 1937. Liddell describes a “bone-dry entry, intensely flavoursome, with hints of prunes, concentrated vinosity; extremely dry, lingering, rather smoky finish.” He also adds, that one of the former clerks with the company recalled the wine to be “as dry as a Terrantez”. So, even if one can certainly not be sure about this, this wine could very well be a Terrantez. Tinta Negra Mole did play a significant role in 1795, and one has to admit, that the wines back then were often rather mixtures then 100 percent one grape variety. But when I asked Mr. Liddell about his opinion he answered:” From a tasting point of view the wine could well be Terrantez.” Another bottle of F. F. Ferraz 1795 Madeira wine was sold at Christie’s in 1979 for 175 pounds, this time described as Terrantez. According to Anders G. Åkesson, this wine was also bottled in a "Vinho Madeira Especial Terrantez 1795" version with a black label and a shape similar to the CVM 1795 Terrantez depictured above.

1795 Terrantez by Blandy/Lomelino

You can find a picture of old vintages of the Madeira Wine Company in Noel Cossarts book “Madeira – the island vineyard”. There are clearly two bottles, probably four, maybe even more, stencilled Terrantez 1795. No initials give any clue to the shipper. As I explained above, the F. F. Ferraz wine had been bottled before the company joined the Madeira Wine Association in 1937. So there has to be another 1795 Terrantez wine owned by the Madeira Wine Company. In Michael Broadbents tasting notes you can find a Lomelino Terrantez 1795 that he tasted in 1993. Alex Liddell wrote to me: “A 1795 Terrantez was once produced by Blandy's. I have never seen or heard of a bottle, but I have seen specimens of the label. It is clear that members of the MWA (such as Blandy, and it would seem Lomelino) had this wine, because the photograph in Cossart's book that you refer to was taken in the part of the cellar where the private reserves of member firms were stored.” Reidar Andersen found out, that David V. Pamment, Director of the Madeira Wine Company held a Terrantez Madeira Tasting in 1987. The oldest wine opened at this tasting was, guess what, a 1795 Terrantez, island bottled. No shipper or producer is mentioned. Maybe this wine was just “common stock” of the amalgamated companies of the MWA/MWC and it might have been sold under the Blandy label and the Lomelino label as well.

Conclusion

In the beginning I believed that the above mentioned wines could have a connection. Alex Liddell though strongly opposes this theory. Given this and given my growing experience with more wines from different producers but same years and grape variety I have changed my mind. Just think of the at least four different 1827 Boals or the four different 1830 Malmseys. Or what about the seven different 1863 Boals? Nevertheless I am still puzzled that so many wines from the same distant year and from the same grape variety have survived more than 200 years. It is one of the fascinating details that make Madeira wine so interesting.

PS: Any reader who might be able to supply additional information or a picture of a bottle to add to the knowledge of the 1795 vintages is very welcome. Also any offers of 1795 bottles, be it Terrantez or not, are of course highly appreciated… I would still like to open my bottle of CVM 1795 Terrantez for a “grand 1795 Madeira Wine Tasting”, but no definitive plans have been made yet. I just don't have enough spare time right now to take on such a task. Anyway, people who are interested in such an event are welcome to email me, I could put you on a mailing list should the tasting take place at some time.