Introduction: The Legend of the 1862 Terrantez Madeira
Michael Broadbent, a renowned wine critic, once proclaimed the 1862 vintage of Terrantez as not only the finest Terrantez ever produced but also "the greatest of all Madeiras." The scarcity of wines from the Terrantez grape variety has always conferred them with a prestigious reputation, and this particular vintage stands out as an exceptional example. With the near extinction of the Terrantez variety in the 20th century, the remaining bottles from the 19th century have become even more sought-after and treasured.
The Borges Connection: How the 1862 Terrantez Came to Be
Although the 1862 Terrantez Madeira was not originally produced by Borges, as the company was only established in 1877 by Henrique Menezes Borges, it played a significant role in the wine's history. Borges, like other firms on the island, acquired stocks of old wines from other companies and private collectors. This particular Terrantez was sourced from TT De Camara Lomelino. Borges was also known for supplying other shippers with these wines, and many bottles of the 1862 Terrantez were purchased from stocks bought by the firm Leacock. To this day, the Borges company remains in operation, managed by the fourth generation of the founding family.
A Vintage of Triumph: Overcoming the Oidium Crisis
The 1862 vintage is even more remarkable considering the context in which it was produced. In 1851, Madeira's vineyards were ravaged by oidium (powdery mildew), a devastating disease that destroyed the majority of the island's vines. By the early 1860s, the vineyards had only just started to recover, and production in 1862 remained significantly low.
Exploring the Terroir: The Origins of the 1862 Terrantez Madeira
The vineyards that produced this legendary wine belonged to João Alexandrino Santos. However, due to his ownership of numerous properties, the exact origin of the wine remains uncertain. It was not uncommon for wine companies to acquire old stocks of finished wine for blending or further aging as vintage wines, and the 1862 Terrantez was no exception.
Terrantez, a variety known for its high acidity and rich fruitiness, is challenging to cultivate but was celebrated in the 18th and 19th centuries as the source of some of the finest Madeiras. Originally grown near Lamego in the Douro valley, the variety nearly disappeared due to phylloxera. Consequently, 20th-century Terrantez wines are exceedingly rare. Although the variety is slowly being replanted, it is doubtful that more than a few hectares are currently under vine.
The Wine's Journey: Decades of Aging and Oxidation
As is customary with vintage Madeiras, the 1862 Terrantez would have spent decades in casks, exposed to extreme temperature fluctuations between summer and winter to ensure even oxidation. The wine would eventually be transferred to demijohns and bottled on demand or at a leisurely pace to preserve stocks for decades. Borges' 1877 Terrantez remained in demijohns until 2014, while the 1862 vintage was transferred to demijohns in 1905 and bottled in 1936.
Tasting Notes and Reactions: The 1862 Terrantez Madeira's Lasting Impressions
Michael Broadbent, having tasted the wine on five occasions in 1994, described it as having "an almost overwhelming bouquet and flavor, high toned, tangy, scented, power and delicacy magically combined… Sweeter than some Terrantez, with a slight touch of singed caramel and chocolate." Upon retasting the wine in 2010, he found his earlier notes still valid. The 1862 Terrantez was one of the few wines to which he awarded "At best six stars" in his book, Vintage Wine.
In his 2015 book Madeira, Richard Mayson noted a 2009 tasting: "Like a good old amontillado but without the tang, candied peel with a touch of coffee and butterscotch; a slightly cask finish."
Alex Liddell, in his 2014 book on Madeira, was enthralled: "Astonishingly full and assertive bouquet [of] candied peel, coconut, and kiwi fruit; immensely weighty on the palate… but behind the opulence, a steely backbone of acidity; almost medicinally dry, with a bitter finish and length that goes on and on… Sensational. A giant among giants."
Conclusion: The Enduring Legacy of the 1862 Terrantez Madeira
The 1862 Terrantez Madeira continues to captivate wine enthusiasts and critics alike, thanks to its remarkable history, scarcity, and unparalleled taste. As the Terrantez variety gradually reemerges, it is unlikely that any modern wines will ever match the magic of this timeless classic. The 1862 Terrantez Madeira will forever remain a legendary example of the heights that Madeira wines can achieve, and a testament to the skilled vintners who crafted it against all odds.
See the bottle here