Carpe Diem Merlot 2011
Tommi | 26.6.2013 | 08:00

Alko 438347 (10,99 e) (huom. hyllyillä on nyttemmin jo uudempi vuosikerta 2012)
Rypäleet: Merlot 100 %
Maa / alue: Bulgaria / Chirpan
Tuottaja: Midalidare Estate

Kuva: Alko

Taustaa: Pitkien viininvalmistusperinteiden Bulgaria oli itselleni vitivalkoinen pläntti maailman viinikartalla, kunnes tammikuussa Alkon valikoimiin tullut loistava pihvipunkku Carpe Diem Merlot upotti ennakkoluulot kertalasillisella. Etiketin latinasta ymmärsin kymmenien Asterix-tarinoiden jälkeenkin vain kohdat ’vino’, ’carpe diem’ ja ’Merlot’, joten lisäselvitykset olivat tarpeen.

Bulgarian viinit ovat matkanneet 1980-luvun huippukaudelta läpi 1990-luvun sekasorron ja kohti viime vuosikymmenen varovaista nousua. Ulkomaiset investoinnit eivät ole löytäneet maata suuressa mittakaavassa ja niinpä suuri osa tarhoista ja tuottajista on edelleen hyvin pieniä. Carpe Diemin tuottaja Midalidare Estaten toinen viinintekijä Aleksandar Aleksiev kertoo, että tila pullottaa vuodessa vain 35 000 laatikollista viiniä. Omien tarhojen tavoitteena ovat pienet, mutta hyvärakenteisia ja ikääntymiskykyisiä viinejä tuottavat sadot. Aleksandarin mukaan tuoreimmat satovuodet 2011 ja 2012 olivat molemmat erittäin suotuisia paikalliselle Merlot’lle – kesä ja syksy olivat kuivat ja lämpimät viileiden öiden tuodessa rypäleisiin toivottua aromikkuutta.

Silmä: Lähes läpinäkymätön, tumman rubiininpunainen viini on reunoiltaan vielä nuorekkaan purppurainen.

Nenä: Erittäin tyylikäs tuoksu vie ajatukset välittömästi Bordeaux’n oikean rannan Merlot-pohjaisiin viineihin. Lupaavaa – tämä ei vaikuta lainkaan hillomaiselta tusinatavaralta, jota on jo maailma pullollaan. Monipuolisesta ja jo hieman kehittyneestä tuoksusta löytyy muhevaista mustaherukkaa, kirsikkaa, multaa ja nahkaa. Asiaa!

Suu: Täyteläisessä ja tuhdin marjaisessa maussa tuoksun aromit saavat taustalleen tyylikästä mausteisuutta ja viitteitä jonkinlaisesta tammen käytöstä. Erittäin runsaat ja nuorekkaat tanniinit kantavat viinin paahteiseen ja reilusti suuta kuivattavaan jälkivaikutelmaan.

Käyttö: Medium-kypsän pihvin paras kaveri. Myös voimakkaat, pitkään kypsytetyt kovat juustot sopivat tuhdin viinin rinnalle. Viini kestää hintaansa nähden poikkeuksellisen hyvin myös 5-10 vuoden varastointia ja kehittyy arvioni mukaan hyvinkin tyylikkäästi. Dekantoi viiniä useiden tuntien ajan ennen ruokailua ja tarjoile sen jälkeen 16-18 asteessa.

Tuomio: Herra Aleksievin luomus on loistavan hinta-laatusuhteen ruokaviini ja karistaa toivottavasti pinttyneimmätkin ennakkoluulot Itä-Euroopan viinien potentiaalista. Jos et kuitenkaan pidä runsaan tanniinisista ja siten voimakkaasti suuta kuivattavista viineistä, niin kannattaa jättää tämä väliin tai ainakin kypsytellä vielä muutaman vuoden ajan. Хванете на ден!

(maahantuojan näytepullo)

 



Voihan juhannusvinetto: Pihamaan Viherkuohu
Tommi | 20.6.2013 | 08:00

Lähiruokatori Heila, Heinola ja Viini- & Puutarhatila Pihamaa, Kalkkinen (15,70 e)
Raaka-aine: Viherherukka 100 %
Maa / alue: Suomi Finland / Heinola ja Kalkkinen
Tuottaja: Viini- & Puutarhatila Pihamaa

Slurps

Taustaa: Juhannuksen aikaan Kalkkisten (Siltatie 12) tai Heinolan (Työmiehentie 35) suunnalla liikkuvat HUOMIO!

Tunnustan vielä pari vuotta sitten kuuluneeni joukkoon, jonka mielestä marjaviinit eivät ole viinejä lainkaan. Keittiömestari-isäni ammoin lahjaksi kiikuttama Viini- & Puutarhatila Pihamaan viherherukkakuohari lymyili jääkaapin perukoilla vuoden päivät ennen kuin alkukesän juhla antoi sille mahdollisuuden esitellä itsensä. Raikkaan ja persoonallisen tuttavuuden edessä olinkin myyty heti kättelyssä.

Vuonna 2000 aloittaneella ja viinien lisäksi mm. siidereitä ja likööreitä tuottavalla Pihamaalla on päämaja Kalkkisissa ja toinen toimipiste Heinolassa Lähiruokatori Heilan yhteydessä. Pihamaan Viherkuohu valittiin vuonna 2011 Suomen parhaaksi tilaviiniksi ja myös monet muut tilan tuotteet ovat saaneet virallista tunnustusta. Tuotevalikoimaan kuuluvat viinien lisäksi mm. siiderit, snapsit, hehkuviinit, pontikka ja liköörit.

Tilan perustaja Janne Pihamaan mukaan viherherukka on aromaattisuutensa ja hapokkuutensa ansiosta erinomainen kuohuviinin raaka-aine. Pakastetuista marjoista ympäri vuoden valmistettavassa Viherkuohussa tätä musta- ja valkoherukan risteytystä on lopulta noin 30 prosenttia. Alhaiselta kuulostava määrä selittyy marjojen tappavalla hapokkuudella, jota on pakko laimentaa vedellä ja pehmentää jäännössokerilla tasapainoisuuden saavuttamiseksi. Perusviini käytetään kuivaksi ilman mäskiä, minkä jälkeen viini hiilihapotetaan paineen alla tankissa. Lopuksi viiniin lisätään sokeri, jota on valmiissa pullotteessa noin 35 g/l (mitä on maistaessa vaikea uskoa). Tämä on toki tarkoitettu nuorena juotavaksi, mutta tarvittaessa reippaat hapot ja niitä tasapainottava sokeri kykenevät hyvissä olosuhteissa säilömään viinin raikkaana noin kaksi vuotta pullotuksesta. Viherkuohun vuosituotanto on vuodesta riippuen noin 4.000 – 6.000 pulloa.

Silmä: Tyylikkästi kuplivassa viinissä on hieno kullankeltainen väri.

Nenä: Herkullisen persoonallisesta tuoksusta löytyy puhdas viherherukan aromi – tätä et löydä muualta.

Suu: Tasapainoinen ja rapsakan raikas maku on puolikuiva ja siinä on maukkaan viherherukkaisuuden lisäksi kevyttä yrttisyyttä ja sitruksisuutta. Huonot muistot ällömakeista marjaviineistä unohtuvat ensi kulaisulla, kun pirteät kuplat ja reilu hapokkuus saavat veden kielelle ja kesähymyn huulille.

Käyttö: Loistava valinta jussin yksinvaltaiseksi juhlistajaksi, mutta toimii hyvin myös esimerkiksi raikkaiden salaattien ja savustetun kalan seurana. Raikkaat aromit saat parhaiten talteen nauttimalla viinin jääkaappikylmänä.

Tuomio: Tämä omien suosikkijuomieni kärkipäähän noussut lähikuohuva on kerrassaan mahtavaa tavaraa ja innostaa kokeilemaan ennakkoluulottomasti muitakin kotimaisia herkkuja. Pakkohan sitä on taas käydä tankkaamassa, kun kohti Mikkeliä ajellaan. Hyvää juhannusta!

 



Alkon uutuudet: kesäkuu 2013
Tommi | 18.6.2013 | 08:00

Voihan vinetto maistoi jälleen ahnaasti tuoreet Alkon uutuudet. Vakiovalikoiman lyhyehköstä kesäkuun uutuuslistasta nousivat esiin etenkin pari hienoa punaista sekä tyylikäs saksalainen Riesling-kuohari. Loistavan vuosikerran hinnakas ja nimekäs Bordeaux-viini otti tällä kertaa rankingin paalupaikan, mutta kukin voi toki kriittisesti kyseenalaistaa maistoinko ns. etikettiä vai pystyinkö arvioimaan objektiivisesti itse sisältöä. Puristienkin on silti hyvä muistaa, että viimeistään ruokapöydässä kyse on molemmista.

Alkusyksyn aikatauluhaasteiden vuoksi tarjoilemme Alkon uutuuksia seuraavan kerran vasta syyskuussa. Mutta nyt: ääntä kohti!


HUIPUT

Alter Ego 2010 (PUNA)

Alko 452497 (87,70 e)
Rypäleet: Cabernet Sauvignon 51 %, Merlot 49 % (näin tuottajan mukaan, Alkon sivuilla mukana myös Petit Verdot)
Maa / alue: Ranska / AC Margaux
Tuottaja: Château Palmer

Lyhyt kuvaus: Château Palmerin kakkosviini erinomaiselta vuodelta 2010. Nuorekkaan purppurainen (jopa violetti) ja läpinäkymättömän tumma ulkokuori. Aromikkaassa tuoksussa leijuu tummasävyistä ja tyylikästä mustaherukkaa, karhunvatukkaa, mausteista tammea ja (LOL-varoitus) juuri teroitetun lyijykynän lastuja. Täyteläinen, etunojainen ja nuorekkaan tanniininen maku on superherkullinen ja antaa vaihteeksi positiivista pohjaa parhaiden bördööläisten hinnoittelulle. Kyse on toki myös markkinoinnista sekä kysynnän ja tarjonnan laeista, mutta kyllä tämä on todella upea viini. Alter Ego on nuorena Palmerin grand vin’iä selvästi lähestyttävämpi eikä tyypillisesti ole tarkoitettu vuosikymmenien mittaiseen kypsytykseen. Loistava, pitkän kasvukauden ja optimaaliset sadonkorjuolosuhteet tarjonnut vuosi 2010 soi kuitenkin toisellekin minälle niin hyvän happorakenteen, että lipittelyaikaa lienee hyvinkin jäljellä vielä 20 vuotta. Parhaiden liharuokiesi kumppaniksi.

Dao Alvaro Castro Reserva 2009 (PUNA)

Alko 419507 (19,05 e)
Rypäleet: Alfrocheiro, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz
Maa / alue: Portugali / DOC Dão
Tuottaja: Quinta da Pellada

Lyhyt kuvaus: Läpinäkymätön, purppurainen väri. Marjainen, kirsikkainen, mausteinen ja tyylikkään tamminen tuoksu. Täyteläinen maku on herkullinen sekoitus kirsikkaa, karpaloa, metsämarjoja ja mausteita. Keskitanniininen, hyvät hapot. Kypsytetty käytetyissä ranskalaisissa barrique-koon tammitynnyreissä sopivasti reilun vuoden verran ilman, että tammiaromit pääsisivät dominoimaan (niin kuin tässä toisessa uutuudessa). Palkitsee myös kärsivällisen, sillä kehittyy suotuisasti vielä useita vuosia. Portugal rules ok!


KIITETTÄVÄT

Barth Riesling Brut (KUOHU)

Alko 513537 (19,89 e)
Rypäleet: Riesling 100 %
Maa / alue: Saksa / Deutscher Sekt B.A. Rheingau
Tuottaja: Wein- und Sektgut Barth

Lyhyt kuvaus: Keskisyvä kullankeltainen, pirteät kuplat. Kevyen paahtoleipäinen ja sitruksinen tuoksu, jossa myös Riesling on mukavasti tunnistettavissa. Kuiva ja erittäin hapokas maku on mineraalinen, tyylikkään sitruksinen ja kevyen omenainen. Jälkitunnelma nostaa veden kielelle. Hieno perinteisen menetelmän saku kuivan samppanjan ja rieslingin ystäville. Tyylikkäille kala- ja äyriäisruoille.


ERINOMAISTA HINTA-LAATUA

Nativa Terra Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (PUNA)

Alko 498987 (9,49 e)
Rypäleet: Cabernet Sauvignon 100 % (Alkon tietojen mukaan – tosin ainakin aiemmissa vuosikerroissa on ollut mukana myös ripaus Carmenerea, Merlot’ta ja/tai Syrah’ta)
Maa / alue: Chile / Maipo Valley
Tuottaja: Nativa Eco Wines / Santa Rita Group

Lyhyt kuvaus: Erittäin syvä rubiini. Mustaherukkaan ja karpalomehutiivisteeseen viittaava tuoksu on myös kevyen mustapippurinen. Tuoksun aromeja uskollisesti seuraava ja lajikkeen viimeistään paljastava maku on täyteläinen, nuorekkaan tanniininen ja reilun hedelmäinen. Peittoaa kympin bordoot 100-0, vaikka tiivistemehun fiilis jääkin hieman kummittelemaan takaraivoon. Medium-kypsälle biffille ja kypsemmille juustoille.

(kaikki kuvat: Alko)

 



Interview with Chris Blandy, part 2
Tommi | 8.6.2013 | 08:00

In the first part of the interview, we interviewed Chris about his background and current job as CEO of Blandy’s. In this second part we focus more on the wines themselves (FINALLY!) as well as discuss the future direction of Madeira. Finally, my brief notes on a small selection of Blandy’s range of wines are included in the end.

Before we let Chris loose, it’s probably worth summarising what Madeira wine is and how it is made. I won’t go into a lot of detail here as a myriad of useful information by people far more qualified than myself can be easily found all over the web (e.g. see here or here).

Not your average vineyard location

Grape varieties

While by law a plethora of grape varieties are allowed for the production of Madeira wine, only a handful are used in meaningful quantities. The following six varieties form the basis of more or less all commercially sold Madeira wine.

Tinta Negra Mole: A high-yielding red variety used for all levels of sweetness and accounting for 80-90 per cent of all production. Originally a crossing of Pinot Noir and Grenache.
Sercial: A highly acidic white variety producing the driest styles among the four ‘noble varieties’.
Verdelho: The second ‘noble white’ producing off-dry and slightly more full-bodied and less acidic wines than Sercial.
Bual/Boal: Another noble white variety, producing interesting semi-sweet and medium-bodied wines.
Malvasia/Malmsey: The fourth noble white, producing the sweetest, smoothest and most full-bodied wines.
Terrantez: A rare but highly appreciated white variety, producing some of the best and most age-worthy Madeiras in both sweet and dry styles.

A traditional (and hot) warehouse for ageing vintage Madeira

Winemaking and ageing

What happens during winemaking and the subsequent ageing process is really what gives Madeira its completely unique aroma profile. As with all fortified wines, the fermentation process is stopped with the addition of neutral grape spirit at the desired level of sweetness (dry, medium dry, medium sweet or sweet). Following the fortification, the historical effect of the wines’ exposure to tropical heat during long sea voyages is duplicated through the estufagem ageing process whereby the deliberate heating and oxidation of the wines gives them their unique aroma and flavour profile. The heat can be applied either artificially (e.g. hot water circulating around stainless steel containers) or totally naturally (barrel-ageing in specially designed rooms exposed to direct sunlight), depending on the targeted level of quality and price.

The estufagem process can last from 90 days for the cheapest wines to up to 100 years for the most expensive and high-quality vintage Madeiras. The practice is also responsible for Madeira’s famous chemical stability: by the bottling date the wine will already be so fully oxidised and mature that leaving a bottle open will not do it much harm. On the same note, unopened bottles of Madeira are some of the longest-lasting wines in the world – as an example, vintage 1785 is one of the most expensive wines in the world and highly sought-after among the wealthiest wine collectors. Crazy stuff!

Oldies goldies… But who are the lucky ones that get to taste them???

And now, ladies and gentlemen – Chris Blandy, part two:

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What makes Madeira unique among the many wine styles out there?

Being a fortified wine and almost completely unique in the fact that we promote the heating of the wine, whilst being made on a small volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic, sets us apart in many aspects! Perhaps the most important aspect is that our wines are completely stabilised, due to the ageing process. This means that once a bottle is opened, the consumer can enjoy the wine over a long period. For example, I opened a bottle of vintage Terrantez 1976 at Christmas 2011, enjoyed half the bottle with my wife, replaced the cork, kept it standing upright in my cellar and a year later, at Christmas 2012, enjoyed the other half. The wine hadn’t changed in the slightest.

Many people probably consider Madeira solely a dessert wine. But this is far from the truth, isn’t it?

Whilst typically rich Madeira is drunk with dessert, we have been working hard with sommeliers and Michelin star chefs to pair Madeira with a whole range of different dishes. Some of the experiences that have worked well in the past and are seen on various menus around the world include, chilled 5 year old Sercial with toasted almonds, 5 year old Verdelho with tuna sashimi, 10 year old Bual with foie gras or Bresse Blue cheese, vintage Bual with fake shark fin soup, and 10 year old Malmsey with dark chocolate fondant, to name just a few.

What are the latest trends when it comes to Madeira? Do you do a lot of research into new styles or ways to express the island’s terroir – e.g. have you experimented with single vineyard bottlings or some wacky blends?

We produced our wackiest blend in 2002 with the 5 year old Alvada, a wine produced with a 50/50 blend of Bual and Malmsey. We sold it in a sleek 50 cl bottle with a shocking pink label – very anti Madeira at the time! The reaction has been very positive and the consumers thoroughly enjoy this new style of Madeira. In terms of single quinta bottlings, that project is very much underway, but still a few years down the line as we want to leave the wine more years in cask before being launched.

Each and every bottle of vintage Madeira is still labeled by hand

Madeira wine has for some time been more or less out of fashion – especially among younger generations – although among wine enthusiasts practically everyone will love a glass of mature, high-quality Madeira. Why is that and where do you think the future of Madeira lies? How can it be marketed more effectively to the new breed of wine consumers?

The opportunities for Madeira are plenty. The consumers nowadays are much more aware of what is in their glass and what is available out in the market, being it from the large corporate brands, or the small hand-produced products. We are very much focusing on consumer wine fairs and getting the wine in front of the consumers and taking them through the 4 main styles so that they get a clear idea of what Madeira is basically all about. We are fortunate in that more often than not, the majority of those who try our wines for the first time get immediately hooked on the product!

What is your single favourite Madeira you’ve ever tasted?

A difficult one as I’ve been fortunate enough to try many old great wines, some dating back to the beginning of the 18th century. One wine however that has constantly made me smile is our 1920 Bual. A wine that we were fortunate enough to have a large stock of and that we still have over 1,000 litres in oak continuing to age. This wine should be perfect for a 2020 bottling – 100 years in cask!

If our readers would like to learn more about Madeira and Blandy’s, what should they do – except of course drink a lot of the stuff? Are visits possible?

The island itself is a perfect destination for tourism. It has spectacular sea and mountain, constant warm weather throughout the year, a wide range of hotels and small country house properties and of course a varied and diverse food and wine scene. Visits to the vineyards and of course our 200 year old wine lodge in the centre of Funchal is a must. We can almost guarantee that however you visit the island, you’ll go away with a strong need to return.

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Well, then. After Chris’s interesting thoughts it’s about time to review some wines! A selection of six wines was on display together with delicious Finnish dishes at the excellent Helsinki-based Restaurant Nokka.

An intriguing menu by Restaurant Nokka (Photo: Voihan vinetto!)

5 Year Old Alvada

Served with goose liver pumped up with some salty nuts and black pudding, this interesting 50-50 mix of Bual and Malmsey has as much as 120 grams per litre of residual sugar. On the nose one gets a delicious mixture of coffee, raisins, lime and nuts as well as a whiff of oak (exceptionally to Madeiras, this one has spent some time in oak for the purpose of extracting some of those oaky aromas). On the palate it’s very sweet indeed but the high acidity gives it a nice, balanced feel. The food-wine combination was among the best of the day. A welcome alternative, then, to all those Botrytis affected sweet whites usually recommended with fois gras.

Santa Lucia

The Santa Lucia is based on the widely planted (and less valued) Tinta Negra Mole grape and with RS of 130 g/l it is even sweeter than the Alvada. However, being less acidic and with a more straightforward aroma profile the Santa Lucia is less pronounced and also far less interesting. While the acidity was just sufficient to make the wine work with the consommé and nuts on offer, I felt the combination was too much dominated by the sweetness of the wine. (available in Alko)

10 Year Old Sercial

This dry Sercial made a nice effort together with the delicious duck and cep mushroom dish. You’d never guess the sugar content as even with 50 g/l of residual sugar, the intensive acidity makes the wine feel fresh and dry on the palate. Aromas of dried fruit, nuts and almonds linger long in the mouth.

5 Year Old Bual

On the nose this basic Bual provides a nice, oxidised cloud of nuts, dried plum, other dried fruit, and burned sugar. With residual sugar of 95 g/l the taste is quite sweet and the aroma profile is complemented with coffee and spice. The wine’s marriage with the chocolate and nougat based dessert was perfect. (available in Alko)

Terrantez 1976

For me, the Terrantez was the undisputed star of the day. Bottled in 1997, the 21 years spent in cask have really intensified the aromas and the result resembles a condensed Bual, with the trademark aromas of dried fruits, spices, burned sugar and a certain degree of woodiness. Intense and unforgettable! I have no doubt about the potential of this wonderful but almost extinct and extremely low-yielding variety, so let’s hope Madeira’s producers will raise their efforts towards rehabilitating it. There was only one downside: buying a bottle will set you back almost 200 euros. (90 g/l of sugar)

Sercial 1940

After maturing a staggering 46 years in cask, this bottling spent a further 26 years in bottle before making it to our table. Still completely fresh with an astounding level of acidity and an intensively oxidized, salty, and pistachio-like feel. An epitome of luxurious dry Madeira, available at around 250 euros per bottle.

Liquid heaven (Photo: Voihan vinetto!)

All in all, a solid display from Blandy’s and an eye-opening demonstration of the gastronomic possibilities of Madeira wine in general. After the experience, I have already added more Madeira to my cellar and look forward to enjoying them alongside a nice dinner.

Encore: Official fan photo of Chris – again

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Please share your experiences on our Facebook page and remember to follow us on Twitter!

(All photos: Blandy’s except where explicitely mentioned otherwise)

 



Interview with Chris Blandy, part 1
Tommi | 1.6.2013 | 08:00

Madeira is a beautiful island situated in the Atlantic Ocean some 400 kilometres north of the Canary Islands, and this autonomous region of Portugal is home to the similarly beautiful, unique and historically important Madeira wine. Used once to toast the declaration of indepence of the USA, the last century witnessed a slow but steady decline in the popularity of this unique fortified wine style. Falling out of favour of the global wine market was driven by several developments, including (but not limited to) the phylloxera epidemic in the late 1800′s, the subsequent and unfortunate replanting with lower quality vine species, and the temporary closing off of Madeira’s then biggest export markets (Russia, USA) in the first half of the 20th century.

Breathtaking scenery at the 2ha Quinta do Furão, one of the three vineyards recently acquired by Blandy’s in a push to secure availability of top quality grapes for the long run. And there’s a hotel on the site, too!

Chris Blandy, the new generation CEO of the major Madeira house Blandy’s, visited Finland earlier this year and together with their importer Winestate offered a chance to try an interesting selection of Blandy’s wines in Helsinki. The bottlings were tasted alongside Finnish delicacies specially prepared to match the wines by Restaurant Nokka’s skilled chef Ari Ruoho.

Chris is a dedicated ambassador of Madeira wine and a firm believer in the potential of the island as a producer of high-quality wine – and, judging by the overall level of the tasting, he seems to know what he’s talking about. The challenge, however, remains as many consumers still associate the Madeira name with the low-quality ‘cooking wine’ once so common in American and British kitchens. While the best examples (and especially those exquisite mature bottlings) of the island’s possibilities fetch considerable enthusiasm from wine connoisseurs around the world, re-penetrating the minds of the general public with high-quality products and a good value proposition is not a walk in the park. During the past couple of decades the first steps towards achieving this goal have already been taken and with the success enjoyed by Blandy’s in 2012, Chris is determined to see the process through. However, for Madeira to stand a chance for a true bounce back it seems clear that his enthusiasm really needs to be supported by a consistent marketing push from all the major Madeira houses. The quality of the wines is not an issue anymore – it’s now all about sales, marketing and a lot of legwork.

Chris Blandy took over as CEO of Blandy’s wine business in 2011 and is determined to lift Madeira back to its former glory

In this first part of the interview (conducted in May 2013) Chris talks about his background, education, business training and current duties at the helm of the 200-year-old family group of companies. The second part focuses on the wines and also includes my short notes of the ones tried and tested at the tasting in Helsinki.

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Hi Chris! Great to talk to you again. How’s life?

Life is good! Just back from a 10-day holiday to Rome (without kids) and Porto Santo (with kids), so feeling fresh and energised!

You visited Finland earlier this year, among the rest of the Nordic region. How was the experience and what did you take home from the visit?

Visiting Madeira markets for the first time is always an interesting experience and more often than not, a positive one. Finland was no different and what I found was a very passionate, albeit small, group of Madeira lovers. This is always very promising in our category as it is these ambassadors who can help spread the word on the Madeira wines.

How was the ferry to Stockholm? You may have been saved by the fact it was a Tuesday…

After all the hype, much quieter than I had expected! Quite relieved though as I had a master class with 25 of the staff at 23:30 at night onboard. It was a great experience to wake up the next day and be invited up to the bridge to view the navigation through the archipelago.

We’re about the same age and it’s amazing to think you’ve now been running such a big and traditional company as Blandy’s as CEO for two years already. What’s your biggest achievement to date and what are your main goals for the next five years?

Yes, I took over as CEO of the Madeira Wine Company in September 2011, our bicentennial year, though I am also CEO of 2 other of our businesses since 2010 (Travel and Shipping Agencies).

Taking control of a 200-year-old organisation in the middle of a global crisis is always going to be a serious challenge. Not only do you have to deal with the weight of expectation from other family members and colleagues, but you also have to find the right path to be able guide to business through to calmer times. Fortunately with the help of my cousin Michael, President of the family and a very good operating team, I get a lot of support.

2012 was a landmark year for us in that we managed to achieve a large amount of awards at the various global competitions, we produced some fantastic new wines and we managed to turnover more sales than in recent history.

My objective for the near future is to fully implement our vineyard project. Historically we have never owned our own vineyards, but due to increasing pressure on securing production, and our commitment to the future of the historical white varietals, we have embarked on various projects and we’re currently working on 3 separate Quintas around the island, with an objective to increase this in the short term.

And finally, my main goal is to increase the quantity of Madeira wine drinkers around the world!

Tell us a little bit about your background, education and early career. You told me earlier that you’re half Swedish but I’m sure our readers will forgive you for that…

That’s true I’m afraid. My mother is Swedish and I am very proud of my Nordic heritage, even though we didn’t get many chances to visit our relations there.

I was born in Madeira on 23 March 1979 and as many English children abroad, went to boarding school in the south of England. After school, I lived in New Zealand, working as a sports teacher for a year before heading back to England to study languages and history at Newcastle University. After Newcastle, I applied for a job with our Madeira wine partners at the time, the Symington Family of Oporto, where I worked with them for 3 years. I then decided to switch careers and got a job working at a well known hotel property in Washington DC, in the USA. Late 2006, my cousin gave me a call advising me that there was a job opening at the shipping agency, which I joined in 2007.

I know many traditional family companies in Finland like it if their younger generation works outside the family before really joining the company for the long haul – but in your case it was a strict requirement, wasn’t it? How important was that experience to you and what did you take away from it?

We have a written rule which states that family members are encouraged to join the Group provided there is an opening, they are suitably qualified and have had a minimum of 4 years work experience elsewhere. This allows us to ensure that we get family members who can bring in their own ideas and experiences to the table, rather than learner from scratch within the group.

It worked very well for me and the most important message that I’ve learned (and still learning!) is to always listen to the team around you, from the lowest paid to the highest paid individual.

As you mentioned, besides Madeira production the group also runs a big hotel business and a shipping agency. How do you divide your time between the different lines of business and how involved do you get with each of them?

I’m currently focusing the majority of my time on the wine company, as we feel that this needs the most attention. For the Travel and Shipping business, as well as my involvement in the hotels and general group matters, I manage to dedicate about 1 day per month for each area.

Quinta de Santa Luzia, another of Blandy’s recently acquired vineyards, is a promising site for the previously largely out-of-favour Terrantez grape

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The second part of the interview can be found here.

(All photos: Blandy’s)