A Week In Madeira – 8. Tasting With Luis d’Oliveira



d’Oliveira headquarters with tasting room and shop in Funchal

D’Oliveira is an independent Madeira wine producer in Funchal, founded in 1820 and today, owned and run by fifth generation d’Oliveiras –  Anibal and Luis. They have an incredible collection of old wines. and a tasting here is a really memorable event


Making d’Oliveiras

For dry and off-dry Madeira, grapes are fermented without skin contact. White varietals are fermented at 18 – 22 degrees celsius and reds at 22 – 30 degrees. Fermentation is stopped with the addition neutral 96% grape spirit. For sweet wines from Malvasia, this happens at two days of fermentation. For semi-sweet wines from Boal, fortification is after three days and for off-dry wines and those from Sercial, it is after four days. For ‘dry’ wines, fortification is only introduced almost at the end of the fermentation. After fortification, the wines have an alcohol content of approximately 17% to 18%.


Wines undergo ageing by heat after clarification and filtration.

In the “Estufagem” process, the wine is placed in stainless steel vats that are heated with hot water at 45 – 50 degrees Celsius, which runs through a serpentine system for three months or more. The wine then undergoes a period of “estágio” or rest for at least 90 days and can be bottled after 31st October of the second year following the harvest.

The wines that are selected to age in “Canteiro” (casks are placed on wooden support beams called “canteiros”) are kept in casks, usually in the top floors of the cellars, where the temperature is higher, for a period of two years. The wine undergoes oxidative ageing in the cask and is allowed to be bottled after a minimum of three years counting from 1st January of the year following the harvest.

d'Oliveira shop

d’Oliveira shop

The Tasting

We sat a table reserved for us in one corner of the huge shop. There were special ‘Madeira’ glasses, spittoons and snacks on the table. Luis d’Oliveira stood at the head of the table and led the tasting, pouring wine and talking through them in his soft, measured voice. We tasted 15 stunning wines – the first four were “Dry”, the next 9 “Medium Dry” and the last two, sweet. This is how it went.

  1. 10 YEAR OLD TINTA NEGRAA pleasant amber coloured and sweetish aperitif wine with a long nutty finish. (Euro 22 in the d’Oliveira shop)
  2. 1989 SERCIAL RESERVA: A Reserva  is made from one of the Noble Madeira Grapes (Sercial, Verdelho, Bual or Malmsey) and must be aged for a minimum of five years. A dark drier wine with fine acidity and a nutty finish. (Euro 69)
  3. 1971 SERCIALThis was classified as a Vintage Frasquiera Madeira. These wines must be from a single noble grape variety and must remain in cask for a minimum 20 years and further two years in bottle before they are sold. Frasquiera wines aged by the canteiro method can lose half their volume due to evaporation and are sometimes held in glass demijohns to minimise this. The wine was amber in colour, there was chocolate on the nose and was soft and refined. (Euro 138)
  4. 1937 SERCIAL RESERVABottled in 2003, it was an amber wine, still with fine acidity and a very long nutty finish. (Euro 254)
  5. 10 YEAR OLD BUALFirst of the Medium Dry Madeiras (Residual sugar 50-85 g/l). A sweet nutty blend which was not really appealing to me. (Euro 22)
  6. 1987 VERDELHO: The Verdelho grape is sometimes referred to as ‘rain water’ and the wine is soft and sweet with honey and smoke overtones. (Euro 83)
  7. 1977 TERRANTEZTerrantez is a rare white grape in Madeira, once almost extinct. It is a low yielding vine but has the potential to make rich, full-bodied wines with a highly perfumed bouquet and ability to age well, developing wines with a long finish and layers of complexity. Only Medium Dry or Medium Sweet wines are made with Terrantez and never Dry or Sweet. This was a lovely example with a slightly tannic note but would make a great aperitif (Winesearcher £130)
  8. 1927 BASTARDO:  Bastardo is a rare red grape in Madeira and 1927 was a legendary vintage. The wine is dark brown and has almonds, walnuts, honey and coffee on the nose, good acidity with a slightly bitter finish. Balanced and lovely. (Euro 420?)
  9. 1912 VERDELHO RESERVADark with a brown rim of age but the freshness of the wine is remarkable. Lovely nutty, smoky nose. Sweetish but with a dry finnish.  Long. Stunning wine! (Euro 440)
  10. 15 YEAR OLD TINTA NEGRA: 90% Tinta Negra and 10% Bual in the blend produced and matured using the “canteiro” process. Dark and sweet. (Euro 22)
  11. 1993 BUAL: 100% Bual, bottled in 2014. Dark, sweet and lovely. (Winesearcher £52)
  12. 1968 BUAL: Dark with brown edges. Still fresh and lively. Sweet and nutty. (Winesearcher £175)
  13. 1908 BUAL: Bottled in 2013. This won the WISC Gold in 2010. Dark amber with browning. Rich and very nutty finish. Fabulous wine! (Winesearcher £298)
  14. 15 YEAR OLD TINTA NEGRA/MALVASIA BLEND: Browning. Odd nose. Sweet but not appealing
  15. 1907 SWEET MALMSY: Bottled in 2003. Dark and browning. Figs, candied orange peel and some marmalade with toasted almonds. A true special occasion wine and absolutely delightful! It was served with traditional Madeiran Honey Cake which is never cut but broken in to small pieces when serving. (Euro 520)
A Frasqueira wine in a demijohn

A Frasqueira wine in a demijohn (not at d’Oliveira)

dsc_2965 dsc_2969

Luis d'Oliveira conducting the tasting

Luis d’Oliveira conducting the tasting


Pereira d’Oliveira (Vinhos), Lda, Rua dos Ferreiros, 107 9000-082 Funchal, Tel; +351 291 220 784, e-mail: geral@doliveiras.pt

Our visit was arranged by:

Rita Galvão
CEO / Diretora Executiva 
+351 912304517
www.discoveringmadeira.com  www.winetoursmadeira.com



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