Madeira 1830 Welsh Brothers Bastardo
Provenance: Christies London, 3/16/2017
Madeira Bastardo is a name seen on fewer and fewer bottles of Madeira wine each year. This is not because of the distinctive name, which could even be a quirky advantage when marketing to the modern, adventurous wine consumer, but because the Bastardo grape variety has all but disappeared from Madeira's vineyards. So few Bastardo vines remain on Madeira that production of Madeira Bastardo wines has all but halted. What few examples remain are from vintages long past. The simple reason for this is one of finance and survival – Bastardo vines do not return a good profit (particularly compared with reliable croppers such as Tinta Negra Mole and Verdelho). They are disease-prone, and produce small yields, and the wine is not of sufficiently high quality to compensate for these shortcomings. It tends to be somewhat pale, lacking in acid and overly alcoholic. Although the variety was once much more widely used in Madeira wines, it is now limited almost exclusively to experimental vineyards. The owners of the Barbeito winery contracted a grape-grower to plant some Bastardo in his vineyard. The vines produced a single 350-liter cask of varietal Madeira Bastardo in 2007, but gave nothing worth vinifying for the four vintages following that. The variety's reputation seems justified, even with the help of modern viticultural and winemaking techniques. The Terrantez variety, which also came close to extinction, has enjoyed a minor resurgence in the past decade or so. Whether it goes the same way as Bastardo depends on the ongoing fortunes of Madeira wine in general. Although efforts have been made to market these more effectively, so far there has been little promise of a renaissance on any significant scale. Bastardo is believed to be the same variety as Trousseau (the name it bears when grown in France's Jura region). It is also grown on the Portuguese mainland, where it can be used to make Portugal's other key fortified wine, Port.
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The island of Madeira has been producing and exporting its namesake wine virtually since the Portuguese discovered it in 1419. Since then, Madeira’s location in the middle of important trade routes meant the success of its wines mirrored the worldwide geopolitical situation. The fortified wine’s fortunes have soared during times of peace, prosperity, and free trade and plummeted during conflict and international upheaval.