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Colheitas lift Madeira

Published:  23 July, 2008

The new style of single-vintage Colheita or Harvest Madeiras has helped to revive interest in the category as a whole and almost doubled like-for-like sales between the year to October 2003 and the year to October 2005. According to the latest figures from the Instituto do Vinho da Madeira (IVM), sales of all vintage-dated wines have almost doubled since 2003, rising from 14,620 litres to 21,341 litres in 2004 and 26,848 litres in 2005.

Although the Colheita/Harvest wines are grouped together for statistical purposes with the full, traditional Vintage wines (Frasqueiras or Garrafeiras), Jacques Faro da Silva, director and general manager of the Madeira Wine Company (Blandy's, Cossart Gordon, Leacock's, Miles), the largest shipper of premium wines, it is the new category that is largely responsible for the reported rise.

Since their introduction in 2000, the Colheita/Harvest wines have been welcomed by most of the surviving six shippers (Barbeito, HM Borges, Henriques & Henriques, Justino Henriques, MWC, Pereira d'Oliveira) as a more commercial alternative to the Solera wines that are becoming obsolete, and the full Vintage wines that need to spend at least 20 years in cask.

The wines may be from one of the four noble white varieties, Sercial, Verdelho, Bual or Malvasia, or from the red variety Tinta Negra Mole (though the last may not yet be identified by name). Stylistically they may not have the complexity or intensity of great old Vintage wines, but make up for this in approachability, delicacy and purity. Franciso Albuquerque, MWC's oenology and quality control manager, describes them as easier for new consumers to drink'.

The rise in vintage sales parallels the more general shift upmarket stimulated by the limitation on bulk exports

from 2002. IVM figures for October 2004 to October 2005 show total bottled sales up from 2,053,309 litres to 2,169,266 litres.

The UK is the second-largest export market for Madeira after France, but a far higher proportion of the UK shipments are in bottle rather than bulk: nearly 80% as against only 55% for France.