Bual, or Boal as it is also called in Madeira, is a white grape variety that originated on the Portuguese mainland (or continente as it is known in Madeira) having been planted in the Douro and Dão for centuries, where it goes by the name of Malvasia Fina. This varietal name covers not one but 16 grape varieties in Portugal, as Cincinnato da Costa writes in “O Portugal Viticola”. In Wine Grapes (Robinson et al.) viticulturalist Rolando Faustino suggests that it is probably from the Douro but due to its wide genetic diversity neither Dão nor the Lisbon region can be ruled out.
In Madeira, Bual, with a total registered vineyard area of no more than 20 hectares is grown mainly in the southern coast of the island, where it is sunnier and warmer, as it does not perform well on the cooler and damper north side.
The best wines come from small plots (poios) in Campanário, Calheta, Arco de Calheta and Ponta do Pargo, to the west of Funchal, located at altitudes ranging between 100m and 300m above sea-level.
This varietal is quite vigorous and relatively easy to grow, only moderately susceptible to powdery mildew (Oidium) and botrytis bunch rot, and has a late budding, allowing it not be so exposed to the risk of spring frosts. Its bunches are large, and ripen early.
In Madeira Wine, thanks to its good acidity that balances the sweetness, Bual produces medium bodied, light copper-coloured medium sweet wines that are intensively perfumed, rich in spice and dried fruit, and achieve admirable longevity.
Blandy’s Vntage Bual 1968 is a single harvest Madeira. This wine was aged for 36 years in seasoned American oak casks in the traditional ‘Canteiro’ system, whereby the casks were gradually transferred from the top floors of the lodge, where it is naturally warmer, to the middle floors and eventually to the ground floor where it is cooler. The wine was regularly racked and when it reached the desired stage of maturity it was bottled.
Only 4,107 bottles of this wine were released.
Alcohol: 21% ABV pH: 3.5 Baume? degree (20oC): 3.3 Volatile Acidity: 1.2 g/l
Clear, golden brown colour with golden green tinges at the rim. Intense and complex characteristic bouquet of Madeira with notes of toffee, wood, vanilla and chocolate. Full- bodied and medium sweet, with mellow fruit that provides a long and warm aftertaste.
“Dark chestnut colour, clean and distinct aroma of dried fruits and orange peel, witch gives great complexity to the wine. Well balanced, medium-bodied, a good Madeira with a warm and smooth aftertaste.” 17.5 points, Joa?o Paulo Martins, Revista de Vinhos, January 2006.
It has long been said that John Blandy, the founder of the family business, arrived in Madeira in 1807 aged twenty-three as a quartermaster to General Beresford, commander of the British garrison. Yet prolonged research among army lists yielded no mention of a John Blandy serving in Madeira. The truth was found instead by the Madeira wine lover and expert Emmanuel ‘Mannie’ Berk.
In August 2006 he found a letter of introduction sent from London to Messrs Newton, Gordon, Murdoch, wine merchants in Madeira, which immediately solved the family mystery: ‘Sirs! At the desire of our particular friend, Richard Fuller Esq., Banker in this City, we beg leave to introduce Mr John Blandy who visits your Island on account of ill health, and wishes to obtain employment in a Counting House. We shall be obliged if you can promote his views, and accordingly recommend him to your attention.’ The letter is dated 23 December 1807, implying that John Blandy arrived in the island early in 1808 rather than with British forces some months before.
It was during the following years after John Blandy arrived that the family became established on Madeira, not only through the wine trade, but also as managers and agents of ships and their cargo using Funchal as a port of call. John Blandy's son Charles Ridpath Blandy, continued the business. During the disastrous oidium plague in 1852 it was he who had the foresight to buy up a great proportion of the stocks of old wine on the island, thus safeguarding his company's ability to continue selling fine Madeira.
In 1925 Blandy's decided to join the Madeira Wine Association; a group of wine companies formed together to maximise global exposure and minimise overheads in a world where the export market was experiencing an all time low. Led by the Blandy family, this association managed to survive the bleak years whilst many individual companies fell by the wayside.
In 1989 in order to further expand the global market, the Blandy's approached another Anglo-Portuguese family, the Symingtons of Oporto (Port producers since the 19th century) and offered them a partnership in the newly named Madeira Wine Company (MWC). The Symingtons brought an extensive world-wide distribution network and a total quality approach as well as valuable winemaking experience gained through their many years as leading members of the Port Trade.