Thursday 25.1.24

Originally we had two outings planned – one to taste food locally in Funchal and the second to visit wineries.  The first was cancelled and we suspect that the company went out of its way to ensure the second trip went ahead.  We were told we would visit three contrasting wineries to showcase the variety of wine now being produced.

Madeira wine dates back over two centuries and on our previous visit we went to the Blandy’s wine lodge in the centre of Funchal.  Madeira wine is sweet and about 20 years it was felt that Madeira could undertake the growth of more grapes and extend production to regular table wines and two of the three wineries we visit today are part of the development with the government financing the processing plants which the growers rent to use.

Our first destination is Octávio Ferraz – Vinhos Madeirenses.  The owner, a former teacher, setup around 20 years ago/  He converted the terraces alongside the family home into a vineyard and became a small wine producer on the edge of the hill side between Funchal and Camara de Lobos.  The garden of the house has been developed as a fascinating little garden – with some fish in a pond, a couple of sheep, some chickens and ducks plus a couple of rabbits lollopping around the various levels – with the adjacent terraces planted with grapes.  A small vineyard and many plants adding to the aroma enables small production all of which is sold locally to hotels and similar and shows dedication to the cause.

The entire place is delightful but must be hard work given the terraces and the climbing up and down.  The stairs are numerous and we do not go to the terraces where the grapes are grown which are another couple of levels down and along from the gardens.  We are treated to a decent wine tasting before we move onwards.

Our second destination is a much larger scale producer and it also enables us to see a little more of the island as we head towards  the Quinta do Barbusano winery which is close to Sao Vincente in the north of the island.  There is a nice modern road under the mountains – the old road over the mountains would have taken much longer!  We have not previously seen much other than Funchal and the mountainous nature of the island becomes clearer.  The roads still twist a little – but nothing I am sure compared to the old mountain road.

The climate in the north of the island here feels different with salty sea air blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean and therefore slightly cooler with huge terraces planted to vines which we walk through.  A much larger production capability and as we later discover a wider range of wine types – although they also have other vineyards so production is not solely from this location.  Again it is family owned and the wide range can be seen in the photo above.

They also provide an excellent traditional Madeiran lunch that includes beef on bay laurel skewers along with boiled potatoes, salad and ‘bolo do caco’ with garlic butter.  There are some goats wandering through the vines which we spot whilst eating lunch.

We then return closer to Funchal and the Barbeito winery – this produces the sweet Madeira wine but being the youngest such producer – only since 1946 – it tends to be more innovative than the longer established producers.  Although sweet I feel I must do my duty of tasting the output.  All excellent.  This has a very small row of wines at the front – but most of the vineyard is further away.  I suspect that they also buy in supplies as they have some very large vats and barrels, although not to the scale of the port wine producers we saw in the Douro valley a couple of years ago.

We are returned to Funchal having enjoyed the services of a guide and a driver for the entire day.  Is too much drinking bad for you?  A wonderful trip out.