Arrival in Madeira
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.
Growth and Partnerships
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.
In 2000 the Blandy’s Madeira Wine Company led the way with the introduction of a high quality but affordable Madeira of a single year (known as "Colheita" in Portuguese); "Blandy's Malmsey 1994 Harvest". This was the first dated Madeira ever launched other than the very expensive and rare Vintage Madeiras. Wine merchants and consumers in many countries welcomed this fresh new thinking for quality Madeiras. Since then many other Madeira producers have again followed the MWC lead by introducing younger dated wines, thus creating an important new category of premium Madeira.
In July 2002, Blandy’s MWC again launched a completely new style of Madeira with a radical presentation, "Blandy's Alvada". The wine is different to anything that has been produced before as it combines 2 noble grape varieties, Malmsey and Bual to arrive at a superbly balanced wine that combines the rich flavours of the Malmsey with the more complex and drier structure of the Bual. Once again Blandy’s MWC has challenged the accepted wisdom.
The company is again leading the way in the re-establishment of Madeira as one of the world's great wines.
Blandy’s Vintage Madeiras
Vintage Madeira has the status as one of the world's great wines and is known to excite the mind as well as the palate. Few wines not only offer the complexity of a vintage Madeira, but also the remarkable longevity, exemplified by these wines that remain in excellent condition for 150 years and in some cases longer still! Blandy’s 1792 is an outstanding example of this.
Chris Blandy, the family’s 7th generation member to work in the company states, “Whilst the family’s cellars were fortunate enough to have benefitted from the foresight of my ancestor Charles Ridpath, our focus today continues to be on aging and producing these fine vintage Madeiras.” The exceptional 1985 Malmsey (bottled in 2009) is a case in point, in 2010 having won the Madeira Trophy at the International Wine Challenge and the Fortified Wine Trophy at the International Wine and Spirit competition.”
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