One of the many advantages on an apartment in the centre of Funchal are the number of places that can be visited without walking far. The old part of Funchal with its narrow streets and houses with wrought iron balconies sits alongside grand old properties given new leases of life beside wide boulevards and streets.
One of the oldest street in Funchal runs past the famous Blandy’s Wine Lodge, a must see attraction for most visitors. Last time we went we were too late for a tour, so we made sure we were in plenty time on this occasion.
But back to the wine lodge where we toured the visible attractions before our official tour started.
We gathered in the vintage room to await our guide and drool over the shelves of vintage Madeira. All bottles were for sale – at a cost. So only for the most special of occasions.
At the start of the tour we expected cool cellars, but instead found warm attics. Madeira, unlike other wines, requires warmth to age, so enormous wooden vats squat on well-strengthened floors on the first and second storeys of the wine lodge.
Here too is a delicious aroma, not quite of Madeira but more of warm honey and herbs, a smell of summer fields and promises that belies the dark rooms with their rows of barrels.
In the museum room videos show how grapes used to be picked by families and transported to collection centres. The grapes are still family grown on small plots as Madeira’s geography doesn’t allow for a more mass production approach. So the grapes that make Madeira continue to come from hundreds of small producers.
The museum has some fascinating old pieces of machinery, and displays of seals and labels as well as certificates. Unfortunately we didn’t get time to look in detail.
The end of the tour saw us in the bar area where we were each poured two glasses of Madeira of different kinds, sweetness and age. Most were happy to quaff and go, but I could have lingered to enjoy the experience.