Blandy’s Wine Lodge

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Things to do


Date of travel

May, 2019

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Madeira is a fortified wine which is produced in a variety of different styles from dry to sweet.

Vines were introduced to Madeira by the early settlers and there has been a long history of wine making. Unfortunately this wine didn’t travel well and had often gone ‘off’ by the end of a long slow journey by sailing ship. Adding a small amount of distilled alcohol from cane sugar helped to stop the wine from spoiling. One consignment of unsold Madeira was returned to the shippers after a round trip to the Americas. The casks of wine had been exposed to excessive heat during the trip which slightly oxidised the wine and transformed the flavour. Madeira was we now know it was born.

Shippers continued to send casks of Madeira on long sea voyages to mature but this was expensive and a method of artificially replicating the process was invented. Known as the estufa system, the wine is slowly heated to a temperature of 45-50˚C for a minimum of three months before being cooled slowly over another month.

Low cost Madeira wines are heated in stainless steel tanks surrounded by heating coils. More expensive are aged in wooden casks in specially heated rooms, a bit like being in a sauna. The best quality are left to age in warm attics, heated only by the sun. This can take up to eighteen months and the wines are very long lived remaining drinkable for over 150 years.

Blandy’s is probably the best known name in Madeira and Old Blandy’s Wine Lodge
is a popular tourist attraction in the centre of Funchal.

The firm was established in 1811 in the buildings of the old Franciscan Priory. One of the oldest street in Funchal still runs through the premises. Casks would have been rolled down here on the way to the harbour.

Behind the modern shop is a maze of rooms, yards and cellars. It is possible to walk into the back of the premises and wander round. There is old equipment on display and there are lovely mural tiles on the walls depicting the process of wine making.

Blandy’s offer two guided “tours”: which include visits to rooms not open to the public (cooperage and the warm rooms containing wines up to one hundred years old). It ends with a wine tasting.


All my pictures of Madeira are “here.”:


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