Barbeito Madeira History
Barbeito Madeira was founded in 1946 by Maria Barbeito de Vasconcelos. The company passed into the hands of his daughter Dona Manuela and then onto her sons in the early 1990s. One of the most significant years in Barbeito’s history was 1991 when the company entered into a joint venture with Kinoshita International Company Ltd of Japan, a company that Barbeito already had close commercial and personal relationships with since 1967. The person responsible for this, and much more innovation, was Ricardo Vasconcelos de Freitas, Maria Barbeito’s grandson.
Ricardo de Freitas joined the company in 1991 and still manages the firm on a day-to-day basis in consultation with his brother Emmanuel. Previous to 1991 and the Japanese joint venture Barbeito had mainly been a supplier of bulk wine for export. Ricardo decided to stop this. Realising that they could not compete with the large producers and shippers of Madeira, Barbeito began to concentrate on quality rather than quantity. The house style is defined as making unique, fresh and fruity wines using traditional methods. In order to achieve this Barbeito stopped using caramel for flavouring and colour, this helped to produce cleaner and purer wines. Since then Barbeito, although a relatively small player in Madeira, have become one of the most talked about producers on the island and have the awards and plaudits to prove it.
Barbeito, a Company of Firsts
Barbeito are a company of firsts, not only were Barbeito the first producer to stop using caramel and the first to stop supplying in bulk, but they were also the first to bottle single cask wines, the first to put frasqueira (vintage Madeira) wines into 50cl bottles, the first to take Tinta Negra Mole seriously as a single varietal wine and the first producer on the island to use robotic lagares.
Barbeito purchase grapes from around 135 different grape growers each year and 505 of these families have been supplying grapes to the company for over 15 years.
In 2008 another major change occurred for Barbeito, they moved premised from Funchal to a newly builty winery at an industrial park at Camara de Lobos which houses state of the art equipment, pneumatic presses, the aforementioned robotic lagares, a range of stainless steel fermentation and storage tanks and Estufas (the special ageing rooms where Madeira develops its unique characteristics). The move was very labour intensive but means that all wine production and ageing can take place on one site. All removal and relocation of all of Barbeito’s ageing casks of Madeira had to be done under the supervision of The Madeira Wine Institute.
At Fareham Wine Cellar we stock a small range of Barbeito Madeira, including the fantastic Rainwater (previous blog post).
Tasting Notes: Barbeito Rainwater 5 Year Old Reserva has a youthful golden colour, it is quite pale. The nose is full with nuts, almonds, orange peel and quite spicy notes. The palate shows a bit of sweetness and there is very good acidity, meaning that none of the sweetness is cloying at all. It has a very good, clean, long and nutty finish.
See other Madeiras from Cossart Gordon, Blandy and and Leacock here.