December 1, 2011
When our friend John Cossart passed away on February 27, 2008, not only did Madeira lovers lose a hero; a dynasty also ended.
Since their family arrived on the island in the 1830s, every Cossart man worked in wine, mostly for Cossart, Gordon & Co. But John and his father Peter remained outside of CG & Co., devoting seven decades to the venerable house of Henriques & Henriques.
John and Peter continued a winemaking tradition begun by João Joaquim Henriques in 1850. And over the years, they set aside some of the firm’s greatest and rarest wines for their personal collection. The Rare Wine Co. was privileged in June 2011, to acquire this collection in its entirety from John’s children, Ed and Maria.
Like William Leacock’s wines that came on the market in late 2008, John Cossart’s wines represent a unique window into Madeira’s history. In fact, both collections have a great deal in common.
Each collection represented the last remaining bottles in family hands from one of the Madeira trade’s longest-running dynasties. Each collection was also created at least two generations ago—stocked with the finest old Madeiras still in existence, and those most worthy of being put aside for their heirs to enjoy.
In fact, the greatest distinction between the two collections is how the wines were handled after purchase. The Leacock Madeiras were sold to the world “as is,” not having been treated to the periodic breathing and recorking that is recommended for old-in-bottle Madeiras. This is despite the fact that some of the wines had been in bottle, with their original corks, for 75 years or more.
With the personal help of Barbeito’s Ricardo Freitas, The Rare Wine Co. choose instead to remove every old cork in the Cossart Collection—and to air the wines in glass demijohns all summer, and, in the fall, to rebottle the wines in their original bottles with new wax capsules embossed with the RWC seal.
There is no one in the world more experienced in this work than Ricardo, since he was largely responsible for bottling from demijohn the legendary Quinta do Serrado Madeiras in 1988, and for rebottling the Acciaioli Madeiras (including the coveted 1802 Terrantez) a few months later. It was an honor to work with Ricardo on John Cossart's wines—and to learn from a master.
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