A Family's Odyssey

Monday, February 28, 2011 at The Modern, New York, New York

The great Madeira producer Barbeito was born 65 years ago this year.

The company was the vision of Mario Barbeito, who began his company at a time when the ranks of Madeira shippers had been decimated by decades of bad economic news. But Mario Barbeito understood Madeira's greatness. And he seeded his new venture in the most logical way possible: by buying up, when one still could, priceless old vintages from the island's oldest families.

Today, of course, Barbeito is still making history, but in a different way. Mario Barbeito's grandson Ricardo Freitas is electrifying Madeira's wine industry with wines that are breathtaking for not only their purity but their uniqueness. With good reason, Jancis Robinson calls his wines the Lafite of Madeira, while erobertparker's Neal Martin calls him Madeira's Game Changer.

An Epic Dinner

The evening of February 28th, in a private dining room overlooking the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, Ricardo joined us on a journey that spanned not only the life of his family's business, but 174 years of Madeira.

We explored the now-rare wines with which Mario Barbeito seeded his young company. Included were several nearly extinct examples that only survive in the Barbeito family's own cellars. (Some were decanted from demijohn expressly for this dinner.)

We also explored the rare Madeiras that Ricardo himself has unearthed from the island's private cellars, continuing his grandfather's work. And we had the chance to experience some of Ricardo's own Madeiras ... wines that promise to change the course of Madeira's history.

In all, we savored an incredible 18 Madeiras, spanning more than 170 years. And the wines were paired with a series of stunning dishes from Chef Gabriel Kreuther, whose cuisine has earned The Modern multiple accolades as the best new restaurant in America.  In fact, we chose to return to The Modern because of the spectacular pairings that Chef Kreuther created for our unforgettable Madeira luncheon in March 2010.

The list of Madeiras was as follows:

1837 Terrantez (Barbeito Family Reserve)
1870 Bual (Vasconcelos Family)
1893 Malvasia (Barbeito Family Reserve, bottled for the dinner)
1886 Malvasia (Afonso Family)
1863 Bual (Barbeito Family Reserve)
1920 Malvasia (Favilla Vieira Family)
1915 Bual (Barbeito Family Reserve, bottled for the dinner)
1926 Malvasia (Vasconcelos Family)
1950 Terrantez Faja dos Padres (Rodrigues Family)
1995 Barbeito Colheita Cask 23 Canteiro
1957 Bual Jardim do Sol (Barbeito Family Reserve)
1978 Barbeito Sercial
2001 Barbeito Bual Colheita Casks 48+84
Barbeito Terrantez Reserve (Bottled 1990s)
Barbeito Malvasia 30 year old Special Lot
Barbeito VB (Verdelho-Boal) Lot 2
Benjamin Franklin Special Reserve
Savannah Verdelho Special Reserve

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