Blandy's is a very old (they celebrated their bicentenary in 2011) family-owned producer of madeira.
A step up from entry-level line of 3 year old tinta negra blends, the 5 year old, single varietal bottles span the gamut from port-like sweetness (Malmsey) to sherry-like dryness (Sercial).
Malmsey madeira is fortified 48 hours after fermentation begins, leaving a significant amount of residual sugar in the wine. This is then aged for at least 5 years in oak casks in the Canteiro system, where the barrels are stored on the top floor of warehouses on Madeira, which exposes them to quite a bit of heat (Madeira is a sub-tropical island). The barrels are progressively moved down towards ground level where it is cooler.
The wine is finally bottled at 19% ABV with a pH of 3.42, 123 g/l of residual sugar, and 6.23 g/l of total acid.
Blandy's 5 Year Old Malmsey
Nose: sun dried raisin notes dominate, with some burnt sugar, earthy, a touch of cocoa powder, charred oak, some estery notes up top that seem almost floral
Taste: raisin sweetness throughout that waxes and wanes, mid-palate there's a moderate amount of savory (yeasty?) acidity that balances but never overtakes the sweetness, and some of the dry cocoa powder hanging over everything
Finish: raisins with diminishing sweetness, drier fruit notes hang around
This is, ultimately, a relatively simple wine. It hasn't had enough time in the barrel to really develop depth or complexity, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. While I find it a bit too sweet to really hit the spot for me, I think it will appeal to anyone who enjoys tawny ports. Madeira, even malmsey, has more acidity than port, but I enjoy that aspect as it seems to strike a balance between the unrelenting sweetness of port and the bone dry acidity of many sherries. As an added bonus, everyone who I've gotten to try this madeira has enjoyed it, so it seems to have broad appeal.