Bual is one of the handful of named grape varieties still commonly used for making wine on the island of Madeira. The version produced by Blandy's ferments the wine at 18-21º C for three days before fortifying it with brandy to halt fermentation. It is then aged for an average of five years in American oak casks in what amount to giant attics where the subtropical heat acts on the wine. The wine is fined and bottled at 19% ABV with a pH of 3.43, residual sugar of 78 g/l, and a total acidity of 6.53 g/l tartaric acid equivalent.
Blandy's 5 Year Bual
Nose: expected rich raisin notes, gently sour, oak, a touch of vanilla, lime, citrus peel, floral, hints of yeast, fresh bread, and chocolate
Taste: a brief burst of sweetness up front that quickly changes hands with a bright acidity that becomes increasingly tart towards the back, fruit ester overtones, apples, and juicy grapes rather than raisins in the middle, and a pleasant thickness throughout
Finish: solid fade out with pleasant acidity, floral vanilla, a touch of oak
Much like the 5 year old malmsey I reviewed a while back, this is not an overly complex wine, but I still enjoy it quite a bit. It's noticeably less sweet than the malmsey, letting the acidity and cask notes play more prominent roles. While this style is still a bit sweeter than I usually prefer, it is a noticeable improvement on the malmsey, which is almost too sweet for me. But for someone coming from sweeter fortified wines like port I feel like this would be a perfectly decent entry point to madeira.