Grape(s): 100% Tinta Negra
Tasting Notes: The H&H Rainwater 3-Year Madeira is notable for its firmer, more concentrated style, one that nevertheless maintains the balance, delineation and delicate felicity that has made Rainwater an American classic. Crème brûlée, almond, orange zest and sea spray-equal parts elegance freshness and confident force. Excellent as an aperitif, but with many additional possibilities at the table and on the bar.
Notes: Formerly known as Tinta Negra Mole, Tinta Negra is by far the most widely planted grape on the island, accounting for more than 85% of the total hectares planted (485 ha). Long-prized by growers for its generous yields and adaptability to a wide array of growing conditions, and by winemakers for its chameleon-like expression, producing wines ranging from seco to doce. It forms the basis of all entry-level madeiras which undergo estufagem, but in recent decades winemakers have sought to explore and elevate this ‘workhorse grape’, and it was included in ‘Recommended Varieties’ (castas recomendadas) in 2015, for the first time permitting its name to appear on madeira labels. H&H (with several other producers) has been in the vanguard of its reassessment, producing three colheitas and the island’s first 50-Year Tinta Negra.
Food Pairing: At the table: with salmon, swordfish or game birds; savory soups and seafood chowders; nuts and hard cheeses. On the bar: it plays well with a wide variety of different spirits, lending elegance to rum, tequila, mezcal and whiskeys of all types.
The Domain: It might be said that the history of Henriques & Henriques is the history of Madeira itself. Legend has it that Infante Dom Henriques planted the island’s first vines in 1425. These vines gave fruit to one of the “first families of Madeira” and in the process sunk deep roots which Henriques’ descendants and successors continue to draw upon in guiding H&H today.
João Joaquim Gonçalves Henriques founded the firm in 1850 as a partidista, supplying wine to other merchants from extensive
Henriques vineyard holdings while continuing to amass significant stocks of old wines in the family cellars. In 1925, Henriques & Henriques began to bottle and export Madeira produced entirely from their own vineyards—an anomaly amongst producers on the island. Today, Henriques & Henriques is led by CEO and winemaker Humberto Jardim, one of Madeira’s great visionaries and ambassadors. The firm continues to source some of its needs from its own vineyards, most notably from a terraced, 10-hectare vineyard at Quinta Grande—the single largest on island, replanted in 1995.
Against the tides of urban development, H&H have been in the forefront of vineyard planting and preservation of Madeira’s noble varieties: Sercial, Verdelho, Boal, Malvasia and Terrantez, while simultaneously playing a key role in the reappraisal of the underrated Tinta Negra, recently releasing an unprecedented 50-year expression. Likewise, H&H’s age-statement varietal wines are widely regarded as benchmark articulations: always 100% of the stated varietal (e.g., Verdelho), the blend always composed of stocks well in excess of the statement requirement (e.g., 15-year).
Finally, H&H continues to boast an impressive selection of pre-1925 “Garrafeira” (vintage) and Solera bottlings originating in the Henriques’ family cellars. Without question, the most celebrated of these is the “Heavenly Quartet”—four legendary wines from the late 18th century—that are amongst the most transcendent expressions of Madeira extant today. To taste any one of these is, quite literally, to “drink history” itself, as well as to share in the accumulated wisdom—of family, family-owned vineyards and old stocks—that continue to define Henriques & Henriques today.