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.
Palest and the driest of the classical madeira varieties, Sercial is known as ‘Esgano Cão’—‘dog strangler’—on the Portuguese mainland, a nod to its fiery, mouth-puckering acidity. At its best, racy and high-toned, it is a wine of exquisite tension: Sercial shows dry despite containing 20-60 g/l RS; its sweetness balanced by an exhilarating, mouthwatering tang of acidity. Pungent with dried orange, almonds and saline spices in youth, Sercial mellows in maturity: acidity less taut but no less integral; its deep nuttiness to the fore. There are currently just 16-ha found on the island.
Henriques And Henriques Sercial Single Harvest Madeira 2001 is a colheita bottling: an early-bottled vintage wine. (H&H prefer to use the term “Single Harvest,” a rough translation of “Colheita.”) Bright and deep, this edition could easily be mistaken for Verdelho but for the saline/sea smoke signature of its Sercial fruit. More off-dry than dry, its caramelized apricot, tangerine and almond flavors mask impressive extract, the result of its extended time in canteiro.
As an aperitif and at the table, with fresh oysters and Oysters Rockefeller; sushi; grilled shrimp, swordfish and salmon; with grana-style, hard cheese (particularly domestic), olives and nuts.