RWC Historic Series 'Baltimore' Rainwater Madeira DOC

RWC Historic Series 'Baltimore' Rainwater Madeira DOC

Item Number: 5474

UPC: None

Country: Portugal
Region: Madeira
Sub Region: Madeira
Appellation/AVA: Madeira DOC
Estate Grown Wine: No
Grape(s): 80% Verdelho / 20% Tinta Negra Mole
Type: Wine - Fortified
Bottle Size: 750 ml
Pack: 12
Closure: Cork
Alc by Vol(%): 19.5

Tasting Notes by Bill St. John for Chicago Tribune (7/2014): "Once the most popular style of Madeira in the U.S., rainwater must have been what Old George [Washington] tippled as his daily pint: light-bodied, slightly nutty, spryly refreshing (terrific acidity) and can take a chill. It is a "session" Madeira and it goes down good. While a one-off because of the style, Rare Wine Co.'s version has serious nuance, length and persistence and is worth its charge for that complexity alone."

In the words of Mannie Berk:
"Madeira was once the most prestigious wine in America. And the most prestigious style of Madeira was Rainwater.

Rainwater took its name from its pale color and delicate texture and flavor. Yet, the origins of the style are shrouded in mystery. Some attributed it to a Savannah wine merchant after the Civil War, but that cannot be, as Rainwaters existed at least a half century earlier. Others said Rainwaters were a freak of nature. Noel Cossart credited his own firm with creating Rainwater in the 1700s, after a barrel of wine was left on a beach.

Rainwater Madeira reached the pinnacle of prestige in Baltimore. In 1902, that city's greatest Madeira connoisseur, Douglas H. Thomas, called Rainwater the highest standard. And the absence of Rainwaters in a 1900 New York auction prompted one merchant to speculate that Baltimore connoisseurs thought so highly of them that they bought them all up and none reached New York.

Unfortunately, in the 20th century the name "Rainwater" became bastardized--used to label inexpensive Madeiras that were too sweet and too soft to have anything in common with the great Rainwaters of the past.

I have long wanted to remind America of Rainwater’s pedigree by making a classic example. And from contemporary descriptions, I had a fairly good idea of what it should taste like. But I hoped to find an actual model for my wine. I finally found it in 2008, when I purchased a few bottles of a very rare Rainwater imported into New York City by Robert Benson in the 1820s. Because the wine was put into glass soon after its arrival in the U.S., its taste was essentially frozen in time, giving us a very good idea of what Rainwaters tasted like in the 19th century. I shared samples of this wine with Barbeito winemaker Ricardo Freitas and asked him to model our Baltimore Rainwater on it.

Ricardo started with a base wine that was 80% Verdelho, made up of two lots ranging in age from 8 to 13 years. Young Verdelho was a perfect starting point, not only because of its delicacy and minimal sweetness, but because Verdelho would have been the most common component in the early Rainwaters.

For a greater sense of age and also a bit more body, but without increasing the wine’s sweetness, Ricardo added two different lots of old Tinta Negra Mole. Prior to entering the Baltimore Rainwater blend, each of the components was aged (like all of our wines) by the time-honored Canteiro method.

Baltimore Rainwater is very possibly the first Madeira made along the lines of a classic, 19th century Rainwater in at least a half century. Hopefully it will mark a return to Rainwater as it should be: a Madeira of ethereal body, great finesse, delicate flavors and just a touch of sweetness."

Reviews

  • The Wine Advocate
    Rating: 89 (8/31/2012)

    The non-vintage RWC Baltimore Rainwater (bottled January 2012) was designed to reintroduce Rainwater as a prestige style rather than the cheaper, paler versions of years gone by. Its template was a Rainwater that Mannie Berk tasted from the 1820s. It has a light lanolin, melted candle wax, dried fig and orange blossom-scented bouquet that expands nicely with aeration. The palate is crisp and light on the entry, with a vibrant citric thread that combines succinctly with bitter orange and mandarin notes. It is laced with a touch of toffee towards the elegant finish. This is delicate, understated and delicious. 
  • John Gilman View from the Cellar
    Rating: 93 (3/1/2014)

    I had the pleasure to try the Baltimore Rainwater bottling while visiting with Ricardo Diogo Freitas at Vinhos Barbeito, as I had not yet tried it here in the states. To give you some idea of how serious both Mannie Berk and Ricardo Diogo Freitas take this series of wines, the 159 Rainwater is made from a blend of Sercial and Verdelho! The very complex nose offers up a blend of fresh apricot, a touch of Myer lemon, lovely soil tones, a bit of briny ocean breeze and a nice topnote of green olive. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, pure and very elegant, with a lovely core and excellent length and grip on the focused and very refined finish. Soft as rainwater, as the saying goes…. 2014-2070.