Product Type: Blandys Wine
Newest Review: ... comes from the fruit. The aftertaste lingers for a long time after I have finished my glass of wine and I like it because it is a mellow... more
Rich Dark Blood of the grape
Blandys - Duke of Clarence
Member Name: tirial
Blandys - Duke of Clarence
Advantages: Good price, rich taste, easy availbility, good with desserts, long-lasting
Disadvantages: Slightly sharp for a malmsey
Blandy's Duke of Clarence is a madeira, originally classed as a Malmsey madeira until labelling rules changed (it is now renamed and labelled Malmsey-style). It can be obtained easily online or from most supermarkets.
Madeira is a fortified wine, like Port, so its alcohol rating is higher than standard wines. Duke of Clarence is around 19% by volume. What sets Madeira apart from Port is the heat treatment that makes it both long-lasting - it was originally popular because it could endure sea voyages - and gives it a unique flavour, which is definitely noticeable in this drink.
First, the bottle. The bottle (usually 40cl) is a green so dark as to appear brown unless you hold it up to the light, with the blandys logo emblazoned on the front and a square label below stating "Duke of Clarence". The back of the bottle has a label explaining the history of madeira and winemaking on the island. When it first arrives, the top of the bottle is foil-wrapped. Under this there is a paper seal which is over the top of a plastic and cork stopper. The stopper edge is ridged, making it easy to remove and replace by hand, which is useful as one major feature about madeira is its longevity.
Madeira has one very notable property, the ability to be stored for long periods in poor conditions without going off. Duke of Clarence is no exception: one bottle I had sat comfortably in the cupboard in the warm kitchen for over five years, and the flavour hasn't degraded at all.
The most important thing about the drink is the taste. Duke of Clarence is a malmsey-style madeira, one of the sweetest types of madeira. However, sweet for a madeira does not mean sweet in the same way as alcopops or liquers, it just means it lacks the bite and vinegar taste of madeiras like sercial.
The first thing you notice when the top comes off is the scent, which is pleasant and smells mainly of fruit. There is a slight sharp undertone which will be familiar to most madeira drinkers. When poured it is a rich brown colour, although slightly less clear than the madeiras I prefer. Once it is poured the rich aroma disappates quickly in a few minutes, which is a little disappointing.
It has a very rich fruity flavour, but is more acid than many malmseys, and definitely on the rich and sharp side of sweet. If you aren't used to madeira this might not be a good one to start with since it can be an acquired taste. The richness of flavour isn't quite there compared to older madeiras or the ones actually sold as Malmsey instead of Malmsey-style.
One of the uses of Madeira are for cooking. It can be used in madeira sauces, trifles, etc. and to be honest I was a little disappointed in this one. The flavour didn't hold in the recipe as well as others of comparable price and there was a slight tang to it. On the other hand, Duke of Clarence makes an excellent dessert wine, although I found myself changing what I was serving to allow for the sharper taste.
I have mixed opinions of this drink, because it is a good madeira, it has the characteristic taste, great texture, wonderful wrapping, it smells right...and I really don't like it very much. It's purely a personal thing - I like madeira, particularly Malmsey, but I prefer a smoother taste. There are others in the family who actually prefer this.
The problem I really have with this is the price - while Duke of Clarence is available in most supermarkets for under £15, for the same price you can get a ten or fifteen year old Malmsey from other producers (e.g. Henriques & Henriques) which have a stronger flavour.
I would love to give this more than four stars, but given the flavour and the alternatives in the same price range I can't justify it. Overall it's a good drink, not perhaps one for people who are trying their first madeira, but worth trying for anyone who likes the madeira flavour and wants to broaden their options.
Summary: A nice madeira with a good taste, if sharp compared to other malmseys
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