Madeira’s vineyards and wineries escaped largely unscathed from the worst storm to hit the island in living memory, killing at least 42 people. The Portuguese island, off the coast of Morocco, is home to the famed fortified Madeira wine.
Paul Symington, of Port producer Symington Family Estates, whose family is majority partner in Madeira Wine Company, the largest on the island, told Wine Enthusiast “thankfully the Blandy lodges were unaffected and all our stocks of old wines escaped any damage.” He said a few vineyards have been damaged but it is not significant. “The most important thing is that all our staff are OK,” Symington said.
The greatest damage has been in the lower lying and urban areas of the capital, Funchal. Rain poured down the hillsides where the accumulation of water overflowed the steep river banks and channels and caused considerable damage in the old town and along the seafront. The island is a warm winter haven and most income is tourism related.
Mudslides from heavy rain–a month’s worth in eight hours–pured down the steep sides of the volcanic mountains above the city and slammed into buildings, cars, bridges and houses. The power of the water and mud was so fierce it created new channels. Gullies dug into the hillside to take excess water were no match for the volumes, according to officials on the island.
Friends of Madeira have expressed their horror. John Hailman, author of Thomas Jefferson on Wine (University Press of Mississippi) said “I’m shocked to hear of the terrible events on Madeira, which to me has always been a paradise of peace and calm. Not only was the island Winston Churchill’s favorite place to paint, but Madeira was the wine Thomas Jefferson was drinking just before writing the Declaration of Independence. We should drink more of it.”
Symington Family Estates, and its Madeira-based partner, Michael Blandy, are seeking a non-profit fund for victim relief.