I’ll Drink to That: Ricardo Freitas of Barbeito, Madeira

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Episode 329 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently. It features Ricardo Freitas, the winemaker of Vinhos Barbeito on the island of Madeira.

Madeira is so closely associated with the past and with the historically necessitated style of fortification, with old shipping routes and long ago vintages, that it is perhaps easy to think of Madeira as unchanged for hundreds of years. As steadfast, static, and lacking in innovation. But when you listen to Ricardo Freitas, the winemaker for the Madeira firm Barbeito, you encounter a different view of Madeira, and it feels as if the wines of the island may be on the cusp of profound change. Freitas comes off as an innovator, and it is clear from this interview how much he has been reexamining what has been taken for granted for some time within the small circle of Madeira producers. This is a winery that is changing sweetness levels for wine categories that have traditionally been defined by them. This is winemaker who moves barrels from warehouse to warehouse to “manipulate nature” and take advantage of the different aging conditions to bring out different aspects in the wines. And this is a producer that is forging ahead with plans for a still table wine from Madeira, not something we’ve seen before from the island. On the way to following so many changes, it is helpful to have a guide, and Freitas is a knowledgeable one, helpfully explaining his thinking on each point. If you want to know about the Madeira of today, and possibly of tomorrow, you should hit play on episode 329 of I’ll Drink to That!

This episode also features a Warm Up from Erin all about Madeira.

Listen to the stream above, or check it out in iTunes.

I’ll Drink to That is the world’s most listened-to wine podcast, hosted by Levi Dalton. Levi has had a long career working as a sommelier in some of the most distinguished and acclaimed dining rooms in America. He has served wine to guests of Restaurant Daniel, Masa, and Alto, all in Manhattan. Levi has also contributed articles on wine themes to publications such as The Art of Eating, Wine & Spirits magazine, Bon Appetit online, and Eater NY. Check out his pictures on Instagram and follow him on Twitter: @levi_opens_wine