Vinhos Barbeito entered the wine business in 1946, during a particularly dark time for Madeira. During World War II, production and sales had ground to a virtual halt. As a result, far more companies were leaving the business than were joining. But Mario Barbeito had faith in the future. He also believed that the value of great Madeira could only go up as it became older and production of young vintages declined. But while Barbeito saw those vintage wines as a nest egg for the future, he was content to let the wines age. He wisely built the business in the early years around more modest Madeiras.
It was left to his daughter Manuela – when she gradually took over the business from him in the 1970s to continue his work. In the mid-1990s, Manuela Barbeito began to turn over the reins of the company to her son Ricardo Freitas. He not only brought a deep respect for Madeira’s classical roots, but also brought new energy and new ideas to the company. One of these ideas was to restore the role that Madeira once had as a companion of food.
Ricardo is continuing his grandfather’s and mother’s legacy of making wines and preserving them for future generations. But he is also creating his own legacy: a series of Madeiras he calls his “Signature” wines. These handcrafted wines combine the best elements of Madeira’s classical tradition with Ricardo’s own quest for purity and vineyard and varietal expression. Made in tiny lots, their astonishingly graceful style has prompted British wine critic Jancis Robinson to call Barbeito the “Lafite of Madeira”.