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· Wines · · T. Filomena Abreu · P. Rights Reserved

Chris Blandy

«I think the family’s history blends with that of Madeira»

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The Blandy family stands out for being the only one of all the original founders of the Madeira wine trade, that still owns and runs its own original winemaking company. Throughout its history, it is worth noting the contribution the family has made to the promotion of both the wine and the region. Members of the family still live on the island, thus maintaining a tradition that dates back to 1811. Today, the destiny of Blandy’s lies in the hands of Chris, who took on this role when he was 32 years old. He is the seventh generation to look after the world’s largest producer of high-quality Madeira wine. A job which demands strategy and resilience, because the business has been written with glory, but also with ups and downs. And nobody expected that after the financial crisis of ten years ago that COVID-19 would come to once again put the strength of this English family to the test.

You were the man to usher in the seventh generation of Blandys at the head of the family business. Looking back over the last few years, how would you rate your management as CEO of the company? What have been your main challenges? 
I am very fortunate to be able to work with an excellent group of professionals, which makes my life a lot easier. We have tried to keep things on a steady course, with a balanced business portfolio, while always attentive to changes in the business and reacting accordingly. With regard to challenges, I thought the financial crisis that shook Portugal between 2010-2014 was going to be our greatest challenge, but then came COVID-19...

The demand for Madeira wine has outstripped production. How do you solve this problem and manage your stocks intelligently? 
The production of Madeira wine compared to demand is a complex matter. We have a stock of wine in storage that is almost five times what we sell in a year – this is a long-term business. With regard to the balance between supply and demand, at the moment we are finding it difficult to supply older wines, as the number of bottles in our stock is relatively small. However, we still have room in the three-, five- and ten-year-old categories to react if there is a sustainable increase in demand. 

The production and sales of Madeira wine is no longer the Blandy family’s main asset, but it remains its most iconic. Does the history of Madeira already blend with that of the Blandys and vice versa? 
I think the family'’ history blends with that of Madeira and I would like to think we have contributed positively to the increased recognition Madeira wine has had in recent years.

«AT THE MOMENT, OUR FOCUS IS ON GETTING THE BUSINESS BACK ON TRACK SO THAT WE CAN GET BACK TO DISCUSSING FUTURE PROJECTS»

What strategies have you come up with to attract the attention of young people to your wines? 
We use a double strategy. The first, with the Blandy’s and Cossart Gordon brands, where we focus not only on quality but also on the «premiumisation» of our range, where the young consumer with an interest in wines will be attracted by the renown that both brands have worldwide. The second, with the Miles Madeira brand, where we have made a radical image change, to be more irreverent, more colourful – using the colours of the island –, focused on a single grape variety: Tinta Negra, and with a very strong link to mixology. We associate this brand to various sporting events, such as Trans Madeira, and cultural events, such as the Aleste Festival. In addition to this, we are working on our table wine project, under the Atlantis brand name, with a rosé, white, white reserva already on the market, and a red to be launched this year. 

What are the group’s plans for the future for the island of Madeira?
At the moment, our focus is on getting the business back on track so that we can get back to discussing future projects.
T. Filomena Abreu
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