Barbeito and Blandy's celebrate

Blandys commemorative madeira bottle in box

This year, according to local lore, it is 600 years since the island of Madeira was discovered, one year after the neighbouring Porto Santo island. At that stage in its evolution Madeira was so densely wooded that it was named for the Portuguese word for wood, madeira. (In his excellent 1998 book in the Faber and Faber series, Madeira, specialist writer Alex Liddell points out that both islands were marked on many fourteenth-century maps, but let's not spoil the celebrations.)

What is clear is that in the fifteenth century the island quickly became an important port of call for all those adventurers plying...