Madeira Wine

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Exclusively from Madeira Islands

madeira_glassMadeira is a fortified Portuguese wine made in the Madeira Islands. Madeira is produced in a variety of styles ranging from dry wines which can be consumed on their own as an aperitif, to sweet wines more usually consumed with dessert. Cheaper versions are often flavoured with salt and pepper for use in cooking.

The islands of Madeira have a long winemaking history, dating back to the Age of Exploration when Madeira was a standard port of call for ships heading to the New World or East Indies. To prevent the wine from spoiling, neutral grape spirits were added. On the long sea voyages, the wines would be exposed to excessive heat and movement which transformed the flavour of the wine. This was discovered by the wine producers of Madeira when an unsold shipment of wine returned to the islands after a round trip. Today, Madeira is noted for its unique winemaking process which involves heating the wine up to temperatures as high as 60 °C (140 °F) for an extended period of time and deliberately exposing the wine to some levels of oxidation. Because of this unique process, Madeira is a very robust wine that can be quite long lived even after being opened.

Characteristics

All Madeira has a nutty, deliberately oxidized and slightly caramelized quality from wood-ageing under the influence of heat. Madeira ranges in sweetness from just off-dry to seriously sweet. Very little is made nowadays of the traditional wines, named after their grape varieties and traditionally made each at its own individual level of sweetness. In rising order of sweetness, these are: Sercial, Terrantez, Verdelho, Boal and Malvasia. All these are white grapes. The red variety, Tinta Negra, is now made into all the sweetness levels, by the same heating/oxidative methods. It is still possible to buy extraordinary bottles of intensely-flavoured, really complex old wines made from the old white varieties.

When to drink & Food pairings

Blue cheese is often a good partner: Malmsey or Boal with Roquefort, for example, or Boal or Verdelho with Stilton. Old Boal with the caramelly-cooked Scandinavian cheese Gjetost is one of the world’s most perfect (if obscure) food and wine pairings! Most Madeira, however, is probably drunk to round off a meal, with nuts and dried fruits, or just by itself.

Seleccionado

Wine that is at least three years old and less than five years old, with the kind of taste profile you would expect of a wine of that age.

Rainwater

Wine of maximum five years, with the kind of taste profile you would expect of a wine of that age. The colour should be somewhere between gold and light gold, and the dry extract should be 1,0150 g/ml or less.

Reserva or 5 Years

Wine of minimum five and maximum ten years, with the kind of taste profile you would expect of a wine of that age. The label may bear the name of the grape variety.

Reserva Especial or 10 Years

Wine of between 10 and 15 years, with the kind of taste profile you would expect of a wine of that age. The label may bear the name of the grape variety.

Reserva Extra 15 Years

Wine of between 15 and 20 years, with the kind of taste profile you would expect of a wine of that age. The label may bear the name of the grape variety.

20 Years

Wine of between 20 and 30 years, with the kind of taste profile you would expect of a wine of that age. The label may bear the name of the grape variety.

30 Years

Wine of between 30 and 40 years, with the kind of taste profile you would expect of a wine of that age. The label may bear the name of the grape variety.

More than 40 Years

Wine of minimum 40 years, with the kind of taste profile you would expect of a wine of that age. The label may bear the name of the grape variety.

Solera

Wine with distinctive characteristics, originally aged in the canteiro system for a minimum of five years. It then became part of a specific collection of casks (lote) from which a quantity not exceeding ten per cent (from each cask) is drawn off each year for bottling. The casks are topped up with wine of similar quality. This can be done up to ten times, after which all the wine can be bottled at once. Note, however, that the date on a bottle of Solera is always that of the original base wine.

Colheita

Blended from wines that must be at least 85% from the specified vintage and at least 85% from a single grape variety (all the grapes used must be on the list either of recommended or authorised grapes). It must be aged for a minimum of five years.
The label must indicate vintage and bottling date.

Vintage or Frasqueira

Blended from wines that must be at least 85% from wines of the specified vintage in and from a single recommended grape variety or from a blend of recommended varieties as long as one of them constitutes 85% of the blend. The wine must have been aged for a minimum of 20 years in wooden casks. The label must indicate vintage and bottling date.