All About Madeira Wine


What is Madeira Wine?

Madeira is a rare fortified wine which gets its name from a small island in the middle of the Atlantic. Where Madeira differs from other wines is its unusual production method.

In the 1600 and 1700's, wine spoiled easily on long sea voyages and usually needed to be fortified (by adding some brandy) in order to survive a trip to the Americas. The island of Madeira was an important stopping point on such journeys where ships would load up on casks of Madeira wine. The wine would be repeatedly heated and cooled on the ships voyage though the tropics and the sailors noticed how the wines flavours would deepen and improve, they called it 'sea aging'.

Nowadays the 'sea aging' process is replicated on land and Madeira wines are heated and cooled dozens of times during production and exposed to oxygen. As some of you may know, heating and oxidizing in wine making are usually a big no-no, so why does this work for Madeira? The grapes are picked much earlier than normal making a base juice that is more acidic, allowing the flavours to survive. This unusual aging process actually preserves the wine and allows some Madeiras to cellar for a hundred years or more!

What does it taste like?

There are several tastes profiles and they can range from bone dry to dessert sweet, but most will have flavors of Caramel, Walnut Oil, Peach, Hazelnut, Orange Peel, and Burnt Sugar.

When do I drink it?

Dry styles of Madeira (such as Sercial and Verdelho) are served chilled with starter courses and sweeter styles are served as after-dinner-sippers like a fine Cognac.

Madeira Cocktails

Cocktails have figured heavily in the story of Madeira, especially in the United States. A popular category of cocktail in the 1800s was the flip, where spirit or wine was mixed with sugar, and a whole egg. Egg adds texture, richness and some negligible nutritional value to a cocktail.

Madeira Flip or Boston Flip : the caramel-tinged nuttiness of Madeira is boosted by the richness of the egg. The rye can be substituted out for rum, Armagnac or brandy to create several delicious variations.

Sherry Cobbler : (savoy cocktail book) A fantastic drink; refreshing, complex and session-able. Why not replace the typical addition of Sherry to this cocktail with a medium-rich Madeira?

Take a look at our selection or Madeira Wines below and see if any take your fancy...

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