Madeira is a fortified wine that is cooked, or gradually heated. This makes it practically indestructible.
Once opened, a bottle of Madeira can last in your cupboard like a bottle of spirit.
The fortified wine of our ancestors was made by accident. In the 1600's, shipping still wine from the region of
Madeira to the tropics was no easy feat. Most wine cases were spoiled by heat and oxidation, many to the point that
producers began adding a bit of neutral grape spirit to the wines before shipping in order to prevent that spoilage.
By the end of the sea voyage, the fortified wine had naturally been heated and turned out to taste even better
post-ship ride than before. Voila – a new type of wine discovered. These days, most winemakers heat Madeira wine in
tanks or casks using the estufagem process. Others are determined to heat the wines naturally with sunlight.
The sweetness levels of Madeira are Sercial, Verdelho, Bual and Malmsey - Sercial being driest, Malmsey the sweetest.
These levels used to be based on the grape used in making Madeira. The grapes have changed a bit, but the names to describe
their taste have not. Style wise, the basic styles of Madeira are:
- Three year old – young, no wood
- Five-year-old – some wood, a bit higher quality
- Ten-year-old – youngest component will be 10-years-old, aged in cask
- Frasqueira – vintage Madeira.
Summing it up
Successful Sites: Madeira (island off Portugal)
Common Descriptors: varies depending on style – robust, baked fruit