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Rare Wine Co. Baltimore Rainwater Madeira
It took years of work, but in 2003, they began releasing the wines which are named in honor of American cities with strong ties to Madeira. New York Malmsey, Boston Boal, and Charleston Sercial all eerily resemble vintage Madeiras -- thanks to the inclusion of wines ranging in age from 30 to 60 years old in the blends. Working with Vinhos Barbeito, which possesses one of the great libraries of legendary 19th century Madeiras, each wine represents a style of Madeira popular in the cities they're named after.
Best known for flavorful fortified wines but also producing excellent dry wines, Portugal is unique in that it relies almost exclusively on its many indigenous grape varieties. Bordering Spain to the west on the Iberian Peninsula, this is a land where tradition reigns supreme, perhaps due in part to its relative geographical and, for much of the 20th century, political isolation. Portugal is a long and narrow country, which makes for considerable diversity in climate and wine styles, with milder weather in the north and significantly more rainfall near the coast. With the exception of Port, most Portuguese wines have struggled to garner attention in the international marketplace, perhaps due to the unfamiliar and difficult to pronounce nature of most of its grape varieties and terminology, which means that there are many excellent values to be discovered here by the adventurous consumer. The country is perhaps better known for being the world’s leader in cork production than for its wine.
Port, made in the Douro Valley, is the fortified wine for which Portugal is most famous. The same region also produces full-bodied dry wines made from the same set of grape varieties, which include Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo). The nation’s other important fortified wine, Madeira, is produced on the eponymous island off the North African coast. Other dry wines of the mainland include the tart, slightly effervescent Vinho Verde of the north, the bright, elegant reds and whites of the Dão, and the bold, jammy reds of the Alentejo.
A fortified wine named after the solitary island from which it comes, Madeira’s home is a steep, volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean that rises to over 6,000 feet at its highest point. As is the case with many wine styles of the world, Madeira was born more or less out of a mistake.
During the 1600 and 1700s, the island of Madeira was an important pit stop for sea treks to the Americas and the East Indies. Shippers would load up on Madeira wine on their way across the Atlantic. Given Madeira’s likelihood to spoil on the journey, they added a little brandy to help preserve it. The subsequent heating and cooling of the casks, as they made their way across the sea, deepened and improved the wines’ flavors.
Today there are two main types of Madeira. Blended Madeira is mostly inexpensive wine but there are a few remarkable aged styles. Single varietal Madeira, made as both non-vintage or single vintage wines, is usually the highest quality Madeira and has the longest aging potential.
Four different grape varieties are used.
Sercial shows lemony, spice and herbal notes with a stony mineral character and make great aperitif wines.
Verdelho is smoky and dry and pairs with a variety of foods.
Boal is complex with flavors of roasted coffee, caramel, cocoa and dates.
Malmsey is the sweetest and fruitiest with roasted nut and chocolate notes.