Madeira, a fortified wine produced in the Madeira island of Portugal comes in different styles and used for different purposes including the dry wine which is served as a pre-dinner drink, sweet wine which is had alongside desserts and the pepper and salt flavoured one which is used in cooking. Its name is deemed as a protected designation of origin confined to the Madeira Island by the European Union. Popular Madeira wine variants include-Reserve, Special Reserve, Extra Reserve, Colhita and Vintage.
Origin of Madeira
The origin of Madeira, according to the documented evidences of 16th century occurred when wine making industry thrived in the island, supplying ships on long voyages with the wine. The primitive version of the wine was not fortified and hence was prone to spoilage over sea. To resolve this a little quantity of distilled alcohol made out of sugarcane was included in the wine to enhance the alcohol content and make it more resistant to deterioration. The wine was most sought after by the Dutch East India Company who carried along several casks of the primitive Madeira wine called “pipes”. The wine sailed through the sea with heat and frequent movements of the cask causing a transformation to the qualities of the wine. When one of the shipments returned to the island got sold, it earned much admiration from the customers and came to be known as “vinho da roda” meaning the wine that made a round trip. This led the wine producers to develop a technique that could result in a similar wine for which special winery rooms for aging the wine known as estufas were established. The Madeira wine production flourished in the 18th century extending to countries including America, Brazil and Great Britain, declined in the 19th century due to infestation of phylloxera epidemic on the crop and further pursued with a constant slump through the 20th century being limited to insignificant purposes such as cooking.
Regions Producing Madeira wine
Madeira wine majorly produced in Portugal also became popular in other countries including USA, UK and Russia. The varieties- Sercial, Bual, Verdelho and Malvasia of the wine thrived in America. Of late the wine has spread over France, Japan and Germany where Germany and France are major markets and Japan became a developing market for the wine.
Preparation of Madeira
The making of Madeira begins with the rearing of grapes in the Madeira islands facilitated by climate mixed of oceanic as well as tropical characteristics. Four types of grapes are used to produce the wine which include-Bual, Malvasia, Sercial and Verdelho. The wine making process involves harvesting the grapes, crushing, pressing for their juice and fermenting the extract in stainless steel or oak containers. The fermentation process varies with the type of grape used in wine making.
Ageing and Serving Madeira
Madeira wine is aged through a special process called “Estufagem” which recreates the sea voyage atmospheric conditions to facilitate aging.
Food Pairing Suggestions for Madeira Wine
Madeira is essentially served as an aperitif or a pre-dinner drink alongside cheese. It is served cool in a glass resembling the one used to serve port which is petite and thin.