08 Oct Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Madeira Wine Experience NY
I fell in love with Madeira the first time I took a sip many years ago. I knew it was a fortified wine but I did not know what to expect. What I remembered was the vibrant acidity and the lovely spice and brown sugar notes. I was in love. Over the years, I have had the pleasure to work with the Madeira producers to organize events for the wine trade to showcase the versatility of styles and flavors and how Madeira can pair with food. As beautiful as Madeira is, it is vastly under-rated here in the United States. But, this past week, I organized the Madeira Wine Experience in New York. The wine trade came during the day and at night more than 200 consumers came to experience Madeira. Seeing so many people learning about and enjoying so many delicious Madeiras was the highlight of my week and that is why the Madeira Wine Experience NY is the Please The Palate pick of the week.
Madeira is the name of a Portuguese island as well as the name of the wine produced there. Madeira is actually closer to the African Coast than it is from Lisbon. Mountains and forests make up 47% of the island’s total area. The soils are volcanic and are rich in minerals and contribute to the wine’s acidity.
Madeira is an historic wine. It has been enjoyed for centuries by people around the world and was the wine used to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Madeira is one of the longest-living wines in the world.
The wine is made like all wine but the fermentation is stopped and a neutral alcohol is added to fortify the wine. Then the wine is aged in barrels where it is exposed to heat and oxygen. It is because of this process that Madeira has the potential to age and age and there are wines today that are from the 1800s!
Madeira is made from the ‘recommended’ grape varieties Serial, Verdelho, Boal, Malvasia and Terrantez, as well as Tinta Negra. Most wines are blends from various vintages and different vineyard locations and can be extra-dry, dry, medium-dry, medium-sweet or sweet. Madeira can also be a varietal specific wine. Madeira can have an indication of Age (5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 and ‘more than 50’ years), or can be Corrente, Rainwater, Frasqueira (a vintage and varietal wine produced by the canteiro system and aged for 20 years in wood), or Colheita (a vintage wine that it has been aged continuously in wood for at least 5 years).
Madeira wines offer a range of aromas and flavors, from light and delicate with crisp apples, nuts and cedar; through fuller styles with spices, dried fruits and butterscotch; and the richest offering concentrated vanilla, molasses and caramel! But the key to all of these styles is that they have fresh and vibrant acidity! And they can pair with so many styles of food. The combinations of food and Madeira wines are endless and here are some tips:
With so many styles of Madeira, it can seem overwhelming. But the key thing to remember is that Madeira is an indestructible wine. You cannot kill it by exposing it to heat or oxygen because it has already been exposed. And, unlike other wines, when you open a bottle of Madeira, you can enjoy it for months and months after it is open. So, grab a bottle, pour a small amount and enjoy! The bottle will not go bad! In addition, Madeira is delicious in cocktails!
I do not normally write about an event I organized. But Madeira is special. It was a true pleasure to see so many people discover the beauty and diversity of Madeira and to fall in love with a wine that I also love. It was the highlight of my week.