The view flying towards the majestic island of Madeira (35.5miles * 14.7miles) is breathtaking. Mineral rich clay atop volcanic soil breed the longest-lived wines- Madeira. Terraces are built and separated by stone walls to facilitate the tending and harvesting of the vines and to reduce the loss of topsoil on the steep slopes.
The vines are trained high to counter the hot climate with shaded canopy, and reduce the heat reflection from below. Despite heavy rainfall, an elaborate irrigation system is necessary because of the heat and porous soil.
The Symington family- the largest producer of Porto wines, became majority owner of the Madeira Wine Company in the 1980s, and they now make over 25% of the island’s total production, with labels of Blandy’s (est. 1811), Cossart Gordon (est. 1745), and Leacock (est. 1760).
The four most important noble grapes are Serial, Verdelho, Bual and Malvasia Candida (used for Malmsey), and they produce from the driest to sweetest style of Madeira. Some other grape varieties can also be used to make Madeira: Tinta Negra, Terrantez, Bastardo, Muscatel etc.
Sercial: 18.6-65 grams sugar/ Liter- driest and most delicate style of Madeira
Verdelho: 49- 78 grams/ Liter- semidry, smoky and high acidity
Bual: 78- 96 grams/ Liter- semisweet to sweet
Malvasia Candida: 96- 135 grams/ Liter- sweetest style of Madeira
The vast majority Madeira is made by estufagem method, the wine is heated to a maximum of 50C for three months in stainless steel or concrete tank, approximating the nutty character that would take many years to develop in the cask. For the cantor method, the wine is stored in dry area (humid location promotes a greater loss of alcohol than water in the wine). The slow absorption of oxygen in these high alcohol and acid wines develops the sophisticated rancio bouquet associated with vintage Madeira, which smells like dried fruits, nuts, and dairy notes of cheese and butter. Unopened wine can last a century, and an opened bottle of vintage Madeira can be enjoyed for months.
Types of Madeira
Seleccionado: three years of age, may be labeled as Finest, Choice, Select or Three Year Old, a combination of estufas and wooden casks is used and Tinta Negra Mole is the dominant grape variety.
Reserva: five years of age, a combination of estufas and wooden casks is used.
Reserva Velha: a blend of harvest, with the youngest wine aged 10 years before it can be used; it is labeled as Old Reserve, Special Reserve, or Ten Year Old; made in wooden casks, usually from one of the top grape varieties.
Extra Reserve: aged at least 15 years in wooden cask.
Solera: minimum 5 years in cask, only 10% can be drawn off each year.
Colheita: single vintage at least 5 years in cask before it is bottled.
Vintage Frasqueria/ Garrafeira: the finest style of Madeira sourced from a single year’s harvest and aged a minimum of twenty years in canteiros.
Rainwater: semidry- semisweet style, less expensive styles are useful in the kitchen.
Clothes and hat made from oak by local artist.
Blandy’s Madeira Winery.
Madeira pairing with chocolates.