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Happy Presidents' Day! Drink like George Washington

This fortified wine has a longevity that is simply remarkable. Plus, it doesn’t go bad once opened! The powerful aromas and vivid flavors last for centuries, and upon open, the wine can still last for years without losing character.

Madeira has great acidity that makes it a wonderful accompaniment to any meal. Egg tarts (pasteis de nata) are a staple in any Portuguese bakery. Walk into a cafe on an afternoon, and you’ll certainly see people enjoying their custard tarts with a small glass of semi-dry madeira. (Guess what? You can try this combo at Fat Rice!) The harmony between the meal and the madeira will depend on the acidity, alcohol content, and degree of sweetness the madeira possesses, which brings us to the different kinds of madeira wine.

Madeira = The Everlasting Wine
This fortified wine has a longevity that is simply remarkable. Plus, it doesn’t go bad once opened! The powerful aromas and vivid flavors last for centuries, and upon open, the wine can still last for years without losing character.

Madeira has great acidity that makes it a wonderful accompaniment to any meal. Egg tarts (pasteis de nata) are a staple in any Portuguese bakery. Walk into a cafe on an afternoon, and you’ll certainly see people enjoying their custard tarts with a small glass of semi-dry madeira. (Guess what? You can try this combo at Fat Rice!) The harmony between the meal and the madeira will depend on the acidity, alcohol content, and degree of sweetness the madeira possesses, which brings us to the different kinds of madeira wine.

Vintage Madeira

Vintage madeira, or Frasqueira, produced by the solera system are the island of Madeira’s claim to greatness. These wines are not simply a selection of the best wines from the best years, but they are made from particular ‘noble’ grape varieties after which the wines are named. These names not only describe the grape variety, but also describe the style.

Sercial is the driest of the wines. It is light in color, full-bodied and refreshing. Try this wine with toasted almonds, smoked fish, sushi, or sheep cheese.

Verdelho is a medium dry wine. It is golden in color. Try this wine with dry fruits, fresh cream soups and mushroom dishes.

Boal is a medium rich wine. It is full-bodied and fruity. Try this wine with tropical fruits, fruit tarts, soft cheese, or with older Boal try mature cheese.

Malvasia is a rich and oily wine. It is dark in color, full-bodied and aromatic. Try with walnuts, hazelnuts, fruit tarts, dark chocolate, pralines, and blue cheese.

Two Rare Madeira Grapes

You can only find the grape Bastardo in old vintages and soleras. Many Madeira drinkers have never seen a bottle, owing to its miniscule yields and vulnerability to insects, little was ever planted and even less was ever bottled on its own. Even though Bastardo is a sweet grape, the style of the vintage wines is often on the dry side. But some glorious old vintages do exist.

The Terrantez grape is hardly grown anymore, and with many vines killed from phylloxera, the wine is also rare to come by. However, efforts are underway to replant the variety. This wine can produce two styles of Madeira - rich and sweet or dry with a certain bitterness at the end.

Madeira = A Versatile Ingredient
Madeira is a multifunctional fortified wine! It can be used in baking, similar to the use of dry sherry. We remember Fat Rice once using it to make jelly cubes for a chocolate mousse cake; we love how that restaurant experiments a lot with madeira. Similarly, the wine can be used for savory recipes like adding it to classic Beef Wellington gravy or marinating pork chops. Cocktails! If you don’t like drinking madeira neat, then try it in a cocktail. Madeira can create complex and delicious cocktails - sweet or savory.

History & Trade Winds
Were it not for the sailors traveling to the Americas, Africa, and India, this grand wine might have never been. Trade winds took their ships to the Portuguese island of Madeira along their voyage; this island did not tax wine like those levied on the French wines. The American colonies perhaps drank madeira to defy taxes! Sailors would fill their ship with wine in Madeira as well as add brandy to prevent spoilage on the long journeys. Fortification, oxidation, and something else, unknown at the time, were at work creating the madeira style we have today: the sun. The blazing heat of the sun during the voyage transformed the flavor. These wines began to be called vina da roda “wines of the round voyage” as producers sent casks of the wine on voyages around the world in order to develop greater character from heating.

Today, once fortified, the wines either go through estufagem or canteiro to become heated.

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