Category Archives: Madeira


Madeira is a fortified wine that is cooked, or gradually heated. This makes it practically indestructible. Once opened, a bottle of Madeira can last in your cupboard like a bottle of spirit.

The fortified wine of our ancestors was made by accident. In the 1600’s, shipping still wine from the region of Madeira to the tropics was no easy feat. Most wine cases were spoiled by heat and oxidation, many to the point that producers began adding a bit of neutral grape spirit to the wines before shipping in order to prevent that spoilage. By the end of the sea voyage, the fortified wine had naturally been heated and turned out to taste even better post-ship ride than before. Voila – a new type of wine discovered. These days, most winemakers heat Madeira wine in tanks or casks using the estufagem process. Others are determined to heat the wines naturally with sunlight.

Notable Facts
The sweetness levels of Madeira are Sercial, Verdelho, Bual and Malmsey – Sercial being driest, Malmsey the sweetest. These levels used to be based on the grape used in making Madeira. The grapes have changed a bit, but the names to describe their taste have not. Style wise, the basic styles of Madeira are:

Three year old – young, no wood
Five-year-old – some wood, a bit higher quality
Ten-year-old – youngest component will be 10-years-old, aged in cask
Frasqueira – vintage Madeira.

Wine Region:
Madeira (island off Portugal)

Common Descriptors:
varies depending on style – robust, baked fruit

Drink Like a Founding Father this Independence Day

Back in the early days of  America, when water wasn’t always safe to drink due to lack of proper sanitation, our Founding Fathers needed to find some way to stay hydrated. Ingeniously, those clever men who brought us the Declaration of Independence also came up with a foolproof way to consume liquids without the risk of water-borne disease: alcohol. It was widely understood that alcohol killed bacterial contaminants, and while it came with its own set of risks, it was deemed much safer (and much more fun) to drink.

While distilled spirits and beer were popular choices, our Founding Fathers (especially noted connoisseur Thomas Jefferson) often turned to wine as their beverage of choice. Early attempts at planting grapes in the New World were unsuccessful, as the European grape varieties brought over by colonists were not suitable for surviving American pests and vine diseases. Therefore, imported wines were widely preferred. In honor of Independence Day, raise a glass of one of the following wines to our Founding Fathers: Continue reading Drink Like a Founding Father this Independence Day

How Madeira fueled the American Revolution

Jefferson toasted, Hancock smuggled, and Washington greeted voters with a healthy glass of Madeira.  But how did this tiny island beverage come to be colonial America’s top wine?  Why, the perfect combination of luck, timing, and political prowess – of course!  But to understand the importance of Madeira in American history, we must first start at the beginning.

Continue reading How Madeira fueled the American Revolution