Madeira: A Wine Lover's Guilty Pleasure
If you've ever gotten a little tired of wine as it is, you should feel guilty. The wines of the world are as different and changing as the light of day. But, if maybe you might have had any doubts that there was wine enough in the world to dazzle you forever, then you might want to try Madeira. It's an effective go-to for fine-tuning your taste buds and refreshing your palate for the good old Reds and Whites.
Expect to love things in Madeira that you would be horrified to discover in absolutely any bottle of White. The product of human error, it was invented by mistake on the roiling, sunbaked seas of the Atlantic in barrels shipped off the Portuguese Isle aboard wooden ships headed for the 13 states. Eventually, a small amount of distilled cane sugar alcohol was added, boosting the alcohol level and keeping the wine from cooking en route. Nevertheless, it is one of the few to withstand such abuse, even within the fortified category; something about wine from Madeira actually benefits from exposure to heat and sunlight. It had a brief stint as the "it" wine of the pre-Revolution Americas and then it fell into oblivion as phylloxera decimated European vines and American vines came of proper fruit-producing age.
The specific Madeira I go to for the wine-palate re-vamping is Rare Wine Co.’s Boston Bual. This one is turned deliciously inside out, even on first glance. The center of the liquid is a deep brown brick that fades green by the outer rim. Already quite different than anything I'd expect from the plunkiest of usual wines. Using careful blending from high quality parcels, wine makers have constructed a much finer product than anything John Hancock had aboard his ships. The purity of technique pays off; cinnamon and driftwood aromatics lure the palate into lingering notes of allspice before a juicy, tangy acidity. It's a great bottle to dip into with a small group of friends after dark, but before dinner. Your expectant, pre-meal taste buds will thank you for it!
There are other great Madeiras available in the shop from The Rare Wine Co. importers that reflect the classic popular tastes of the U.S. cities they are named after. The Charleston Sercial is the driest, to the effect that it can hang well with slow-cooked gamey meat or probably even a mushroom risotto, but if you're looking for something sweet and rare, we've also got the highly sought after Porto Moniz Malvasia in the shop.
Because Madeira lasts for so long without spoiling, it's a fun thing to have around. It never hurts to pair it boldly here and there if you find yourself fussing back and forth about which "everyday wine" would go best with dinner. -Not that I ever do ;)
Shop Madeira in NYC.
Shop Madeira in SF.