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Thread: Amazing Madeira

  1. #1
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    Amazing Madeira

    Madeira is a famous wine made on the island of the same name, a possession of Portugal. It figured in early American history, as an off-shoot of the significance it had in the British world. It comes in different degrees of sweetness, but the sweeter types are generally the better known. Malmsey is an example.

    It is reputed for never going bad, in that, part of its production involves exposure to extreme heat, either in warehouses or barrels being rolled in the sun or both. (Particulars are easy to find on Wikipedia and similar sources). This derived from experience gained on ships: when Madeira was exported to hot climates, it was noticed it came into perfection, so later they emulated these techniques in a warehouse or other static environment to produce the same taste.

    Mareira is a fortified wine (like sherry and port), that is, brandy is added to stiffen and help preserve it. Still, it doesn't exceed 20% ABV generally.

    I can attest to its remarkable powers of preservation. About 10 years ago, I blended a 3 year old Madeira with a 15 year old of a different make. Since then, the bottle, now only 1/3rd full, has been moved around countless times, sits part of each day in the sun in an exposed bar (rattan-type two-level affair), gathers dust and is otherwise treated in a heedless fashion.

    And yet, this blending tastes fresh as the new-born day. It has a slightly smoky, raisin-like palate, and is either as good as the day I blended it, or better. Yet, it has never been pasteurized or dosed with chemicals, never seen the inside of a fridge. I once read that, being exposed numerous extreme elements in its gestation stage, you can't hurt Madeira, all the bad things that can possibly happen have already occurred! Only spirits such as whiskey can resist time so effectively, and even that will succumb, ultimately. Madeira never will, it lasts forever or practically so. No wonder it was admired by pre-1800's connoisseurs.

    It is still made, and while old vintages are around that cost a fortune, you needn't spend so much. Buy a 5 or 10 year old bottle, and enjoy a taste of history. Due to its natural oxidative properties and balance of sweet and acid, you can pretty much do your will to it, and it will respond by only being better.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 03-14-2011 at 19:29.

  2. #2
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    Re: Amazing Madeira

    Even very old versions won't cost a fortune. Pre-WWII Madeiras can be had for less than a bottle of VVOF. I recently had a 1910 bottling that tasted wonderfully fresh. I believe the retailer was selling it for $300ish. We also had a 1936 which was selling for much less. Under $200 I believe.(The retailer is a friend who happens to be very generous.)

    Yes, some Madeira can be immortal. Not all, but some. As a general rule, it will outlive even vintage Port.

  3. #3

    Re: Amazing Madeira

    Quote Originally Posted by White Dog View Post
    Even very old versions won't cost a fortune. Pre-WWII Madeiras can be had for less than a bottle of VVOF. I recently had a 1910 bottling that tasted wonderfully fresh...
    And Gary himself tasted -- two years running -- from a bottle of 1933 Justino Henriques Malmsey/Malvasia imported by Broadbent a few years back, at Sampler time. About the only thing that changed between tastings was the color. It didn't cost an exorbitant sum.
    Tim

  4. #4
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    Re: Amazing Madeira

    Yes I recall well that wonderful Madeira from Tim.

    Indeed Madeira may be the last good value still available in vintage wines.

    Recently I added a touch of it to a blend I made of Green Spot, regular Jameson and Irishman 70, and it worked extremely well to marry the tastes.

    Gary

  5. #5
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    Re: Amazing Madeira

    How about when George Washington was President? I was fortunate and will brag about tasting a 1795 Madeira, Terrantez of Barbeito, at a downright decadent wine party featuring three centuries of wine. There was also a Madeira from the 1800's but don't remember the specific date. Tasting notes are a blurry memory but the 1795 was orange in color, mighty tasty and had no off notes. The hit of the party though, among many very old first growth Bordeaux's was a 1918 double magnum from Chateau Haut Brion. One fascinating phenomena was also how quickly some of the older red wines from the 1920's or so would fade quite abruptly after only 10 minutes or so of air time. This particular wine party, about 5 years ago, was posted about on the Parker wine forum site which is now a pay site.
    Thad

    BTOTY-2011

  6. #6
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    Re: Amazing Madeira

    Quote Originally Posted by Gillman View Post
    Yes I recall well that wonderful Madeira from Tim.

    Indeed Madeira may be the last good value still available in vintage wines.

    Recently I added a touch of it to a blend I made of Green Spot, regular Jameson and Irishman 70, and it worked extremely well to marry the tastes.

    Gary
    Myself, and many others in the wine trade, would tell you that German Riesling remains the greatest of all values. Most pros regard Riesling as the king of all grapes, due to it's ability to show terroir, it's ageability, and the way it works at the dinner table.

    And since it is still completely out of fashion, you can obtain top wines from top producers for a song. Estate Spatlese and Auslese for under $30 are easy to find. But since Americans equate sugar with plonk...

  7. #7
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    Re: Amazing Madeira

    Quote Originally Posted by Gillman View Post
    I can attest to its remarkable powers of preservation.
    Some years ago I sampled some from the 1850s (that's right 18, not 19). Still good.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gillman View Post
    No wonder it was admired by pre-1800's connoisseurs.
    I read somewhere (which is not to say it's true) that it was popular in what was to become the USA because it was exempt from the tax the British had imposed on wines imported from Europe (Madeira isles were considered to be Africa and therefore exempt).
    Scott

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  8. #8
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    Re: Amazing Madeira

    Very interesting and it is stunning to think that some people have tasted wines made back in the 1800's, amazing.

    Gary

  9. #9
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    Re: Amazing Madeira

    This is one I never think about, maybe it's time.

  10. #10
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    Re: Amazing Madeira

    Trina & I were friends of a girl who was dating a member of the Cullen family (no not the Twilight Cullens, but think the Rockefeller's of Houston). On her birthday party dinner, we wound up back at his house and he opened a 150 year old Madeira, followed by one that was even older. This was 15 years ago - I know I would appreciate it way more today. Still, it was likely the most expensive drink that ever crossed my lips.

 

 

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