Whilst browsing the half-empty Fortified Wine section of my local supermarket’s wine aisle, I spotted this Madeira nearly hidden amongst the much larger selections of Port and Sherry. It’s a wine I’d heard of, but never tried. Having recently enjoyed my adventure into the worlds of fortified wines, I decided to pop it in my basket, all in the name of research of course!
Madeira wine is made in the small volcanic Madeira islands of Portugal, in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Morocco. I enjoy learning about the regions and history of the wines I drink, so here is a quick summary: The terrain of the main island is rugged and volcanic, and the vineyards are grown on small hillside terraces called “poios”. Like Port, the wine had brandy or grape spirit added to fortify the wine and protect it from spoiling during long shipping times. During these tropical journeys by sea, the wine would be sloshed around, and be subjected to high temperatures. These days, this heating is simulated by the wineries in a process unique to Madeira, which makes the wine very robust and intense. Wikipedia has a good history of the wine if you want to find out more.
Enough history, let’s move onto the wine itself. Madeira can be made in several styles, but this one is a sweet dessert wine (Although not quite as sweet as the Pedro Ximenez I tried recently). On the nose, it smells of figs and raisins. These flavours continue on the palate, along with the sweet tastes of demerara sugar and honey. The wine is very sweet and luxurious, and is viscous enough to coat your mouth, helping the flavours and aromas last well after you sip.
The label recommends pairing with sticky toffee pudding, which would be like a dream! The flavours and sweetness pair wonderfully with a rich fruity Christmas pudding too. It’s also sweet and luxurious enough to sip on its own at the end of a meal.
After seeing the empty spaces on shelves where big name Ports such as Taylor’s and Cockburn’s used to be, it’s sad that people see fortified wines as something only to be enjoyed at the festive period. With so many varieties of fortified wine, these drinks have a lot to offer, whatever the time of year. Don’t let them be neglected, sitting on supermarket shelves until next Christmas!