Madeira? Madeira, Madeira...? Isn't that an island in the Atlantic? And isn't that where the Portuguese football hero Cristiano Ronaldo comes from? That's all true. But Madeira is also the protected name of a liqueur wine that comes from the Atlantic island of Madeira, which belongs to Portugal. And of course that interests us gourmets the most!
Madeira wines are fortified with brandy (this is called "spitting"), which stops fermentation. In this way, the proportion of sugar does not ferment completely and the wine retains a corresponding sweetness. The alcohol content is between 17 and 22%.
In the classic production method, the so-called canteiro process, the barrels with the fortified wine are stored under the roof where the heat accumulates. This causes the wine to caramelize naturally. However, this process is now very rare, as it is very time-consuming and costly - through this process you lose around 3% of the wine per year and hardly anyone wants to afford that today. There are of course some exceptions. One of them is the Barbeito company, from which we obtain our Madeira.
Instead, nowadays the so-called Estufagem method is used, in which the wine is stored in stainless steel tanks that are mechanically heated to up to 50°C. The Madeira is then granted a three-month rest period, the so-called Estágio.
The actually finished Madeira is then stored for at least another 2 years before it goes on sale. So you have to bring a good portion of patience with you...
A certain Ricardo Diogo Vasconcelos de Freitas proves this. Yes, the Portuguese always with their long names... Today he is the third generation to lead the Madeira company Barbeito. We met him through our favorite Portuguese winemaker, Rita Marques Ferreira, who collaborated with Barbeito on her white and ruby port , as they both share the same philosophy and passion for high quality wines and original experimentation.
The Barbeito company was founded in 1946 by Mario Barbeito on the island of Madeira. On the one hand, he relied on vintage wines (as a financial cushion), but at the same time also produced simple Madeira wines.
Ricardo Diogo Freitas has been running the business since the 1990s and has developed the company into one of the top players in the industry. Today, Barbeito stands out from the competition, among other things, because it almost entirely dispenses with the addition of caramel as a factor affecting color and taste.
We met the extremely likeable Ricardo personally 2 years ago at the ProWein in Düsseldorf. Then came the half-joking, half-serious sentence that briefly and concisely describes what one of the special features of Madeira is:
"Last week I drank a glass of very good Madeira from a bottle my grandfather opened 25 years ago."
Unlike port wine (with the exception of tawny), an opened bottle of Madeira can be stored for a long time without it spoiling. This is because the wine is already partially oxidized when it is bottled.
Madeira wine is essentially made from five white vines: Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, Terrantez and Malvasia. In addition, the red grape variety Tinta Negra Mole joins in the red area.
Most Madeiras are blends - but we mainly carry pure varieties. In the case of wines with an age designation, it should be noted that the wine relevant to the age is the youngest of the cuvée. That means: with a five-year-old Madeira, the youngest wine in the blend is at least 5 years old, all the others are older. The same applies to 10-year-olds, 20-year-olds, etc.
Red Madeira wines lighten in color with years of storage and robes range from dark amber-gold to light caramel. The white wines, on the other hand, darken with age.
Madeira is particularly suitable as an aperitif or digestif or as an ingredient for long drinks and cocktails, and goes well with many different dishes, depending on the degree of sweetness and grape variety: dry, light Sercial goes well with fish , semi-dry Verdelho goes with ham and pâté , semi-sweet Boal with soft cheese such as Reblochon , Camembert or Coeur de Naufchâtel , with chocolate and pastries , sweet Malvasia with fruits, fruity desserts and strong cheeses, especially blue cheeses such as Roquefort or Stilton.
Among other things, because the classic pairings just mentioned (e.g. with blue cheese) are so reminiscent of port wine, both drinks are often pigeonholed. But there is a very distinctive difference: unlike port or even sherry, Madeira has a very pleasant acidity that balances the sweetness and ensures that it is not quite as heavy and sticky in the mouth as its distant counterparts Relatives. This acidity is generally due to the base wines used, which grow on volcanic soils with a low pH. In the case of Barbeito's Madeiras, it is also due to the fact that the grapes are bought and processed just before they are usually ripe, i.e. with a higher acidity.
On the island there is a clear separation of cultivation and processing: The producers (mostly traditional family businesses) buy the grapes from the hundreds of small farmers on the island, whose plots are rarely larger than a typical home garden. In any case, the island offers few suitable areas for cultivation, which are then planted either with grapes, bananas or sugar cane. The very small portion of 400 hectares of wine-growing area extends mainly along the coast. The vineyards, some of which are built as pergola, are located on very steep terrain, which makes mechanical cultivation almost impossible. Accordingly, almost everything in Madeira production is done by hand: from viticulture to harvesting.
So the Madeira is and remains a very special product that we absolutely want to recommend to you so that you fall in love as much as we do!
And who do you think we have to thank for Madeira wine? Supposedly by chance and the English: British sailors in the 17th century would have tasted one of the last barrels of wine at the end of a long crossing and found that the wine tasted much better than when they cast it off. He had gotten sweeter and had more turns. They attributed both to the heat the barrels had been exposed to on the long journey from England to the East Indies. Since then, it has become more and more common to cask the wine at elevated temperatures for a longer period of time before bottling. Is that true? You don't know that exactly. But the story is still beautiful...
We had a small selection of Madeira in our range a while ago and have already been able to infect some customers with our enthusiasm. In the meantime, we have refined the selection and now have a 3-year-old, four 5-year-old and four 10-year-old Madeiras , all of which are characterized by their distinctive taste. Have fun browsing and tasting!
Our Madeira collection
Last year we tasted 5 year old raw milk Gouda with white port, a tawny port and a semi-sweet madeira. All three harmonized wonderfully!