Madeira Wines

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007 at 12:00 am

Madeira wines are fortified wines that are made form the Madeira Islands in Portugal. The main grape varieties used in the production of such wines include the Sercial, Tinta Negra Mole, Bual, Verdelho and the Malvasia varieties. The most widely planted grape variety used in making Madeira wines is the Tinta Negra Mole. The more expensive and better quality Madeira wines usually contain at least 85 percent of a certain grape variety, with its name usually shown at the wine’s label. A common characteristic of all Madeira wines is their high acidity which can be much higher than those of sherries.

The method of producing Madeira wines is the same as that of other methods being used in many parts of Portugal. The only difference is the method being used in order to stop the maturation of the wine. This is done by subjecting the wine to high temperatures which vary from 35 degress Centigrade to as high as 60 degrees for a period of several months in structures called estufas. This process aims to duplicate the effect of a long sea voyage that the wines go through in tropical climates while being stored in wooden barrels. Grape spirits were used to fortify the wine in order to increase its ability to survive long voyages.

There are four major types of Madeira wines. There’s the Malvasia, also known as Malmsey. This type of Madeira wine is usually very sweet and dark, with a smell that is said to resemble burnt caramel or a raisined fruit which is the result of putting the wine to mature in hot temperature for months. The Malvasia usually goes well with pies and cake that combine sweetness with a little acidity. Another Madeira wine type is the Bual which is dark and color and has a medium and rasiny flavor. There’s also the Sercial which is pale amber in color and has a drier and a slightly almond flavor to it with a tinge of sweetness created by the alcohol. The last type of Madeira wine is the Verdello which is slightly darker than Sercial with a nutty, and smoky aroma and a flavor reminiscent of figs.

Some Madeira wines may be sold as vintage wines using a specific year provided that they are being aged in wooden casks for more than fifteen years. They can also be made into blended wines with a minimum age of three years. The characteristics of Madeira wines generally come from exposure to extreme temperature and oxygen that accounts for its stability. What makes a good Madeira wine so appealing is that it can survive without losing its flavor or any of its characteristics for a considerable amount of time.

Madeira wines are known to be some of the longest lasting wines in the world, with some of them known to have survived over 150 years and still in excellent condition. Madeira wines are also so stable in that they can also be stored through hot summers without getting any significant damage in terms of its characteristics unlike other fine wine varieties.