Select Page

Madeira makeover

Madeira makeover

fortified-wine-okanagan-life

As wine tastes continue to change and evolve, one fortified favourite is making a big comeback

Madiera, a product of the verdant, steeply-terraced island 600 kilometres off the coast of Morocco, and one of the world’s great fortified wines, is making a comeback after a long period of decline. Early in its history, merchants took advantage of Madeira’s location on major trade routes and shipped the wine to the Americas and beyond.

The heat of the sun and motion of the ship on long sea voyages gave Madeira wine a special tangy, burnt caramel character that drinkers loved. The addition of grape brandy was a later refinement to preserve wine held in storage while France and England were at war in America.

With Madeira more popular than Port in England, producers devised an alternative method of “baking” the wine. They found that heating it in “estafas,” huge ovens controlled by hot water pipes at up to 50 C for 90 days, had the same effect as a long sea journey.

In the 19th century, after powdery mildew and phylloxera ravaged the vineyards, more prolific grape varieties began replacing traditional, lower-yielding vines. As quality declined, cheap, young Madeira acquired a reputation as a wine used as much for cooking as drinking.

Portugal’s 1986 entry into the European Union became the springboard for Madeira’s renewal. It increased standards for wine grape growing, winemaking and labeling, while providing investment funds in a world of expanding markets.

At Blandy’s 17th century Wine Lodges in Funchal, the finest wines are aged in large casks, which are placed in “canteiros” or lofts on upper floors where the temperature is highest. On the north of the island, the company owns Quinta do Bispo, a five hectare vineyard growing Sercial, Verdelho and Malvasia vines high on a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Excellent fortified wines are made as specialty products by several wineries in BC and the Okanagan Valley. Closer in style to Port than Madeira or Sherry, they are made by using homegrown grapes or fruits, and adding brandy or neutral spirits to stop fermentation.

Related Post

About The Author

Michael Botner

Wine columnist for Okanagan Life Magazine, Michael Botner authors our High Spirits feature. Trained as a chartered accountant, Michael now devotes his time and energy to Accounting for Taste, a company dedicated to demystifying wine. As a wine consultant, Michael has chaired a number of international wine competitions. More posts

Current Issue

Upcoming Events

Sep
21
Thu
9:00 pm Folk music tour: Ellen Froese & ... @ Barley Station brew Pub
Folk music tour: Ellen Froese & ... @ Barley Station brew Pub
Sep 21 @ 9:00 pm
Folk music tour: Ellen Froese & Derek Curtis @ Barley Station brew Pub | Salmon Arm | British Columbia | Canada
Coming together over the Canadian Border, Ellen Froese and Derek Curtis will be touring across Western Canada and playing their folk music from Saskatchewan through British Columbia. With Ellen hailing from Saskatoon and Derek from[...]
Sep
23
Sat
9:00 pm Folk music tour: Ellen Froese & ... @ The Grateful Fed
Folk music tour: Ellen Froese & ... @ The Grateful Fed
Sep 23 @ 9:00 pm
Folk music tour: Ellen Froese & Derek Curtis @ The Grateful Fed | Kelowna | British Columbia | Canada
Coming together over the Canadian Border, Ellen Froese and Derek Curtis will be touring across Western Canada and playing their folk music from Saskatchewan through British Columbia. With Ellen hailing from Saskatoon and Derek from[...]
Oct
17
Tue
7:30 pm Burton Cummings @ Kelowna’s Community Theatre
Burton Cummings @ Kelowna’s Community Theatre
Oct 17 @ 7:30 pm
Burton Cummings @ Kelowna’s Community Theatre | Kelowna | British Columbia | Canada
Canadian music icon to perform in Kelowna in October Burton Cummings, one of the most celebrated rock artists in Canadian music history, will perform at Kelowna’s Community Theatre at 7;30 p.m. on Tuesday October 17[...]

TWITTER

Error: Please enter a valid email address

Error: Invalid email

Error: Please enter your first name

Error: Please enter your last name

Error: Please enter a username

Error: Please enter a password

Error: Please confirm your password

Error: Password and password confirmation do not match