Madeira Wine

All Madeira has a nutty, deliberately oxidized and slightly caramelized quality from wood-ageing under the influence of heat. Madeira ranges in sweetness from just off-dry to seriously sweet. Very little is made nowadays of the traditional wines, named after their grape varieties and traditionally made each at its own individual level of sweetness. In rising order of sweetness, these are: Sercial, Terrantez, Verdelho, Boal and Malvasia. All these are white grapes. The red variety, Tinta Negra, is now made into all the sweetness levels, by the same heating/oxidative methods. It is still possible to buy extraordinary bottles of intensely-flavoured, really complex old wines made from the old white varieties.

Madeira wine undergoes fermentation off skins, in which the grapes are directly pressed. However, when the wine is going to age for several years in wood, some companies prefer to use fermentation on skins.

Most wines are aged through a heating process that tries to reproduce the overheating Madeira wines underwent during maritime trade. The wine is placed in heated rooms, where it is subject to temperatures around 50º for a few months. Another method is to submit the wine to heat produced through hot water circulation.

Another option is the gantry, an ageing process in which brandy is added to the wine right after fermentation, being later aged in wood tanks. The wine will only be bottled after the third year of ageing. Wines thus produced are usually kept in wood for many years until they are bottled and commercialised.

Source: Infovini and Wines of Portugal

Madeira Wine
Madeira Wine

Image: Instituto do Vinho e do Bordado da Madeira

There are essentially four large monovarietal Madeira wines.

Of the dry wines, the Sercial variety stands out. With a light colour, full bodied and perfumed it is perfect as an aperitif and goes well with olives, toasted almonds, caviar or salmon canapés and hors-d'oeuvre with mayonnaise. It is equally subtle with smoked fish like salmon, sword fish, tuna or black scabbard, shellfish, sushi or fish mousses, and delicate with fresh goat or sheep cheeses. Refreshing as a long-drink “Madeira Wine with tonic water, slice of lemon and ice” – Dry Madeira Wine is very refreshing.

Verdelho tops semi-dry wines. Structured, of a golden colour, it is also excellent as an aperitif. It combines perfectly with olives, toasted almonds and dry fruits and is pleasant with consommé, fresh cream soups and onion soup au gratin. It is equally exuberant with Serrano ham or smoked game, soup bowls of game, curd cheese, mushrooms with garlic or stuffed, and tasty with duck or goose pâté de foie-gras.

The medium-rich, Boal, full bodied and fruity, it is harmonious with fresh tropical fruits, dry fruits, cakes and fruit tarts. Young Boal is perfect to accompany with soft cheeses and older Boal goes very well with matured cheese. Delicate with cheese or wild fruits with butter soufflés, this Madeira Wine reveals itself exotic with milk chocolate, pralines, petit-fours, fresh cream cakes and traditional “bolo de mel”. Old Boal is also perfect to associate with pipe tobacco and with cigars.

Malvasia Madeira Wine or rich, of dark colour, full bodied and aromatic, it may be appreciated with tropical fruits and dry fruits such as walnuts and hazelnuts. It is gracious with dry fruit cakes and fruit tarts, “bolo de mel”, butter biscuits, dark or milk chocolate, pralines and petit-fours. It is equally elegant and combines very well with Portuguese cheeses like the one from Serra, Serpa, Azeitão, that of Rabaçal and from the Ilha, and likewise with blue cheeses like Danish Blue, Roquefort, Stilton or Gorgonzola. The “Frasqueiras” rich are exceptional with Havana cigars.

Source: Wines of Portugal and Instituto do Vinho e do Bordado da Madeira

Madeira Wine

Indication of age

Selecionado
Wine that is at least three years old and less than five years old, with the kind of taste profile you would expect of a wine of that age

Rainwater
Wine of maximum five years, with the kind of taste profile you would expect of a wine of that age. The colour should be somewhere between gold and light gold, and the dry extract should be 1,0150 g/ml or less.

5 Anos, 5 Years or Reserva
Wine of minimum five and maximum ten years, with the kind of taste profile you would expect of a wine of that age. The label may bear the name of the grape variety.

10 Anos, 10 Years, Reserva Especial or Reserva Velha
Wine of between 10 and 15 years, with the kind of taste profile you would expect of a wine of that age. The label may bear the name of the grape variety.

15 Anos, 15 Years or Reserva Extra
Wine of between 15 and 20 years, with the kind of taste profile you would expect of a wine of that age. The label may bear the name of the grape variety.

20 Anos, 20 Years
Wine of between 20 and 30 years, with the kind of taste profile you would expect of a wine of that age. The label may bear the name of the grape variety.

30 Anos, 30 Years
Wine of between 30 and 40 years, with the kind of taste profile you would expect of a wine of that age. The label may bear the name of the grape variety.

Mais de 40 Anos, More than 40 Years
Wine of minimum 40 years, with the kind of taste profile you would expect of a wine of that age. The label may bear the name of the grape variety.

Ano de Colheita, Year of Harvest

Solera
Wine with distinctive characteristics, originally aged in the canteiro system for a minimum of five years. It then became part of a specific collection of casks (lote) from which a quantity not exceeding ten per cent (from each cask) is drawn off each year for bottling. The casks are topped up with wine of similar quality. This can be done up to ten times, after which all the wine can be bottled at once. Note, however, that the date on a bottle of Solera is always that of the original base wine.

Colheita
Blended from wines that must be at least 85% from the specified vintage and at least 85% from a single grape variety (all the grapes used must be on the list either of recommended or authorised grapes). It must be aged for a minimum of five years.
The label must indicate vintage and bottling date.

Frasqueira
Blended from wines that must be at least 85% from wines of the specified vintage in and from a single recommended grape variety or from a blend of recommended varieties as long as one of them constitutes 85% of the blend. The wine must have been aged for a minimum of 20 years in wooden casks. The label must indicate vintage and bottling date.

Source: Wines of Portugal


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