The Cellar: The Wonders of Madeira Wine
Friday, January 31, 2014
Private Tasting at the Providence Wine Academy, participants were guided through the wonders of the fortified wines that are Port, Sherry and Madeira. Fortified wine is a category that is largely overlooked; one that offers a lot of quality, diversity, as well as value. If you think all fortified wines are thick, sweet and sticky stuff (you know, the stuff grandma used to sip), it is time to think again. Madeira, for example, is a super versatile wine that can range in style from bone-dry to deliciously sweet, but always with an acidic nerve. Because of these variations Madeira can be served before, during or even after a meal.
Madeira wines are made on the island of Madeira, which is located in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 600 miles southwest of Portugal. Madeira’s winemaking history dates back to the 1450’s and the exploration of the New World. Back then wines from Madeira were already very popular and highly sought-after, both in Europe and later here in the Americas. It is said that Madeira was the preferred wine of many of our founding fathers; that is was a bottle of Madeira that was passed around after the signing of the Declaration of Independence and that it was served at George Washington’s inauguration.
Unlike Any Other
The four principle grape varieties that make the best Madeira wines are Sercial, Verdelho, Bual and Malmsey. Look for these names as a good bottle of Madeira almost always displays the grape it is made from. If the bottle simply says ‘Madeira’ chances are that the wine is made from a lesser, high-yielding grape variety called Tinta Negra Mole. All Madeira wines start their life similarly to most other wines, but they are fortified with neutral grape spirits at differing points of fermentation, depending on the grape variety used and the level of sweetness the winemaker wishes to achieve. Sercials are almost always dry, which means that it is fortified after fermentation when all the sugars already have been converted into alcohol. Malmseys, on the other hand, are fortified much sooner, before all the sugars are converted, leaving residual sugars in the wine resulting in a sweeter wine.
I could go on forever as there is so much more to Madeira than you might think. Please, if you haven’t done so already, give Madeira a chance. Cheers!
Steffen Rasch is a Certified Sommelier and Specialist of Wine. Feel free to email him at [email protected] with any wine-related question or learn about wine in person by signing up for one of his tastings through the Providence Wine Academy.
Related Slideshow: 10 New England Wine Getaways
Newport Vineyards is the perfect Rhode Island destination for wine lovers year round. Visit the winery this weekend for tastings and tours, featuring an array of award winning wines.
909 E Main Road, Middletown, RI. (401) 848-5161.
Carolyn's Sakonnet Vineya
Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyards in Little Compton is much more than just a winery—it is a place to get away from the stresses of life and indulge your senses, a place to try new things, a place to focus on you. The vineyard is open every day, and invites you to come for a tasting and tour. Try their Petite Red, Vidal Blanc, and many more of their distinctive wines.
162 W Main Road, Little Compton, RI. (401) 635-8486.
Visit Greenvale Vineyards in Portsmouth to sample their estate grown and produced wine, made in small batches. While at the estate, try seven different wines and keep the wine glass for only $12. While you are tasting, take in the gorgeous views of both the vineyard and river. Besides tasting the wines, Greenvale also invites customers to tour the winery and learn about the history and process of winemaking at the vineyard.
582 Wapping Road, Portsmouth, RI. (401) 847-3777.
Maugle Sierra Vineyards
For a trip to a vineyard that includes much more than just wine, hop over the border to Ledyard, CT, to check out Maugle Sierra Vineyards. The vineyard hosts live music on Fridays and Sundays to compliment your wine tasting experience. Pack a dinner or light fare and enjoy a tasting session in the Sierra Room while you take in the sunset.
825 Colonel Ledyard Highway, Ledyard, CT. (860) 464-2987.
Nickle Creek Vineyards
Nickle Creek Vineyard is a family owned and operated Rhode Island wine treasure. The winery, located in Foster, makes it their mission to handcraft the most unique, high quality wines in the business. All wines are created in small batches, giving them a distinctly unique taste. This weekend, visit their tasting room to try their variety of wines. On your way out, be sure to pick up a bottle of Foster Nights to get you through those chilly New England evenings.
12 King Road, Foster, RI. (401) 369-3694.
Nashoba Valley Winery
Take the bite off the winter chill this weekend and take a drive to Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton. The winery hosts tasting events everyday from 10am-4:30pm For $5, receive a free tasting glass and samples of up to five different wines. Some favorites include Strawberry Rhubarb Wine, Holiday Special Cranberry Apple (a new release in November 2013), and New English Cider. If you are in the mood for something other than wine (if that’s possible), check out their beer selection as well!
100 Wattaquadock Hill Road, Bolton, MA. (978) 779-5521.
Bishop’s Orchards Winery
The wines from Bishop’s Orchards Winery and Farm Market in Guilford, CT, have won over 179 medals since the winery opened in 2005. The tasting room at Bishop’s is open seven days a week year round, so no time is off-limits for wine tasting. Head over on the weekend to enjoy a winery tour pre or post tasting session. While visiting the winery, also be sure to check out the market for fresh baked goodies.
1355 Boston Post Road, Guilford, CT. (203) 453-2338.
Diamond Hill Vineyards
For a cool twist on classic wine labels, look no further than Diamond Hill Vineyard in Cumberland. At Diamond Hill, you can get custom designed wine labels perfect for any occasion. If you’re interested in tasting the wines, visit their elegant tasting room for samples of their high quality wines such as Cranberry Apple, Estate Pinot Noir, or Blackberry.
3145 Diamond Hill Road, Cumberland, RI. (401) 333-2751.
Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery
Tucked away on the southern coast of Massachusetts, Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery, located about an hour’s drive from Worcester, is worth the trip. For only $10, you can take home a special edition etched wine glass and enjoy a tasting of up to six of their award-winning wines. While the tasting room is open Monday-Saturday, free winery tours are also offered to the public every Saturday from 1-3pm.
417 Hixbridge Rd, Westport, MA. (508) 636-3423.
Found on the southern Massachusetts coast about 30 minutes outside of Providence, is Travessia Winery in New Bedford. This micro-winery puts a twist on traditional wine culture with its cool urban flair. Travessia is open for sales and tastings Wednesday-Sunday, and invites customers to come in and enjoy their unique variety of wines.
760 Purchase Street, New Bedford, MA. (774) 929-6534.
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