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217 Years of Madeira Wine Tasting at Wine Watch

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Published on Jan 20, 2012

217 Years of Madeira Wine Tasting at Wine Watch
Friday, January 27, 2012
7:00 PM

You can't call yourself a wine lover if you have never tried Madeira. I remember the first time that I tasted a vertical selection of Madeira at the Great Wine Seminar and I was stunned at the wines complexity and the layers of flavors and aromas that continued to rise from the glass for hours. These Madeiras were from the cellar of Dr. Bob Maliner, one of the world's premier experts on the subject of Madeira who will be leading us through this tasting tonight.

After this tasting I began a search looking for all the old Madeira that I could find, and Wine Watch now has one of the largest collections of Madeira that you can find in South Florida. Join us as we will taste through two hundred seventeen years of Madeira with the leading authority and one of the largest collectors of this special beverage. Wine Watch Catering's Toni Lampasone will be preparing a few courses to accompany the tasting wines. The fee for this tasting is $350 + tax, for reservations call 954-523-9463.

Madiera is an island off the coast of Morocco that belongs to Portugal. Historically, it was a popular port of call for ships on the trade routes between Africa, Asia and the Americas. The original Madeira wines were made as a powerful white wine, however to protect them during transport they were fortified - alcohol is added before fermentation is complete, which stops the process and leaves residual sugar in the wine. Sea Captains discovered that long ocean voyages actually improved casks of Madeira. Unlike other wines, heat and oxidation are essential to Madeira and so the wine is virtually indestructible.

During the 18th and 19th century, Madeira was America's wine of choice and most fashionable drink amongst hi-society. When the Declaration of Independence was signed they toasted with Madeira, when Betsy Ross knitted the first flag she was sipping on a glass of Madeira, and when Ben Franklin was tinkering with his many inventions he indulged in a cup of this wonderful elixir.

Unfortunately though over the past 150 years, it has sank from its preeminence as America's favorite wine for several reasons. In the 1850s, powdery mildew a fungal disease destroyed most of Madeira's vineyards. It was not long after a treatment was discovered for powdery mildew when phylloxera struck devastating the remaining vineyards. By the 20th century, Madeira had recovered but at its American market had disappeared due to Prohibition. And lastly, Portugal's 1974 popular revolution dealt yet another blow by dismantling the remaining large estates.

There are four major types of Madeira - Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, and Malmsey (Malvasia). The difference lies in the grape varieties from which each was originally made, and the respective sweetness levels of the finished wines. Sercial is the driest style, containing up to 1.5 percent residual sugar and known for its hi-acidity. Similar to fino and manzanilla Sherries, Sercial is great served as an aperitif. Verdelho is semi-dry with up to 2.5 percent residual sugar, lending the wine greater richness. Bual is sweeter still at 3.5 percent residual sugar, however it is balanced by sharp, tangy acidity. Malmsey, made from Malvasia grapes, is the richest and darkest-colored style with up to 4 percent residual sweetness. Buals and Malmseys are often compared to tawny Ports; they typically show even more richness and concentration, depending on cask aging.


Tasting Line-up:

1860 Cossart Solera Sercial

1926 Barbeito Vintage Verdelho

1927 Leacock Vintage Bastardo

1795 Barbeito Vintage Terrantez

1914 Rutherford & Miles Vintage Bual

1916 Barbeito Vintage Malmsey

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