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WBW #51 Baked Goods and Madeirized Wine

Hello, Justin here.

I’m quite excited; this is the first time I’m posting for Wine Blogging Wednesday. This was originally started by Lenn Thompson and is now in its 51st edition, hosted by Joe Roberts at 1WineDude. The theme is “Baked Goods and Madeirized wines”.

Allow me to digress a bit. In the early seventies, the end-of-empire centrifuge was up to full speed and about to fling my parents out. In the nick of time, I was conceived. It all happened on an idyllic, but not quite palm-fringed island off the Portuguese coast – as in the Portuguese Overseas Province of Moçambique coast.

Anyway, Rhodesia, spittoon distance from the Moçambique border was where we lived. Some of the first words I ever heard, in uterus no doubt, were Portuguese. Some of my mother’s relations even took it one step further and lived in Moçambique – for three generations. So it’s no surprise that I feel a warm affection for all things Portuguese and Mozambican (note the post-colonial spelling change). My favourite meal has always been “Churrasco do Frango” with Piri Piri. I must admit this affection did not extend to Portuguese wine at first, but that little fault was corrected in due course. There can be no better place to start appreciation of Portuguese wines than with a glass or two of Madeira wine, which I love to drink when I can get my hands on it.

Fast forward to September 2004, my first visit to Madeira, when we descended on the island for my cousin’s wedding. Of all places, he and his bride had met in Mozambique. If you haven’t been to Madeira, then I can’t recommend it enough. It’s beautiful, fascinating and sometimes hair-raising, especially on the way in and out. The airport is built into the side of a mountain and the runway juts out either end like some kind of oversized sea-side pier.

Madeira, like Porto, Jerez and Marsala has long been famous for its fortified wines and similarly the British have never been far from the action. There were many Anglo sounding names in the Madeira trade but these have mostly folded into “The Madeira Wine Company“, now controlled by the Symingtons of Porto fame, along with the Blandy family (old Madeira hands).

Madeira wines are pretty much bullet-proof, which once made them popular in the southern United States, where they survived the summer temperatures intact. The bullet-proofing is due to the heat treatment Madeira wines receive, before ageing quietly in the normal way. The best wines are left in pipes (Madeira barrels are called pipes) outside in the sun, but most Madeira is treated in an “estufa”, a hot-house, where the pipes are heated up to for the required length of time, which can be months. The cheapest wines are warmed up in something like a heated swimming pool. The process is called “estufagem” and is designed to mimic what happened when pipes were loaded onto tall ships and sailed around the world via the tropics. Estufagem makes Madeira wines very stable, they can last over a century in bottle, and once opened are good for a month or even longer; it also means Madeira wines are “Baked Goods”!

The wines I am drinking today are by Henriques & Henriques. The Rainwater and the Sercial 10 year old. Despite the proximity, sourcing Madeira in southern Spain is surprisingly difficult so I had to go shopping in Gibraltar at the wine merchant “Anglo-Hispano“, who have a great selection of international wines. Both these wines are at the dry end of the Madeira styles and would make great aperitifs, or perhaps go well with a mild and slightly salty cheese. I was hoping to also get a bottle of rich, sweet Malmsey but beggars can’t be choosers. There was none on sale and there is the annoying duty-free allowance of only two bottles when coming back into Spain.

By the way, this Madeira Wine Guide by Dr Wolf Peter Reutter is a great resource for anyone interested in knowing more.

Hasta la proxima!

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