Featuring in the pages of the good old kiwi classic, the Edmonds cookbook. Madeira cake does not come from Madeira and has nothing to do with the island or the wine. Though I’m sure will be well known to many New Zealanders. The volcanic island of Madeira is part of an Archipelago and the largest of the group. Madeira is part of Portugal, though the Madeira Archipelago lies closer to Morocco.
Discovered by Portuguese explorers, an island of plenty, it quickly became part of an important trading route. One of the items of cargo wine, was shipped in full barrels. It is told that on one trip, a barrel went on a journey around the world and came back to Madeira. Through its journey the barrel was exposed to extreme temperature change, high heat and air, resulting in an oxidised heat affected concentrated wine.
On its return to Madeira, the barrel was tasted, and the resulting wine praised. Many a barrel was then sent off on such journeys to recreate this delicious wine. A rather expensive and timely way to craft a wine, producers on Madeira searched for another way. Finding that leaving the barrels in the rafters of the Madeira lodges without topping the barrels, they could create the same affects.
HOW MADEIRA IS MADE TODAY
Madeira is a fortified sweet wine that is made from a number of different grapes varieties. The four main qualitative grapes, from driest to sweetest, Verdelho, Sercial, Boal and Malmsey. The mainstay which produces the majority of the volume is Tinta Negra. The alcoholic fermentation is stopped with the additional of a neutral grape spirit, at the point at which the sweetness is at the desired level for the wine.
From this point, the wine is either selected for natural or artificial heating. The natural process (which produces the finest quality is known as Canterio. The wines are put into casks and left in the rafters of the Madeira lodges for maturation. The artificial process is called estufagem, essentially the wines are put into stainless steel vat and sealed. This process of artificial heating is used for entry level Madeira and does impart a caramelised character to the wines.
Premium Madeiras are aged slowly by the Canteiro method, in the rafters of the shippers lodge
10-year-old Madeira refers to the Madeira that has a minimum age of 10-years
-Vintage Madeira, or Frasqueira, means the wine has to have remained in barrel for a minimum of 20 years before bottling.
Prior to current millennium, any Madeira carrying a date on the bottle was either a Vintage Madeira or a Solera.
Now it is possible to release the Madeira of a single harvest before the requisite 20 years in barrel. Such wines are labeled “Harvest” or “Colheita,” and must be a minimum of five years old
Single barrel Madeira are exactly as the name implies, single barrels that are selected for their rare characters and bottled separately.
The sweetness level of Madeiras does vary, generally a Sercial will be around 40 g/l RS and a Malmsey around 100 g/l.
Finest Madeira refers to a wine that has a minimum age of 3 years.
Madeira has featured at many an historical moment, including in 1776, when Thomas Jefferson toasted the signing of the Declaration of Independence, to the presidential oath-taking ceremonies of George Washington and Obama.
Madeira makes a wonderful aperitif, drier styles served at this occasion chilled to around 12C. Sweeter styles can be served cooler and are a perfect way to finish any meal. They match very well with desserts. The versatility of Madeira makes it an amazing addition to a degustation menu
Madeira features in a number of dishes. The Justino’s Reserve Madeira, imported to New Zealand in a 100ml bottle, is the perfect cooking Madeira. Alternatively, you can use a bottle of any of the Madeira, add some to cooking and then enjoy the rest.
The wide range of characteristics in Madeira make it a welcome addition to a wide range of cocktails, time to get experimenting.
WHAT DOES MADEIRA TASTE LIKE?
The volcanic subtropical extremes on Madeira, varieties planted and picking moment produce grapes with high acidity. This high acidity a characteristic of Madeira, its heights often not seen due to the sugar in Madeira. Fortified, the wines will be around 19-20% abv. The sweetness level ranges across the styles and varieties. The characters too, from the salty tang of Sercial to the rich nutty character of Malvasia. There’s a reason so much is written about Madeira. Time to get tasting and see what it is all about.
One of just eight companies producing Madeira on the island itself, Justino's are also one of its
oldest, and the biggest, boasting a history dating back to 1870 and a large cache of high quality
Madeira wines that are aged in oak casks.
Current oenologist and head of the company, Juan Teixeira, is dynamic and forward thinking. Never losing sight of the rich history of Madeira and its fortified wines, Juan loves to innovate, whether it's embracing organic viticulture (something new for the island) or maturating his wines in a variety of barrels from around the world.
The quality of Justino’s Madeiras are something to behold. Viticulture on the island is practiced by around 1600 growers, with Justino’s sourcing their grapes from around 800 of them.
JUSTINO’S MADEIRA FRASQUEIRA VERDELHO 1998 - GRAN BACCHUS DE ORO - XXI CONCURSO INTERNACIONAL DE VINOS BACCHUS 2023
JUSTINO’S MADEIRA BOAL 10 YEARS OLD - FRANKFURT INTERNATIONAL TROPHY 2023
JUSTINO’S MADEIRA MALVASIA COLHEITA 2009 - VINISTRA 2023 - THE WORLD OF MALVASIA
JUSTINO’S MADEIRA SINGLE CASK SERCIAL 2005 - INTERNATIONAL WINE & SPIRITS COMPETITION 2022 - TROPHY WINNER
JUSTINO’S MADEIRA MALVASIA 20 YEARS OLD - INTERNATIONAL WINE & SPIRITS COMPETITION - TROPHY WINNER
JUSTINO’S MADEIRA SINGLE CASK TINTA NEGRA 2000 - DECANTER WORLD WINE AWARDS - SILVER MEDAL
JUSTINO’S MADEIRA SINGLE CASK MALVASIA COLHEITA 2007 - DECANTER WORLD WINE AWARDS 2022 - SILVER MEDAL
JUSTINO’S MADEIRA VERDELHO 1997 - INTERNATIONAL WINE CHALLENGE 2022 - MADEIRA TROPHY & GOLD MEDAL
JUSTINO’S MADEIRA MALVASIA 1988 - INTERNATIONAL WINE CHALLENGE 2022 - GOLD MEDAL