A Story Born by Chance
All stories with compelling endings start from bizarre and curious beginnings, with unpredictable and often not even remotely desirable consequences. This was more or less the case for the fortified Madeira, which was created by chance. In 1400, the Portuguese, driven by colonialist ambitions of conquest, embarked on a courageous voyage and came across an unknown and isolated island in the Atlantic. This was an unspoilt area where they began to plant sugar cane, and above all Malvasia cuttings.
The volcanic and magnesium-rich nature of the soil could only give rise to grapes with an exceptional acidic side and great aromatic richness. The fruit of the vinification process was then sold in the New World, shipped in barrels that sailed from the island to the mainland. It was extraordinary, but after long transoceanic voyages, subjected to the most variable atmospheric conditions and the natural movements of the ship, the content of those barrels had clearly improved, appearing more multifaceted and richer in deep and enveloping aromatic textures. Quite simply, the heat warmed and modified the original wine, oxidising and improving it! Just like Marsala and Port, the English arrived on the island and the outcome of the story can already be easily imagined: thanks to their fundamental commercial drive and the introduction of fortification with alcohol, it became one of Portugal's most famous wines in the world.
Tradition and Innovation: Canteiro Method vs. Estufas
Given the incredible and unexpected extraordinariness of the product, it was necessary to patent a production method that would artificially simulate the unique microclimate generated by sea transport, on dry land. The first idea was to use the Canteiro method, which eliminates all sources of artificial heat by placing the barrels in lofts. This method has since been revolutionised and industrialised thanks to the use of estufas. Inside these steel containers, heated externally by coils and hot water pipes, the must is heated for 90 days to around 60 degrees, cutting production times and costs.
The greatest innovation introduced by the English to produce liqueur wines like this one was fortification, or the addition of alcohol such as brandy during fermentation, in order to stop it and thus obtain a sweeter final product with a higher alcoholic strength. Its success reached exceptionally high levels. A symbol of prestige and wealth, it was consumed on the tables of the powerful of the time; it is even said that the declaration of American Independence of the 4th of July 1776 was celebrated with a glass of Madeira.
The classification of Madeira online wine is based on the method of production, the period of ageing, the sugar level and the variety used. The industrial estufas method favours Tinta Negra, a red grape variety introduced in the post-Phylloxera era, combined with a percentage of minor grapes that never exceeds 30% of the total. Depending on the period of ageing in wood, it will be labelled Reserve (5 years), Special Reserve (10 years) or Extra Reserve (15 years), while the sugar level is known as Sweet, Medium Sweet, Medium Dry or Dry.
The Vintage wines, also known as Frasqueira, are made from the island's traditional white grape varieties such as Malmsey, Boal, Verdelho and Sercial using the Canteiro method and are aged for at least 20 years. It is thanks to these examples that the prestigious reputation of these wines has continued to the present day, defying time: it is no coincidence that in 2007 Madeira Blandy's wines from as early as 1792 were sold at auction!
On Callmewine's wine shop you will find Madeira wine for sale online at the best prices thanks to special offers. These are perfect bottles to enjoy with tasty dishes, allowing you to discover unique and special combinations.