I have a thing for Madeira. It’s kind of becoming my jam. And not the kind that you spread on toast, but rather a soothing soulful sound served in liquid form. I recently attended a Madeira tasting at Rumba, located in the Seattle neighborhood where I live: Capitol Hill. (Thanks Rumba, A&B Imports, and Broadbent Selections for the invite to this industry event.) First things first: Madeira is a sweet, fortified wine made on an island about 1000 miles off the coast of Portugal and 500 miles from North Africa. Here are seven sips on Madeira you can file away to impress wine geeks, guests at a cocktail party, and/or whoever is across the table at awkward speed dating events.
- Madeira is historic, especially popular in the colonial times of this country and in the early years of the United States of America. Toasting with TJ at the signing of the Declaration of Independence? You’re drinking Madeira. Kicking it a G-Dub’s inauguration? Your flask was full of it. Perusing Ben Franklin’s autobiography? Name-checked.
- It can actually be quite dry. Look for examples made from the Sercial grape.
- There’s plenty of variety in style and flavor, evident from just looking at the color spectrum of the examples in the top photo.
- Even the sweetest Madeira doesn’t seem, well, so sweet. Each has a great, lemony finish that perks up your palate and gets you ready for more.
- It pairs great with blue cheese. Try the 1996 Colheita with Spain’s Valdeón.
- Forget if you spell Madeira with an “ei” or “ie”? Just remember this handy sentence: One afternoon I made Ira a refreshing Madeira punch and he proclaimed it to be the greatest day in the history of the world.
- Did someone say punch? Madeira is a mighty mixer!
But you don’t have to be some Duke in a fancy club to enjoy Madeira. An open bottles stays good for ages, so you can be judicious and get your money’s worth. Keep one on hand at all times for a great nightcap by the fire, an addition to an exciting cocktail, an afternoon tipple, whatever. You could even pour some over your pancakes or waffles. Or make a boozy milkshake. But however and whenever you enjoy Madeira, just know that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin are all counting on you. No pressure.
Do you want more Madeira? Check out my interview with Chris Blandy, CEO of the Madeira Wine Company. He pairs Madeira with sushi, duck, and foie gras. And was very generous with his time, sharing many fascinating insights. His thoughts were so extensive, I made it into a two-part post. So also read what happens when you start with CakeSpy and end with Madeira. It’s a history of desserts and dessert wine in America. Totally sweet!