Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
This consists in subjecting the wine, in buildings called estufas specially designed for this purpose, to a high temperature for a period of some months. This process is meant to duplicate the effect of a long sea voyage of the aging barrels through tropical climates. Madeira was originally unfortified, but the addition of grape spirits increased its ability to survive long voyages.
The temperature varies from 100° to 140° F. according to the quality of the wine, the lower temperature being used for the better wines. The buildings in which this process is carried out are built of stone and are divided into compartments heated by means of hot air derived from a system of stoves and flues.
Much of the characteristic flavor of Madeira is due to this practice, which hastens the mellowing of the wine and also tends to check secondary fermentation inasmuch as it is, in effect, a mild kind of pasteurization. Furthermore, the wine is deliberately exposed to air, causing it to oxidize. The resulting wine has a color not unlike a tawny port. Colourings such as caramel have been used in the past as a colouring to give some consistency (see also whiskey), although this practise is decreasing. Wine tasters sometimes describe an oxidized wine as being maderized.
Exposure to extreme temperature and oxygen accounts for its stability; an opened bottle of Madeira will survive unharmed for a considerable time, up to a year. Properly sealed in bottles, Madeira is one of the longest lasting wines; Madeiras have been known to survive over 150 years in excellent condition. It is not uncommon to see Madeiras pushing the century mark for sale at stores that specialize in rare wine.
Before the advent of artificial refrigeration, Madeira wine was particularly prized in areas where it was impractical to construct wine cellars (such as parts of the southern United States) because unlike many other fine wines it could survive being stored over hot summers without significant damage.
There are four major types of Madeira: Malmsey (also known as Malvasia or Malvazia), Boal (or Bual), Verdelho, and Sercial, the latter two being drier. Occasionally one sees Terrantez , Bastardo and Moscatel varieties, although these are now increasingly rare on the island due to disease oidium and pests phylloxera. Tinta Negra Mole is the workhorse variety on the island and is found in various concentrations in many blends and vintage wines. Of these, Bastardo and Tinta Negra Mole are red grape varieties, the rest are all white.
Many vineyards have in the past been ripped up for commercial tourist developments or replanted with such products as bananas for commercial concerns. There is some replanting taking place on the island, however the tourist trade is generally seen as a more lucrative business than winemaking.
Madeira may be sold as a vintage wine with a specific year when aged in casks for more than 15 years, or a blended wine with a minimum age, such as 3, 5, 10 or 15 years. Also there are solera wines, having been started in a specific year.
Madeira wine is prominently featured in the Flanders & Swann song "Have Some Madeira, M'Dear".
- Liddell, Alex (1998). "Madeira". Faber & Faber. ISBN 0571190960
- Madeira Wine Guide - Dr. Wolf Peter Reutter (2004)
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