This is my entry for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge This month’s theme is ‘Devotion.’
Amber in color, rich and nutty with some zest in the finish, Cossart Gordon Bual Madeira NV, aged 10 years tastes like the warmth of Christmas on a cold, snowy night. In the lushness of this fortified wine it was the zest on the finish that surprised me.
Madeira is commonly made from one of five grapes. The driest is Sercial, also known as Esgana Cao which translates to ‘Dog Strangler.’ I’d say that’s pretty dry. Grown a little lower on the island, and slightly less acidic is Verdelho. At sea level are the grapes Bual and Malvasia, the latter being the least acidic, and usually made into the sweetest style of Madeira. The one red grape used to make Madeira, and the one most commonly used is Tinto Negro Mole.
The Madeira I had recently is made from the Bual grape which is also known as Semillon, the other white grape of Bordeaux. In both Bual Madeira and still Semillon, the grape presents a beautiful contrast between lushness and tangy acidity.
Like other fortified wines, Madeira, because of its high alcohol content and through the process of ‘maderization,’ is a very sturdy wine that travels well with little threat of breaking down during the voyage. Its sturdiness was a great benefit during America’s colonial period when a ship could take months to get from Europe to the colonies. For that reason, it was the wine that was served in the colonial taverns.
Think of it, during the constitutional convention, while all those great minds hashed out the details of a new nation, they were probably all sipping Madeira. When Washington travelled to Williamsburg to discuss with George Wythe and Peyton Randolph the possibility of war, the conversations occurred, I’m sure over a glass or two of Madeira. Jefferson was no stranger to wine, but his beloved Bordeaux would not have made the voyage to Virginia, so it was probably Madeira that loosened his quill as he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Married to a Quaker, there’s a chance Madison wrote the constitution completely sober, but if he did have a drink, I’m sure it was Madeira.
I won’t go so far as to say that Madeira built our nation. But I do not think it is a stretch to say that Madeira is the wine that fortified our nation, or at the very least, Madeira fortified our founding fathers.