Devotion; Why I Love Madeira

This is my entry for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge  This month’s theme is ‘Devotion.’

Cossart Gordon Bual Madeira, NV 10 years

Cossart Gordon Bual Madeira, NV 10 years

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.

General Washington

General Washington

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.

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25 comments on “Devotion; Why I Love Madeira

  1. renobarb says:

    While I know that you are devoted to wine, I have to offer this off-topic observation that General Washington had a thriving whiskey production at Mount Vernon, and our Founding Fathers enjoyed their hard ciders, too. You might like this article on Drinking in Colonial America from Colonial Williamsburg: http://www.history.org/Foundation/journal/Holiday07/drink.cfm

  2. foxress says:

    Thanks for the link. It’s an interesting article. I know our founding fathers didn’t always drink wine, but when they did…I do recall on a tour of Wetherburn’s Tavern that one of the favorite drinks amongst the colonial guests was my beloved Madeira, so I ran with it.

  3. A good read, I never knew that about Madeira. In Australia it was all about rum after the colonists arrived. This was so much so that rum became the currency of choice because there just wasn’t enough coinage to go around. The rum traders were the richest in the land until the Brits sent over a governor who came up with the novel idea of punching the centre out of the coins to make two coins, one being a ring. He crushed the rum traders.

  4. foxress says:

    Thanks for reading Conrad. Clever man, that governor. Mustn’t let the rum traders get the upper hand.

  5. renobarb says:

    And of course, Jefferson was quite the lover of wine–to the point that it nearly bankrupted him.

  6. Dana says:

    You Rock! I want to drink Madeira right now! If it was good enough for our founding fathers, then by golly it’s good enough for me! Cheers!!

  7. Oh, Madeira- so gorgeous! What a lovely post!

  8. I love Madiera — there’s almost a history lesson in every bottle. I grew up very near Washington’s home in Mount Vernon, and today, I live just over an hour from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. And I never tire of the stories of the men . . . and the Madiera. Great post! Salud!!

  9. […] Devotion; Why I Love Madeira by Foxress […]

  10. Sally says:

    Not sure if you know the radio programme Desert Island Discs, but when Jancis Robinson was on it and asked what her desert island wine would be, she chose Madeira.

  11. […] Devotion; Why I love Madeira by Foxress […]

  12. Thanks for reminding me… I don’t drink anywhere near enough Madeira, but every time I do I say to myself I’ll do it more often! So little time, so much great wine! Lovely piece.

  13. So you’ve managed to teach me about Madeira AND make history a lot more interesting (“the wine that fortified a nation”…love it!). This is a great post, Linda.

  14. You skipped John Adams. He often wrote of his love for Madeira in his journals. He enjoyed a glass or two while talking about American independence.

  15. And it’s fun to say. Madeira. It makes you want to think of excuses to say it.

    Madeira.

    Like some Madeira, Madeira?

    Thank you, Madeira. 🙂

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