I have been tasting a few Madeiras recently, and Jesse Lewis over on Good Drop wrote one up recently as well, suggesting my pursuit is not entirely obscure. Madeira is of course an island that is part of Portugal, but sits due west of Morocco in the subtropics in the Atlantic Ocean. Hardly then the cool extremes of viticulture so prized in wine. The island’s fortified and heated wines were extremely popular in Victorian times and in the United States in the nineteenth century, and have since endured a slow drift into obscurity, brought on by an unfortunate combination (over a 150 year or so period) of phylloxera, powdery mildew, American hybrids, loss of markets at key moments and loss of quality with the decline in the noble varieties (of which malvasia – Malmsey – is one). A casual look at a couple of seemingly out-of-date shipper websites suggests that Madeira is not planning on returning to fashion anytime soon.
And here’s the surprising thing. This wine from modern styled Henriques & Henriques is rather outstanding. Tawny in colour, it has an aroma of caramelised sugar and butter. On the palate, it has racy acidity, medium sweet flavour, nuts, caramel and amazing length (perhaps more than 30 seconds). Quite simply this wine is a more than adequate dessert wine substitute, that will keep for many months after opening due to its elevage. A difficulty with recommending a wine like this in Australia, is that you may have trouble finding it. It is however very much worth finding. 95 points.
Tasted: December 2011, January 2012