Madeira Wine Is For More Than Just Cooking

Aug 22, 14 Madeira Wine Is For More Than Just Cooking

Recently I had lunch with Humberto Jardim, the managing director of Henriques & Henriques, one of the oldest producers of Madeira, the house being founded in 1850. Madeira has a long and distinguished history but nowadays consumers only consider it when they are cooking which is a shame as there is so much more to Madeira.

Maze jams

Maze jams

Over lunch at Maze, Humberto told me a bit about the history of Madeira and where he thinks it should be heading in the future. Madeira can be found in writings from around 1425 and is even mentioned in Shakespear’s plays Falstaff and Richard III. It was used to toast the signing of the American Declaration of Independence and is still used today to toast any who are given the Freedom of the City of London.

the Madeira wines

the Madeira wines

Although Madeira has been around for centuries and is delicious, it is a complicated wine to navigate. Humberto freely acknowledges this and believes that Madeira has to do a better job of educating the consumer. ┬áThere are so many styles, variations and ages of the wine that it can be difficult to choose just the right one. DOC Madeira is by definition always going to be sweet due to the DOC regulations. Even ‘dry’ Madeira can have up to 115 grams of sugar per litre. The key to Madeira is the balance between the sugar, acidity and alcohol. I should mention that Madeira is a fortified and ‘cooked’ wine, by that I mean it is left to age in heated rooms, often in barrel but also in tank. They are aged this way to duplicate the long sea voyages through tropical climes in cask that first gave us Madeira. One thing you can say about Madeira is that it is virtually indestructible. Even if a bottle has been open for months or years, it will still taste as fresh as the day it was opened.

gorgeous colour of Madeira

gorgeous colour of Madeira

Humberto opines that they should market Madeira according to styles of production. He thinks that Malvasia which is a style as well as a grape is one way forward. The other grapes used in the production of Madeira include Sercial, Bual, Verdelho, Tinta Negra Mole and Complexa, the first 3 also function as the names of styles of Madeira – see, I told you it was complicated!

Although Madeira is ‘sweet’ it is very food friendly and great with lunch or dinner, hell, you could even have it with breakfast! I know many who would turn their noses up at a ‘sweet’ wine with savoury dishes but I found that these wines became less sweet with food. We had 3 different wines with lunch, a single harvest medium rich Madeira 1998, a Boal single harvest 2000 and a 20 yr old Verdelho.

sushi and Madeira

sushi and Madeira

We had sushi for lunch and all three wines were excellent with the food. They each gave a different dimension of flavour. I tasted iodine and sea salt in varying degrees depending on which wine I was drinking. Another dish we tried was fresh peas and horseradish – heaven! A perfect marriage of sweet, spicy and savoury – each flavour having a chance to show itself off, especially with the Boal 2000. Madeira is of course great with chocolate desserts but is equally a delightful companion to semi-hard or hard cheeses.

So the next time your in the supermarket, give Madeira more than a passing glance as an ingredient for a sauce. It’s also a great vinous dinner companion.

 

 

 

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