Sandeman "Fine Rich" Madeira wine review by (PB)
Preparing to make an olde traditionale Christmas drink called Wassail my wife grabbed this after hunting in several grocery stores and passing on the $6 Paul Masson Madeira--the only Madeira offered in each one. Madeira wine and ale are the salient ingredients in Wassail!
Okay, Madeira isn't exactly a household word but it certainly is rich in tradition. In the days of shipping as the primary transportation, a different variety of wine was needed to survive the months long trips in scorching summer temperatures. Madeira was crafted--basically cooked and oxidized--kind of a pre-spoilage-by-design tactic, so that in transit to the new world, it really couldn't spoil.
In the early American colonies Madeira was pretty much more standard fare if wine was served at all and Jefferson had a fairly large inventory of Madeira in his ample cellars.
Madeira is a "fortified"wine, the same as Port, and in fact comes from the Madeira islands of Portugal. A fortified wine is one that has had brandy or some other harder liquor added to it which stops fermentation leaving a very sweet wine with a much higher alcohol content than a regularly vinified wine. Usually in the 21% and above realm.
This Madeira is actually quite delightful with a root beer colored hue--due to the oxidation--and a bouquet that is chock full of nuts--hazel, macadamia, a veritable mixture of nutty aromas.
In the mouth, it is of course very sweet--which is why it is a desert wine--with a nearly syrupy and velvety texture punctuated by hazel nut flavors and a creamy nuttiness. For $15, this is a treat and because it is already oxidized, it has amazing staying power once opened. This is not the kind of wine you sit down and finish off the bottle unless there are a pack of your friends around to help you enjoy it. So raise a glass of this very different treat. And don't confuse it with the cooking Madeira found on your grocer's shelf in the cooking section.