Liquor & Spirits
Fortified & Dessert Wine


The island of Madeira gives its name to the world's most exotic dessert wine; the only wine that has to be baked in an oven! Madeira is part of the Funchal archipelago, located some 600 kilometers (370 miles) west of the Moroccan coast. The story of its discovery is a bit bizarre and spiced no doubt, with exaggeration and embellishment.

PRINCE HENRY THE NAVIGATOR sent Captain Jao Goncalves Zarco, who was also known as ''Zarco the Cross-eyed" to claim the island for Portugal in 1418. When Zarco landed on Madeira, he found it so densely wooded that he failed to penetrate inland, but his solution was simple - set fire to the island, sit back and wait for a clearing to emerge. Zarco had to wait a long time, so the story goes, for the fire raged for seven years, consuming every bit of vegetation and infusing the permeable volcanic soil with potash, so rendering it particularly suitable for vine growing.


As a source of fresh food and water the island soon became a regular port of call for east-bound ships, which would often transport barrels of Madeira wine for sale in the Far East or Australia. As the ships journeyed through the tropics the wine was heated to a maximum of 45°C (113°F) and cooled again in the six-month voyage, giving the wine a very distinctive and desirable character. The wine makers on Madeira were, of course, totally unaware of this until one unsold shipment returned to the island. Since that point special ovens, called estufas, have evolved in order that this heating and cooling can be replicated in the estufagem process. All Madeiras undergo a normal fermentation prior to the estufagem process. Drier wines are fortified prior to estufagem, the sweeter styles after.

About Madeira