Liquor & SpiritsFortified & Dessert WineMadeira
The island of Madeira gives its name to the world's most exotic dessertwine; the only wine that has to be baked in an oven! Madeira is part ofthe Funchal archipelago, located some 600 kilometers (370 miles) west ofthe Moroccan coast. The story of its discovery is a bit bizarre and spicedno doubt, with exaggeration and embellishment.
PRINCE HENRY THE NAVIGATOR sent Captain Jao Goncalves Zarco, who was alsoknown as ''Zarco the Cross-eyed" to claim the island for Portugal in1418. When Zarco landed on Madeira, he found it so densely wooded that hefailed to penetrate inland, but his solution was simple - set fire to theisland, sit back and wait for a clearing to emerge. Zarco had to wait along time, so the story goes, for the fire raged for seven years, consumingevery bit of vegetation and infusing the permeable volcanic soil with potash,so rendering it particularly suitable for vine growing.
THE ORIGIN OF MADEIRA'S DISTINCTIVE WINE
As a source of fresh food and water the island soon became a regular portof call for east-bound ships, which would often transport barrels of Madeirawine for sale in the Far East or Australia. As the ships journeyed throughthe tropics the wine was heated to a maximum of 45°C (113°F) andcooled again in the six-month voyage, giving the wine a very distinctiveand desirable character. The wine makers on Madeira were, of course, totallyunaware of this until one unsold shipment returned to the island. Sincethat point special ovens, called estufas, have evolved in order that thisheating and cooling can be replicated in the estufagem process. All Madeirasundergo a normal fermentation prior to the estufagem process. Drier winesare fortified prior to estufagem, the sweeter styles after.