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Have some Madeira, my dear
This is a surprising decline for a wine that historically was immensely popular in the early Americas, from the 13 British colonies that became the United States to Canada, the Caribbean islands and Brazil.
There were several good reasons for the early popularity of the wines from this steeply mountainous island in the Atlantic, a Portuguese colony off the northeast coast of Africa. One reason was simply that the wine tasted good, and didn't merely survive but thrived on the trans-Atlantic voyage on sailing ships, a punishing passage that was difficult for more delicate table wines in barrels or bottles.
Fortified with brandy and intentionally oxidized by exposure to air and heat on shipboard (and, later, in special winery buildings called "estufas" that sought to replicate the rigors of a sea voyage), Madeira develops a brown color and a warm, nutlike aroma and flavor - not unlike Sherry - that provides its special character and that yields an almost indestructible wine. It is no coincidence that Madeira (as noted in the June 14, 1999 "30 Second Wine Advisor," http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor/tswa0614.shtml) is the most practical wine to purchase if you want to keep a wine for an anniversary or birthday celebration 20 years or more in the future.
Another reason for Madeira's popularity in the Colonies had to do with economics: During the late 1600s, Britain ruled that all European wines shipped to the colonies must pass through London first, a requirement that added substantially to the length and cost of shipments, not to mention adding a British tax. Madeira, being considered a part of Africa, was not subject to this rule and could ship directly to the New World. It is no coincidence that according to legend, the signers of the Declaration of Independence toasted their work with brimming glasses of Madeira.
Unlike Port, which is invariably sweet, Madeira comes in a range of styles, depending on the specific grape, from Verdelho and Sercial (dry) to Bual (medium-sweet) and Malmsey (very sweet indeed).
Have you tried Madeira? Share your experiences by joining the chat in our interactive Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, http://www.wineloverspage.com/cgi-bin/sb/index.cgi?fn=1. Or, if you prefer, send me E-mail at email@example.com. I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note. But I'll answer as many as I can; and please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine.
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"Rainwater," an odd and fairly uncommon style of Madeira, may be named after the legend that it was diluted by rain during its overseas shipment. It's no watery wine, though! Very clear and rather dark brownish-amber in color, it shows pleasant nutlike aromas, like cracking walnuts and pecans. Strong, full-bodied, almost "sticky," but just barely sweet, with slight fruit sweetness cloaked behind the snappy lemon-squirt tang that's the trademark of Madeira. Probably best served lightly chilled as an aperitif before dinner, but it certainly works with a carefully chosen food match. U.S. importer: Europvin U.S.A., Emeryville, Calif. (May 6, 2001)
FOOD MATCH: An idiosyncratic but pleasant match with a smoky, earthy duck soup made with wild rice and leftover duck from the grill.
Kendall-Jackson for Mother's Day
Visit http://www.kj.com for beautiful gift packages featuring favorites and rarities from Kendall-Jackson, La Crema, Pepi and Camelot.
Select from white wine, red wine, or mixed wine packages to suit Mom's preference. All Mother's Day selections are custom-packaged with a signature burgundy box and ribbon.
Click here to view the Mother's Day Gift Selections: http://store.kj.com/interact/promo.asp?promo=WLP&name=html&value=pages/moms.html
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Click http://www.benson-marketing.com/survey/30sec.html to take the survey.
Popular feature updated
For ease of use, Favorite Wine Links is now divided into 28 separate categories featuring a current total of 625 entries. Unlike most links directories, we have visited all these sites with a critical eye, listing each with a personal review and rating, seeking to organize the world of wine on the Web into a useful form that will sort out the sites that we consider best. This is a work in constant progress, of course, and just as I have relied on many friends and associates to help me build the list, I count on readers like you to keep me updated. If you would like to submit suggestions, revisions or modifictions, please send me E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
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Vol. 3, No. 16, May 7, 2001