If you seek a historically acceptable wine… for this holiday season, consider Madeira. The fortified wine is produced in the island group of the same name. Madeira is fortified with another spirit, typically rum. The fortification process dates to the 16th century where it prevented spoilage over long ocean voyages. Tinta Negra Mole grapes are used to produce a pale red wine in a variety of strengths. Rainwater is dry served at room temperature making a fine dinner choice. Malmsey is a heavy, sweet option best served chilled with dessert. Remember that the fortifying spirit provides an extra ‘bite.’
Madeira was a favorite of the American Founders… including John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. A riot rattled Boston in 1768 when John Hancock’s sloop, Liberty was seized, loaded with Madeira. John Adams would enjoy three glasses every night before bedtime. Jefferson enjoyed Malmsey and Monticello’s wine cellars were well stocked with it. Later in life, he preferred lighter French wines. Most historians agree Madeira was used to toast the Declaration of Independence.
If you raise a glass this holiday season… you can feel closer to our Founders with a glass of Madeira.