WINE SCHOOL 12 - 18 April 2021

REGION: Portugal > Madeira

This Portuguese volcanic island is geographically closer to Africa than mainland Europe. Some table wine is made here but is the fortified Madeira wines that are rightly famous.

During production, Madeira is subject to prolonged exposure to heat, either artificial or natural, which oxidises the wine (the addition of grape brandy with residual sugars stops the wine from being vinegar). Because it is oxidised the wine is apparently indestructible and near immortal: bottles from the 18th century tasted three centuries later have been reported to be fresh and vibrant; an open bottle kept at home at room temperature will happily last many months if not years.

Key red grapes: Tinta Negra Mole
Key white grapes: Boal, Malvasia, Sercial, Terrantez, Verdelho

GRAPE: Tinta Negra Mole

Although the most commonly planted variety on Madeira and the basis of most Madeira wines, Tinta Negra Mole is less prized than the island's four 'noble' grapes: Bual, Malvasia (Malmsey), Sercia and Verdelho. Wine laws currently prohibit Madeira wines being labelled as Tinta Negra Mole but any bottle of Madeira not featuring the name of one of the noble grapes will be made from Tinta Negra Mole.

The variety is naturally high-yielding, hence its popularity with growers. Where yields are controlled the grape is capable of making dense, rich, complex wines.


Next week in WINE SCHOOL: Marche (Italy) & Verdicchio

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