Madeira is a fortified wine known for its longevity — but did you know the best Madeira can last 300 years? Madeira winemaking is a very old tradition that has been around for centuries — in fact, the fathers of the U.S. Constitution toasted its signing with Madeira. How does this tiny, mountainous island whose subtropical climate is always 70 degrees produce one of the world’s most indestructible wines? The answer is — acidity!
Like Champagne, Madeira’s wine grapes produce extremely acidic wines that are undrinkable in their original vinified state. But this acidity provides the backbone of a wine balanced by natural sugar levels and the addition of neutral spirit to raise the alcohol from about 9% to 18%. With the right amount of aging in large, old oak vats, a beautiful, complex wine emerges. We recently welcomed professionals from The Madeira Wine Institute — the governing body of winemaking on the island of Madeira, Portugal — to host a Madeira Master Class at the San Francisco Wine Center.