Definition - What does Madeira mean?

Made in the Madeira Islands off the coast of Portugal, Madeira is a fortified wine. Madeira has been made since the 15th century when distilled spirits were added to wine as a preservative to keep wine from spoiling on long sea voyages. In modern times, Madeira is made in a variety of styles and is regulated by the Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC).

WineFrog explains Madeira

Madeira is a style of wine that is made by fortifying a wine with distilled spirits, but that often happens after the wine is cooked and forced to oxidize. Oxidizing the wine, gives it a deep amber color and produces the complex flavors that Madeira is known for. Oxidation was historically done by not filling aging casks all the way up. Under the DOC regulations, Madeira is ranked by how long it ages:

  • Fine or Choice: 3 years
  • Reserve: 5 years
  • Special Reserve: 10 years
  • Extra Reserve: 15 years and the 20 year old Vintage Madeira

To make Madeira, a wine undergoes the estufagem process, which means that the wine is heated to a temperature of 115 degrees and held there for no less than 3 months. After the heating, the wine has a resting period, known as estágio. After resting, the winemaker adjusts the blend, adds the distilled spirits to the wine and the wine is bottled or further aged depending on the type of wine being made. The Madeira wine making process makes this wine a very concentrated and flavorful wine that can be aged and or live in the bottle for years.

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