It's always a little weird to me when people market wines specifically for mothers. It's even weirder when the wines are terrible. (The worst offenders are easy to spot, they've got "Mommy" right on the label.)
I get it: having a colicky infant and a tantrum-throwing toddler increases one's desire for a drink. Does it mean the drink has to be dreadful? I've never met a mother who gave up her good taste in booze because she brought home a baby.
What new parents do lose, at least at the start, is their free time and extra cash, leaving them with fewer resources to track down and enjoy new wines. Every wine-loving mom knows what it's like to open a bottle and then get drawn back into the battle of bedtime. Once you get back to that cold glass of Chardonnay, it's warm. Repeat over the course of a few nights, and you're eventually tossing out liters of sad, stale juice.
Photo courtesy Remi Longva via Flickr/CC
There are plenty of ways to solve this conundrum (tequila shots come to mind), but for wine lovers, there's one tried and true path to stable, compelling flavor: fortification. More specifically, if you're a new Mom, someone owes you a bottle of Madeira. Here’s why:
1.) It's practically indestructible. Or rather, it's already been damaged (exposed to heat & oxygen), as a matter of creation. Madeira was born during the age of spice routes and explorers, when ships would leave Portugal with stores of it in their hull. During long journeys, the wine, which had been fortified with neutral grape spirit to prevent spoilage, would rock and slowly cook, eventually developing its complex, nutty, caramel-inflected flavors.
The take home? You can buy one bottle, open it and leave it in your liquor cabinet until your kids are college-aged -- it'll still taste great. The same goes for glasses poured and abandoned for hours while you read just one (ten) more bedtime stories.
2.) It's great in small doses. As with other fortified wines, you don't need much to get the job done. Pour one small hit of Madeira, you're good to go. You don't need to linger, the Madeira will do that part for you. With a good bottle, after a few sips, the finish will unfold even after you've had to tend to other chores.
3.) It's more accessible than you think. Madeira was once a favorite in the States (we're talking 300 years ago), but today still seems to strike people as out of reach or reserved for especially stodgy connoisseurs. Cigars, club chairs, you know the images. The opposite is true. Whether you opt for a dry or a sweet style, good Madeira gives it up very easily. It has rich, deeply hued, multi-faceted flavors that you don’t have to work for, making it perfect even for those who are brand new to wine.
4.) It's delicious (and can do double duty as dessert). All of Madeira's practical benefits would be worthless if it didn't also have one of the most memorably enjoyable flavor profiles. On the first outing, consider the Historical Series from the Rare Wine Co., a series of under-$50 bottles built to match popular Madeira from centuries past. Across the catalogue, you'll find flavors ranging from salted caramel and milk chocolate to candied oranges and cinnamon, all boosted by brilliant acidity that keeps things from getting cloying.