Madeira for Mothers

Why young moms should go fortified


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.

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  • Snooth User: Chris Carpita
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    33093 5,546

    I have to say I have missed your writing Carly :) Madeira certainly doesn't get the attention in the states that it deserves, especially amongst the youth.

    Apr 13, 2012 at 1:15 PM

  • Snooth User: vinobunny
    752459 9

    It is an awesome wine to cook with, both to put in the sauce and to get a little sauced while cooking.

    Apr 13, 2012 at 2:09 PM

  • Snooth User: philoritx
    825647 11

    "Pour me another Madeira, my deara...." Love the wine and the Limeliters!

    Apr 13, 2012 at 3:06 PM

  • Snooth User: philoritx
    825647 11

    And I don't lament the fact that it is under-appreciated by youth. Along with Port, it should be reserved as the drink of maturity.

    Apr 13, 2012 at 3:09 PM

  • Snooth User: tiersten
    392213 1

    James Beard once made a brown sauce, divided it in thirds, and added Sherry, or Marsala or Madeira to each batch and had a group of guests try all 3 blind and vote on which was best.. Madeira won hands down. My kitchen is never without it (Sercial or Rainwater which are dry).

    Apr 13, 2012 at 3:19 PM

  • Snooth User: flem
    154278 1

    You have not explained the subtle differences between sercial, bual, malmsey and rainwater.

    Apr 14, 2012 at 5:38 AM

  • Snooth User: lakenvelder
    Hand of Snooth
    544484 519

    I discovered this wine purchased some for a recipe before it was sherry I used for cooking. I will not go without it now and have it available.

    Apr 14, 2012 at 4:44 PM

  • Snooth User: ChefJune
    359212 33

    I always have either Sercial or Rainwater in the house. Love to cook with them. and Sip. The sweeter ones are fabulous gifts for friends who don't even know they like the stuff yet.

    Apr 15, 2012 at 1:11 PM

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