A Vote for Madeira

Why you should go fortified


Every wine-loving parent 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. It's not just parents, either. You can get pulled away from that perfect glass for a variety of reasons, both bad and good.

There are plenty of ways to solve this conundrum, but for wine lovers, there's one tried and true path to stable, compelling flavor: fortification. Acquaint yourself with 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. You'll find everything 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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