Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Quick History of Madeira Wine...a strong and vigorous wine capable of a very long life

Madeira is a fortified Portuguese wine made in the Madeira Islands. The islands of Madeira are of oceanic climate with tropical influences. Some small amounts of Madeira is produced in small quantities in Crimea, California and Texas although those wines do not conform to the EU regulations. They are worth seeking though...

Now the islands of Madeira have a lengthy winemaking history, dating back way back to the Age of Exploration when Madeira was a standard port of call and stopping point for ships that were heading to the New World or East Indies.

So during that time It was discovered by the wine producers of Madeira that when an unsold shipment of wine returned to the islands after a round trip. They wanted to be able to use it and
try to stop the wine from spoiling.

They figured that a neutral grape spirits could be added. So in doing so to try to conserve the wine.

It became apparent during the long sea voyages that the wines being exposed to extreme heat and movement transformed the flavor of the wine.

This wine being out in the open in temperatures up to as high as 60 °C /140 °F for an extended period of time deliberately exposes the wine to some levels of oxidation. It creates a strong and vigorous wine that can be capable of a very long life even after being opened like this.

...it can age decades to hundreds of years!

In the 16th century records show that a there was a viable wine industry on the island of Madeira that supplied ships with wine for the long voyages across the sea.

The wine was first unfortified and after spoiling at sea following the example of Port, and later Brandy in the 18th Century; a small amount of distilled alcohol made from sugar cane was added to stabilize the wine which boosted the alcohol content.

Madeira became very popular.It spread from the American colonies.

Madeira was an key wine in the history of the United States because at the time no wine-quality grapes could be grown amongst the 13 colonies, so imports were needed.

Madeira also shipped to Brazil in the New World to Great Britain, Russia, and also Northern Africa in substantial quantities.

As it is now known…According to the Oxford Companion to Wine; Madeira was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson and also John Hancock; it was used to salute the Continental Congress and the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams are also said be fans of Madeira.

Madeira is produced in an assortment of styles ranging from dry wines that can be consumed on their own as an aperitif, to sweet wines that are usually consumed with dessert. The essential four major grape varieties used for Madeira production are (from sweetest to driest) Malvasia, Bual, Verdelho and Sercial.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Do German Wines seem imtimidating??? Here is what to look out for to make it easier...

A friend of mine is going to Germany this fall and asked me to give him some info on German wines. I asked him if he preferred dry wines or sweet wines. He said “dry”. So, I told him;  "if you see the word ‘Trocken’ on the bottle, It means it is a dry wine. It will say it right on the bottle."

But there is a whole lot more too German wines. The labels are gothic with long never-ending words, but really it's not too hard to get a hold of the basics. But like most wine labels; all the information is packed in there.

I will give you some tips that I hope helps… Anyways it's Springtime and that which is the time for tasty whites.

When you first look at a German wine. I as I said earlier; check to see if the label has the word ‘Trocken’… If it does... it’s a dry wine. Also, check the alcohol level. If the alcohol level is 11%, 12% or higher; it is most likely a dry wine.

There are many regions in Germany. Those regions have their style and nuances. It is almost a profile…

 Let’s get started by comparing the regions:

Mosel, Saar, Ruwer: An exciting wine, with peach, minerality and from time to time has floral notes; it also has a real zippy acidity.

Pfalz, Baden, Württemberg: Full bodied and fatter wines, with ripe, sharp fruit and a strong backbone of acidity. You see more good Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder) from these areas because it’s a little cooler.

Nahe, Mittelrhein, Franken: The wine is clear and clean, it's vibrant with some mineral and likely to have steely metallic notes.

Rheingau: Elegant wines that are sleek, smooth and measured and some-times very serious.


Rheinhessen: a wine brimming with fresh fruit and wet stones, mineral and sometimes strong metallic and iron-like tones.

The German’s are also sticklers for Quality and have developed a system for Quality. But the old and out of date system is essentially flawed;...so you can’t always rely on it. It is more of a loose guide to go along with the profiles and styles just discussed earlier.


There are four quality levels;

Qualitätswein, or QbA(which is seen the the USA);

and the supposedly superior, Prädikatswein, or QmP.

If you the letters VDP. That is a level that is completely different

Members of the VDP, or Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter, a group of wineries, that rebelled against the system and created their own. The results up to debatable.

...remember, Generally, the VDP-logo itself indicates superior quality at all levels.

The VDP categories are:

 Gutswein: are the estate wines, dry

 Ortswein: are the village wine (from dry to sweet)

 Erste Lage: are first growth (which can be from dry to sweet), and they are from a single classified site

Grosse Lage: basically means grand cru (from dry to sweet), from a single classified site. Dry wines from a Grosse Lage can be labelled as Grosses Gewächs. The top-class dry wines have the VDP logo and the phrase Grosses Gewächs. Remember the VDP-logo means superior quality at all levels.

Take note of another main thing to look out for…The “Ripeness” of the wine. The German’s track that too (remember “Ripeness” does not necessarily mean sweetness):
Sometimes QmP, the label will include a Prädikat, one of five levels of ripeness level at harvest which might help you with picking a style you like.

 The Five Levels of Ripeness are:

 Dry Riesling are, from least ripe to most ripe: Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese.

 Kabinett: Light, with delicate structure, lots of fruit, noticeable aromas and lower alcohol.

 Spätlese: a lot more textured, rounder with more full-bodied mouthfeel than Kabinett.

Auslese: Much bigger in body and substance, often powerful and textured, but no fat. These can cellar for 20 years or more!
Beerenauslese: Which really means ‘berry select’ such as harvested berry by berry which brings the wine up to desert wine category,

Trockenbeerenauslese: here is where you need to bay attention…The ‘Trocken’ means ‘dry berry select’, shriveled with botrytis…so it is a intensely sweet wine and complex dessert wine.


There are the popular and famous frozen grape wines Eiswein...

They are real sweet and have so much of that acidity. The sweetness levels are like the Trockenbeerenauslese (you might see halbtrocken on a bottle, which means half dry, when they play with the sweetness levels…)

I am sure I’ll hear from my friend after this. But go ahead and take this out for a spin and seek some German wines today!