My 50 before 50 list took me to a popular local Charleston bar in search of sampling the popular Southern wine – Madeira. What it delivered was a discovery of learning about the popular American colonial libation.
Madeira wine originated in the 1500’s when ships en route to the new world would stop in Madeira, Portugal to stock up for trade. To prevent the wine from spoiling while on voyage, distilled alcohol was added. The various temperatures and erratic ship movement from the long voyage produced a more flavorful product. The Portuguese import was popular throughout American history and enjoyed by many of the founding fathers. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were known to savor its robust flavors and used it to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Today, Madeira wines are created through an aging process that duplicates long sea voyages in oak barrels with excess temperatures. The average aging period is 3 – 5 years reaching 19 years for top shelf. This is why the average pour (2 oz) costs upwards of $10. But unlike a bottle of table wine, Madeira will last indefinitely once opened for years of enjoyment.
With options from sweet to dry depending on the grape variation, I went all-in and decided to go for the dry, which would be closest to what was enjoyed in the colonial period. Delivered in a whiskey glass, it was a sipping experience, slow and deliberate, which was the perfect way to end an afternoon exploring historic Charleston.
Although harder to find today then it was for our American ancestors, Madeira can still be found at some of the higher end craft bars within the Old City. I enjoyed it at the Bar at Husk, which for me as an experience that started as a curiosity, has added a wine tour at the island of Madeira, Portugal to my personal bucket list.