mmWine and Madeira for WBW51

I am SO excited to be writing my first wine blog contribution for Wine Blogging Wednesday. 1winedude picked an AWESOME TOPIC! Like Joe, I have a serious sweet-tooth, so a focus on dessert wines, specifically Madeira, excited me beyond belief! While I am a lover of port, I had never had a Madeira before, so this was a wine adventure for me. Oh, and contrary to circulating rumors, I did not drink a whole bottle of Pig Stai at the Twisted Oak release of the Spaniard event. I tried, though!

I asked a trusted friend at the wine store to help me navigate the choices. She had admitted to not tasting any of the offerings, but had heard good things about Blandy’s. There were three Blandy’s choices,the 5 year old Malmsey, 5 year old Bual and 10 year old Malmsey. Malmsey, also known as Malvasia is one of the grape varieties that Madeira is made with, and Bual is another.

The first education I had about Madeira came from the back label.

Madeira is made on the volcanic island of the same name, situated in the Atlantic ocean 400 miles off the North African Coast. The sub-tropical island was discovered in 1419 by Portuguese explorers, who finding it heavily forested, named it Madeira – the Portuguese word of wood or timber.

A good bit of interesting information can be found on the Madeira Wikipedia entry for those interested in learning a bit more about this wine. 1winedude‘s selection of Madeira for WBW51 was based on the unique method with which it’s made, by heating the wine to 140 degrees, as well as exposing it to some level of oxidation. Hence, the “baked goods” reference in his original post.

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Robin’s birthday was November 6th, and we had another couple over for dinner on that Friday. I decided to offer up the Madeira for sacrifice, seeing how it would go over as a dessert. I was, however, stumped as to what to serve with it. 1winedude gave the ever-sage advice, “Don’t serve anything sweeter than the wine.” However, since I hadn’t had it before, I was still a bit unsure. I then asked a food and wine aficionado I knew from twitter, Heather Shorter, for her opinion. Her advice was quite simple, blue stilton and walnuts. FABULOUS! I can do that!

After a wonderful meal of prime rib paired with a great Cabernet Sauvignon, I pulled out the Madeira and Stilton. I added a bit of honey in a bowl, to see how the flavors meshed. I was a bit concerned as our guests were not wine connoisseurs, and wasn’t sure how they’d react. Ultimately, we drank 1/2 of the bottle between the four of us over a few hours. Most of the things we thought about the Madeira are in my quick video tasting here.

We all agreed that on it’s own the Blandy’s 5 year Malmsy Madeira was a bit too harsh. The 19% alcohol caused the tongue to tingle, and as I mentioned in the video, burned the nasal passages. However, a small bit of blue stilton completely changed the palate, smoothing it out, toning down the alcohol burn, and harmonizing the flavors quite well. We all agreed, however, that drizzling some honey over the stilton, then following that with a sip of the Madeira, was the most enjoyable taste experience.

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I am quite glad to have had the opportunity to drink this Madeira, especially since it’s allowed me to continue on my journey towards the Wine Century club. It won’t replace my passion for port, especially since I don’t think I could drink the Madeira alone. However, it was certainly a lot more interesting and enjoyable than the typical dessert we’d normally serve. And, we had a good time with wine.