What is Madeira Wine?
Madeira is the home of the famous Madeira wine. Madeira wine is considered a fortified wine much like sherry and port. What sets fortified wines apart from regular wines is that brandy is added to the wine towards the end of fermentation process, this kills off any remaining yeast before it turns any remaining sugar to alcohol. The end result is a wine with a sweeter taste and a higher level of alcohol, in the region of 20% ABV.
Why are wines fortified?
The reason the wines were originally fortified was to preserve the wine for the long sea vogages ahead. In the early days alcohol distilled from sugar cane replaced the brandy used today. During these long journeys the wine was exposed to high temperatures and movement, the effect was to produce a flavour distinctive to the Madeira wine we know today.
Today, the modern winemaking process replicates this environment by heating the wine up to temperatures of 60°C (140°F) and exposes the wine to some levels of oxidation. Consequently, Madeira is a very robust wine that has a long life even after being opened.
*Photo used under Creative Commons from woody1778a