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DOC area for a famous dessert wine named after the Portuguese island of Madeira. The archipelago also includes the smaller island of Porto Santo and the uninhabited archipelago of Ilhas Desertas. Madeira is located in the Atlantic Ocean 500 km north of the Canary Islands, 951 km from mainland Portugal and 737 km from the coast of Africa (Morocco). It was discovered in 1420 by the navigator João Gonçalves Zarco (1380-1467), who found a densely forested island (Madeira means "island of the forest"). The Portuguese set fire to the island, and the fire raged for seven years. This destroyed almost all the vegetation, but the wood ash and the pre-existing volcanic soil created ideal conditions for growing grapes. By the end of the 16th century, commercially significant viticulture is documented. The port in Funchal quickly developed into a strategically important stopover for all ships on their way to Africa, Asia and South America. The ships also supplied themselves with wine here. However, these mostly spoiled during the long sea voyages. For this reason, the use of spirits distilled from sugar cane gradually became widespread, especially to make the wines more durable. However, this did not become the norm until the middle of the 18th century.

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Dr. Christa Hanten

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