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 the Portuguese mainland 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 forests"). The Portuguese set the island on fire, the fire raged for seven years. Although this destroyed almost all vegetation, the wood ash and the already existing volcanic soil created ideal conditions for wine growing. At the end of the 16th century a commercially important viticulture is documented. The port in Funchal quickly developed into a strategically important stopover, which all ships on their way to Africa, Asia and South America called at. Here the ships also supplied themselves with wine. But these mostly spoiled on the long sea voyages. For this reason, sprittling with brandy distilled from sugar cane gradually became more common, especially to make the wines last longer. However, this did not become the norm until the middle of the 18th century
It is not certain when a Madeira of today's kind existed, but in 1478, there is a report about such a Madeira. In that year, George Plantaganet became Duke of Clarence (1449-1478), brother of the English King Edward IV. (1442-1483), was sentenced to death for conspiracy, greed and violence. He was given the choice of execution and, according to tradition, he allegedly chose death by drowning in a barrel filled with Malmsey in the Tower. However, the "drowning" possibly refers to the fact that he was a heavy drinker all his life. In any case, he was not killed by the beheading method customary for nobles, which is proven by a later exhumation.
The particular method of production, also known as ' madeiraisation ' for its typical taste and colour, came about by chance in the 17th century, when large quantities were exported from Funchal by ship from the Dutch to South America and other colonies. It was noticed that the wine became better the longer the voyage lasted and the longer the ship stayed in hot, tropical climate. The rocking movement of the ship (as was suspected at the time) but above all the extreme temperature fluctuations contributed to the typical taste. Therefore, many ships were now loaded with the wine and sent to the East Indies and back only for the purpose of production (they thus crossed the equator twice). The wines were called "Vinhos de torna-viagem" (wines make a journey) or "Vinho da roda" (roda = turn/rotate) and is also documented on the label on old Madeira bottles (TVE)
The impulse for trade in Madeira was created in the late 17th century, when wine was needed in large quantities for the new Portuguese colonies in South America(Brazil). With the colonisation of America in the 17th century under the reign of the English King Charles II (1630-1685), Madeira also became fashionable on the east coast of North America. It enjoyed a great reputation there and became a sought-after and expensive object. The American declaration of independence in 1776 was solemnly sealed with a Madeira. The first US president George Washington (1732-1799) enjoyed a Madeira every day for dinner. And the foundation of the capital named after him, Washington D.C., was also celebrated with a Madeira. In the 19th century, wine was so popular in the USA that own events (Madeira Parties) were held and clubs were founded (legendary is the still existing Madeira Club of Savannah-Ohio).
The elaborate production by ship was still practiced until the beginning of the 20th century, but then abandoned (individual bottles are still on sale). Attempts were now made to imitate the special conditions. Wine storehouses (port. Estufa = oven, engl. hothouse) were built, these were equipped with tin roofs that store solar heat and the wine was stored at high temperatures for months. This was the beginning of the today's usual Estufagem procedure. In the 1860s, mildew and...