Today we revisit a favorite here at Shall We Wine: H.M. Borges 10 Years Old Reserve Boal Madeira. Put this on your sweet map!
Earlier this year I contributed to There’s Nothing Wrong With Sweet Wine for VinePair and how the misconception of sweet wine has shaped the wine industry. Sweet wine discrimination is still alive and kicking. As a result, the complexities of the sweet wine category has a tendency to be overlooked, and it comes from various tiers of wine enthusiasm — from Moscato to Port, from the novice to the guru.
Take Madeira. If someone is quick to claim to “not do” sweet wines simply by the [misguided] notion that they are all too plain and lack history… well, this someone would be missing out. Madeira is far from plain, with a beautiful backstory in history, simultaneously embodying the terms of both “modern” and “vintage” in wine. Modern because its ability to be present in contemporary dining, even in the most avant-garde setting. Vintage because of its place in history and the idea that it will outlive a human.
What is Madeira? It’s a fortified wine, like Port or Sherry. Madeira wine gets its name from the volcanic island of Madeira in Portugal. In the 1600-1700s, Brandy was often added to wine in an attempt to keep if from spoiling (fortifying wine). The island of Madeira was a key location for shipping wines to England and America. The casks of wines would go through an intense heating and cooling process as the ships sailed through various climates. Sailors noticed how this intense temperature change produced unique flavors of the fortified wine, and thus the method for making Madeira was born!
You may have heard the phrase, “you can’t kill Madeira!” This refers to the fact that the wine has gone through so much, that it can’t spoil. Today, Madeira is produced in dry, medium and sweet styles with flavors of wood, vanilla, caramelized sugar, orange peel. Dry style Madeiras are recommended as an aperitif, while the sweeter styles are perfect with or as dessert.
H.M Borges is thought to be one of the names in the biz when it comes to Madeira wine. I personally recommend trying the H.M. Borges 10 Years Old Reserve Boal Madeira for its intricate flavors of wood, vanilla and burnt sugar. When I last served this, I did so with a fun tray of cheese and chocolate! Mmmm.
Note: The label has undergone a few changes from that pictured here, so don’t be alarmed! As with any wine that may undergo label updates, there are ways to confirm if current offerings on the shelf are what you’re looking for. When it doubt, talk to the buyer at the store you’re at or reach out to the winery directly — they’re happy to help.