Maturation of Madeira wines
LABELING BY AGE
Finest Madeira has stayed at least 3 months in Estufagem: rapid heating up to 50 º C. Then the wine is aged at a lower temperature. In total, the wines undergo maturation for a minimum of three years. This is the most sold Madeira, which is generally used for cooking. The grape for this wine is always the tinta negra.
A light style of wine, less oxidized, semi-dry, made from tinta negra mole and verdelho, especially produced for the U.S. market. The story goes that one day a barrel of Madeira was left behind on the beach, meant to be to shipped to America. This wine was diluted by rainwater, which eventually led to this type of wine.
This style of wine was formerly produced by a secret recipe: “Aqua Pura”- diluted with water.
Rainwater may be made in estufa (rapid heating) or canteiro (slow heating) and sold after three 3 of maturation. The grape for rainwater is the tinta negra.
Designation of age
The average age of a blended wine is labeled. Only the following average ages are permitted:
3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 years. 50 years is an added approved age since 2015.
A blend of grape varieties with an average age of 5 years. Both estufagem as Canteira system may be used. Each permitted grape varieties may be used. The latest development is the blend of two varieties in a Reserve Madeira. This gives wines with a very attractive character for a reasonable price.
A blend of years. The average age of the wine is at least 10 years. Old Reserva is almost always made with the Canteira method. Generally the grape variety is mentioned on the label. Without mentioning the grape, this wine is made from tinta negra.
A blend of years. The average age of the wine is at least 10 years. Old Reserva is almost always made with the Canteira method. Generally the grape variety is mentioned on the label. Without mentioning the grape, this wine is made from tinta negra. Thus the same requirements as for an Old Reserva, but of higher quality.
A blend of years. The average aging time is 15 years. Further more requirements are the same as the special reserva.
This is an uncommon style, winemakers prefer to wait another 5 years in order to make a frasquera.
The average aging time
In fact, the declaration of the maturation is not entirely correct. The maturation aged you find on the bottle is not the age of the youngest wine in the bottle, nor the average age of the wine . It is a statement of style. After blending, the wine should be presented to a tasting panel, with the aimed style of age. This can happen only once, when the wine is declined, the winemaker can only return with a different blend.
Colheita means year. These are wines of a single vintage year, which is stated on the label.
Minimum 5 years of aging in wood. Some colheita are over 100 years old and have become very tasty, and expensive!
Colheita can be made from one of the four noble grape varieties, but also Terrantez or tinta negra .
Frasqueira or Vintage
These are the premium wines of Madeira. The vintage year is always on the label. Frasquera is made only from one of the four noble grape varieties. It has at least 20 years of aging in cask. The maturation potential is almost unlimited.
A unique process that resembles the sherry system, but it is not the same. In the Madeira solera system the wine of a single grape variety is kept for decades. Then occasional some wine is drained and sold, with a maximum of 10% at a time. The vessel is then refilled with new wine from the same grape. In total, the wine maker is aloud to make this drained 10 times. Then the whole wine must be bottled at once. The solera system provides a wonderful blend of flavors: the old wines in it provide intensity and complexity, the young wines count for a fresh vibrancy.
Potency of maturation : very old wines
Madeira’s from the 50s , 40s and 30s are not an exception and pretty well available. But there are even Madeira from the 19th century! We tasted a Madeira from 1885, which tasted excellent: vivid, full, very complex, with still a good acid. It is impossible to say whether there will ever be an end to the maturation of a quality Madeira. Therefore, Madeira is an excellent gift at birthdays and weddings.
Starting at 2015, the bottle date has to mentioned on the label.
Tip: alway store your Madeira bottle standing up
The natural acidity of Madeira is very high. If you preserve your bottle horizontally the acidity will breaks down the cork.