A trip to the islands of Madeira has an intoxicating effect on every one of its visitors, and the reasons are manifold.
Definitely the rolling green forests, the starkly austere black volcanic rocks, the clearest blue ocean, exotic flowers and rare birds all make this an enchanting island straight out of some mythical story. While all these remain only in your memory, and in your photos, after you leave the island, there is one piece of magic that you can actually bring home. That is a bottle of Madeira wine.
This popular fortified Portuguese wine has been making every visitor to the shores of Madeira happy ever since the Age of Exploration when the Funchal port was an important stop in several marine routes. The uniqueness of the process in which the wine is made was come upon by accident. A whole shipment of wine, after being exposed to the heat during a long voyage, came back unsold, and tasted better than it did when it had first been loaded on the ship. Madeira wine, as it is made today, is heated for a long time and even exposed to allow some oxidation. The result is an enduring and endearing sweet concoction. After tasting the wine in any of the several café terraces a visitor cannot resist going wine shopping in Madeira. The best way to do it is to go to any of the wine company lodges in the city.
Madeira Wine Company
The Madeira Wine Company was started back in 1913. Since then several companies have joined to make the Madeira Wine Company the largest wine company in Madeira. The Old Blandy Wine Lodge welcomes more than two hundred thousand visitors every year. Guided tours through the winery and its cellars are interesting and educational. Sitting right in the center of Funchal the lodge offers its visitors the unique opportunity to see everything from wine being made to tasting and buying it. Occupying a position of honor is the Frasqueira-Vintage Madeira which has its own separate tasting room. Other than Madeira wines one can also buy Port wines, Table wines, Madeira cakes and many other wine accompaniments. Experts are always at hand to give wine pairing and serving advice.
Artur de Barros e Sousa, Lda.
From the largest company to the smallest, Artur de Barros e Sousa, Lda, is the only company that still matures their wines using the canteiro method. Not really an exporter of wines, the company sells wines mostly to those who walk in through the doors of their lodge. The personal interaction with the wine maker during a trip to this lodge is only possible because of the small size of this company.
Deciding which bottle to buy, while sipping on a glass of wine is probably the best way to buy it. However, a more cost effective way of going about wine shopping in Madeira is to visit any of the many wine shops strewn all over the city. Diogo’s, Garrafeira and Pipa Velha are some popular wine shops in Madeira.
Photo of Madeira wine barrel by fxp