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Sercial is first and foremost the popular name given to the grape which makes the driest form of Madeira. Its official Portugese name, Esgana Cão, or 'dog strangler' gives you a good ideas as to the austere nature and aggressive acidity of the wines. It's popularity is unfortunately dwindling with less than 50 acres on the island of Madeira and under 200 acres on mainland Portugal as of 2010. Although mainly used to acidify other wines, it can form incredibly vibrant and nervy, age-worthy table wines.
Portugal is a relatively small but diverse wine producing nation. Apart from supplying most of the world’s cork, it also makes two of the world’s most popular fortified wines, Port and Madeira. With a wealth of indigenous varieties, varied geography and modern wine producing technology, Portugal is now exporting a selection of unique and interesting quality table wines. Climates have a big impact on the style of wine. Regions within a stone’s throw of the coast are heavily influenced by the moderating effects of the Atlantic Ocean, whereas slightly further inland, temperatures rise considerably and precipitation drops dramatically. Even between neighboring regions these differences have a big impact on the styles of wine made. The difference between the coastal region of Minho (responsible for light, spritzy, Vinho Verde) and the wines of the Douro (home of Port) is a case in point. Southern Portuguese regions such as the Alentejo are showing promise with native varietals, Castelão, and Trincadeira, and white skinned grapes such as Arinto.
A remote volcanic island and home to the most indestructible but yet beautifully expressive wine. Situated 600 miles off the coast of Portugal, it was a useful stop off point for the Dutch East India Company among other fleets during the 17th and 18th centuries to stock up on supplies.
It was quickly discovered that the fortified wines picked up on the island actually improved after crossing the tropics. The island's producers quickly cottoned on to this and developed rooms called Estufas that simulated the hot and humid environment the barrels would have been exposed to inside a ship.
Some of the finest examples come from Blandy's who's extensive range spans from a young 5 year bottling through to vintages going back over 100 years. Meanwhile, The Rare Wine Company's Historic Series provides a great opportunity to try a selection of exceptional blended Madeira's that replicate the style and complexity of a great vintage Madeira but at the fraction of the price.
Type: Fortified and Dessert
Dessert wines are usually any sweet wine drunk with or around a meal. White fortified wines (fino and amontillado sherry) are usually drunk before the meal, and the red fortified wines (port and madeira) drunk after it. Most fortified wines are regarded as distinct from dessert wines, but some of the less strong fortified white wines, are regarded as honorary dessert wines. In the United States a dessert wine is legally defined as any wine over 14% alcohol by volume, which includes all fortified wines.