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Dessert, Madeira

In the world of fine wine, Madeira is an oddity. It stands alone at the top of the pile, without peers or imitators. 'Madeira' is a fortified wine named after the volcanic island it comes from, between the coasts of Portugal and West Africa.

So the story goes, it was originally 'discovered' by accident. When wines from the island were transported by sea, they were fortified with alcohol to survive the length of time and the conditions on the sea vessels. During the voyage they were baked or cooked in the heat, leading to a plethora of characters and flavours that hadn't been tasted before. It was the prolonged exposure to heat that brought on these characters.

Nowadays it's made by a special heating process that warms the wine over a prolonged period of time and can be made in a variety of styles ranging from dry to very sweet. They're renowned for their immense ability to cellar and some of the better examples can be aged almost indefinitely.

As a bonus, when opened, a bottle of Madeira will stay fresh for a very long time as it is resistant to oxidation. You can enjoy complex flavours of toffee, caramel, nuts, marmalade and raisins, all backed up with bright, fresh acidity which softens over time in the cellar.
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