No one has done more to resurrect the passion once enjoyed by Madeira than Mannie Berk, founder of Sonoma, Calif.’s Fine Wine Co.
Berk has been a tireless promoter of Madeira through tastings and talks, but especially through marketing Madeira on his website. As new wines, the silky and decadent Madeira is affordable; at it’s most rare the wine is as precious as gold.
Berk’s current inventory features a modestly priced 500 ml bottle of 2000 Barbeito Malvasia Single Cask ‘44a’ Madeira for $37.50. A 1760 Borges Terrantez Madeira tops out the list at $4,950.
The fortified wine hailing from Portugal is the stuff of dusty history archives. Scholars have researched the wine, its trade routes and its social and economic influence. Savannah even had its own Madeira Society that was founded in the 1950s and survived into the 1980s – and has now, like the wine, faded into obscurity for most.
But not all. Berk’s company created the Historic Series to help modern oenophiles reclaim interest in the wine. The series stood at three – Boston Bual, New York Malmsey and Charleston Sercial – but now has a fourth member: Savannah Verdelho.
There are four major types of Madeira based on four grape types. Sercial is the driest, followed by Verdelho. Boal is sweet and Malmsey is the sweetest. In addition to these vintage grapes there are blends, most notably rainwater Madeira, a creation credited to William Neyle Habersham of Savannah.
That’s just one historic tidbit that curiosity seekers can find when researching Madeira. There’s plenty of published material – and papers of the Savannah Madeira Society are now part of the Georgia Historical Society archives.
One reason for the wine’s success in the South is is stalwart character. As a fortified wine, it survives heat, humidity and rough ocean crossings. Once opened, it seems to keep indefinitely.
Savannah Verdelho is nutty and warming; as rich, as opulent as its heritage suggests. It is particularly well–balanced and enjoyable as an aperitif – or as a companion to rich stews and soups. I enjoyed mine with a cheese plate drizzled with honey. It paired best with a salty aged pecorino romano and a rich, tangy imported blue cheese.
Several Savannah package stores carry the label at about $50.
Cinco de Mayo
The holiday will be a product roll–out of sorts for new brand ON Tequila. ON produces three labels from their plantation near Jalisco, Mexico, where tequila was born in the 14th century.
The blue agave plants must mature for 9 years before harvest, then each is collected graded and ultimately used to produce Blanco, Reposado and Anejo tequilas.
Blanco, the “silver” tequila is not aged, but still drinks smooth and full of flavor. I preferred Reposado, which sees oak barrel aging for six months to a year, drinks smoother, rounder and has a nice silky mouthfeel.
Fans of boldly flavored but mild drinking tequila will gravitate to Anejo, a bronze colored tequila that ages for more than a year in oak.
Among local bars hosting ON Cinco de Mayo parties, complete with door prizes and visits from the ON Tequila girls, are Bonna Bella Yacht Club, Sol, Bacchus and Uncle Harry’s. Sugar Daddy’s Wine & Food Bar will host a tequila and chocolate tasting in conjunction with Wright Square Cafe.