Thursday, December 13, 2018
Today I feel about 900 years old. Well, over 700, anyway.
If we really are what we eat (and drink), then I'm at least 657 years more ancient today!
That's 'cos I just drank four Madeiras, a Margaret River Chardonnay from Oz and a lovely Vina Tondonia Rioja totalling 657 years from their vintage dates.
And they were all wonderful and full of life
The Verdelho Madeira 1918, for example, was the best wine/food match I've ever tasted -- with foie gras, espresso and date puree, chicken vanilla jus and brioche. Beyond exquisite, at Piano Piano, Toronto, home base restaurant of the Estufarians, Madeira wine fans par excellence.
The 1843 Verdelho, predating my own birth by exactly 100 years, was, like myself, alive and well, fading slightly, but still on great form, with caramel/toffee on the palate and honeycomb on the finish.
The 1863 Bual was a happy camper, too. Showing caramel, mocha and toffee in ethereal balance.
The "old" wine was the 1808 Malmsey, all floral, toffee and citrus, lighter, perhaps, but with a long aftertaste.
These are (were) all wines in the 94-97 point range and completely irreplaceable. Gone forever, now.
Grown long ago on the tiny Portuguese island off the coast of North Africa, these rarities were all obtained via auctions, usually from private cellars and estate sales. Ancient barrels and 5-gallon glass demijohns of the finest vintages were handed down generation to generation as family treasures on the island.
Prices of these rarities are soaring and a single bottle that was imported from Madeira to Philadelphia in 1796 just sold for $15,925 at a Christie’s auction in New York.
The reason for the incredible lifespan of Madeira wines is the "Estufagem" method in its production. It's a 3-month heating process keeping the cellar temperature at 122°F or 4 months at 113°F. The Estufa is a stove -- hence the Estufarians. As a result, the young, high-acid wine takes on very complex reductive and oxidative qualities, a little like a well-aged Sherry, and is also fortified with grape brandy.
Then it's good to go for future generations!