The fertile land of this beautiful island is host to many varied crops from sugarcane to bananas. The vine, however, is the most important with 400 hundred years of providing Madeira’s main product, wine.
This fortified wine can be made from one of four principal varieties: Sercial,Verdelho, Bual and Malmsey and interestingly it owes much of its fortune to happy accident. The island’s strategic position meant it was a favourite stop off for ships travelling to Africa, South America and India where pipes of Madeira wine would be loaded aboard. Alongside fortification to preserve the fragile still wines,it soon became apparent that the heat of sun on these long tropical journeys had a remarkably positive effect, so much so that before long a fashion had begun for wines to travel to India, and then back again! When growing demand made this solution became impractical the modern Estufa was born, where wines could be artificially heated then cooled again, simulating a journey on the open seas. The style of the wine slightly depends on each producer but, generally speaking, ranges from dry (Sercial) to sweet (Malmsey). The branded aged bottling from the commercial Madeira houses are good value and offer excellent drinking for a number of different occasions; as aperitifs, with dessert or as after dinner drinks. Vintage Madeira, though, is in a different league. This divine nectar can last with frightening ease for over 150 years without losing any of its youthful freshness.