I really have to thank Joe Roberts, aka 1WineDude, for proposing this baked goods theme, about wines that have gone through the test of time and heat, and have only become all the better for it. Because when I tasted the Henriques & Henriques 1995 Single Harvest Madeira I chose for this edition of the Wine Blogging Wednesdays, I could only think: “Wow. Why don’t I drink this kind of stuff more often.”
It’s true that the idea of “baked goods” and oxydative wines go well beyond madeira itself – the vin jaune of the Jura region of France, sherries of Spain, old cuvées of some muscats of southern France… – but madeira is what I was really looking forward to taste, this time.
Just the caramel/copper color of this teenage wine is enough to get you daydreaming. And then the contrast between the roasted almond, salty, iodine nose and the honey marmelade and toasted bread flavors that just jump in your mouth is a true wonder. And since this wine has already gone through oxydation and heat, as Madeira wines traditionally do, it has gained a stability that allows you to keep an open bottle for days and days, and sip it slow enough to make it last almost forever.
And this is just a 20$ bottle of unidentified variety (Bual? Sercial? Verdelho? Malvasia? It just doesn’t say). It’s not even one of the expensive treasures of Madeira, those 50-year-old, even century-old bottles that are so rare to find and so amazing to taste, if you’re ever lucky enough to get to one of them. But there’s plenty to enjoy, even at that level.
Especially because you can match it with a great variety of dishes. Hard cheeses can be a terrific match: the salty and nutty character of a grotto-aged gruyère was lifted by a sip of madeira. Nuts of all kinds also respond to the similar flavors found in the wine, while dried fruit – figs, especially – expand on its fruitier flavors. It’s also pretty awesome with butterscotch or a chewy caramel, adding complexity to the, well, caramelized taste. I’d also be curious to see how it would match with a roast chicken and its fat, its fine meaty flavors and roasted character.
And the great thing is, with a wine that lasts that long, I’ll probably have time to try that and more.