What other wine needs to be baked in order to reach its full potential? The mid-Atlantic island of Madeira, about 1000km off the coast of Portugal, was for centuries a victualing point for ships en route to Africa and the Americas. The wines that rocked about in the holds in tropical or equatorial temperatures were deemed delicious, thanks to the burnt, caramel-y characteristics that overlaid their tangy flavours. The effort to replicate this effect gave rise to a practice known as estufagem; 'baking' the wine in heated casks, or tanks with hot water pipes running through them, for at least three months prior to bottling. As well as caramelising all the sugars in the wine, this imparts a thorough oxidation, so the wine can age for decades. The wine itself is traditionally graded in sweetness according to the grape varieties used, from Sercial (dry) to Malmsey (sweet and dark), by way of Verdelho and Boal. And ours are all excellent, of course - you won't find anything half-baked here!
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