I’ve long been a fan of V. Sattui’s Maderia. The other day, I realized that I had never tried another Madeira. So, I went to Total Wine and More and bought a Sandeman’s Madeira. I then happily went home and did a taste test of the two Madeiras. I’ll tell you all about that, but let me start by telling you a little about this wonderful dessert wine.
A few years ago, I wrote an article about Madeira called “Madeira: Know I and Love It.” Here are some of the highlights:
- What is the wine’s origin? Madeira is a heat-treated fortified wine. It originally comes from the Portuguese island of the same name, which is several hundred kilometers southwest of mainland Portugal. It was created in the 1500s by British travelers who were intent on having their fortified wine travel safely from Portugal to England. The heat treatment of alcohol was the solution.
- How does the heat treatment work? Mass-produced Madeiras use a large stainless steel container called an estufagem. Higher-end Madeiras are aged in oak barrels in a heated room for several years.
- What is solera? Wine Spectator tells us that “A solera system is a collection of barrels, traditionally stacked (with the bottom row containing the oldest vintage), for the purpose of fractional blending across vintages.” V. Sattui’s Madeira uses the solera method, touting that their Solera is over 120 years old, one of the oldest in the U.S. In doing some Google research, I found that the solera process is now pretty rare for Madeiras. It’s still strong for Sherry wines.
- How does the wine taste? Wine Folly talks about caramel, walnut oil, peach, hazelnut, orange peel and burnt sugar. The Spruce Eats says that “In addition to rich notes of caramel, honey, and brown sugar, Madeira is often nutty, herby, spicy, earthy, with flavors of orange peel, coffee, and dried fruit.” V. Sattui talks about hazelnut, burnt caramel, almonds, toffee and orange zest.
Our Taste Test of Two Madeiras
My housemate and I tried the two Madeiras side by side.
- Color: The wines were similar in color, although the V. Sattui might have been slightly darker than the Sandeman’s.
- Smell: The smells were similar, but the V. Sattui smelled slightly richer and more complex.
- Taste: The tastes were markedly different. While the Sandeman’s was lovely, it didn’t give us any warm, fuzzy feelings. The V. Sattui literally encompassed us in warmth. Much deeper. Much more complex. Much more beautiful.
The V. Sattui costs more than four times the Sandeman’s. But I’m going to have to stick with it, especially in the winter, when I’m looking for that warm, fuzzy blanket. Don’t worry. The Sandeman’s won’t go to waste. I looked up a Madeira cocktail and made it today: Madeira, dark rum and lemon juice over ice. It was yummy.
Have you ever done a tasting of two Madeiras? What were your results?