I’ve never been one to consider myself a “dessert wine” drinker. I have a hard time enjoying sweeter wines because I have difficulty getting past that initial sweetness shock. As soon as sweet wines hit my palate, I feel like I can’t even taste the attributes because I am overwhelmed by the sugars.
However, this 52 Weeks of Wine palate training has been incredible! I knew my palate would grow by tasting new varietals, but I didn’t expect growth this early. I’m telling you – the aromas, flavors and subtleties that I can identify in wines is blowing my mind, and we’re only six weeks in! Now, I’m finding that I have quite a new perspective on wines that I had historically avoided – even sweet wines.
At any time you can find a bottle of port sitting on my husband’s nightstand. It has become a nightly ritual that he enjoys a glass while we watch whichever TV show we are currently addicted to before bed (we just finished House of Cards last night, ahhh! How agonizing is it to finish a season?!). He often offers me a taste of whichever port he is enjoying and sometimes I will taste but I’ve found that I don’t have the same appreciation that he has. Sure, some are more full-bodied, some are sweeter, but that has been about the extent of the attributes I have been able to identify in ports. So, when it came time to try this Madeira, I was a little concerned about whether I would be able to describe it well enough to be beneficial for Grape Juice Mom followers. I was pleasantly surprised!
We were initially introduced to Madeira through a new friend and photographer who I have partnered with for Grape Juice Mom, Mandy Penn of Mandy Penn Photography. The first time I met Mandy, she revealed to me that her husband is a certified Sommelier. What?! This is a crazy coincidence! Mandy doesn’t even drink wine but her husband is a certified wine expert? So, when they came over for dinner and Mandy’s husband, Caleb, recommended a Madeira to my port-loving husband, we knew we had to try it! Caleb explained that Madeira is a dessert wine from Portugal that was fortified with extra sugars and exposed to heat during Portugal’s explorer days on ships. Though it is similar to port wines in sweetness, it is distinctly different in other factors.
So, of course, we picked up a bottle at our local wine shop, The Wine Gallery and Gourmet, to give it a try and my husband immediately loved it. I liked it. I still was not at the point where I could identify distinct differences, though I liked that it was lighter in body and color than port and had a different profile. I’ve since recommended it as part of a virtual wine tasting tailored towards “Holiday Prep” since having a dessert wine around for the holidays is great for those who enjoy a bit of a “nightcap”. Few individuals in the virtual wine tasting chose to taste the Madeira and their opinions were split right down the middle – they either loved it or hated it.
This week when I tasted Madeira, I had a distinctly different experience and I fully attribute this to my growing wine palate. For this tasting, I chose to put myself in my husband’s element for dessert wine tasting – in bed with House of Cards glowing on the TV. I knew the look of this wine: it’s very light compared to a port wine with more of a brownish color, resembling a Sherry. I obviously went through the same steps of tasting any other wine (look, smell, taste, think), but my expectations were low on what I would be able to identify since I was not very strong in the past with these types of wines. As anticipated, I had a hard time with the smell – I believe I pulled out some licorice notes but I did not feel certain in my observation. I proceeded to tasting. HOLY COW! I was in shock! Not only could I taste some incredible, distinct flavors, but I was experiencing almost a feeling or memory to this wine. It made me feel like I was sitting in front of a fireplace or eating freshly made candied walnuts in Central Park. I might sound like a lunatic but it’s true – and no, I wasn’t drunk! The taste was like a buttery candied walnut or toffee or caramel. The entire experience gave me warmth. As I continued to smell and taste the Madeira, I realized the aromas fill the glass, almost like a blend between a gas and liquid state. I know this sounds dramatic but, seriously – this changed my experience of wine!
I realized that the way you drink a dessert wine is different too. It’s almost comparable to sipping a Whiskey or Bourbon. If you try to pull a sip into your mouth like you’re drinking a Chardonnay, you’ll be overwhelmed by its strength. But, if you sip and gently allow it to skim your palate and breathe out through your nose, it’s a completely different experience.
So, I am proud to announce: I am now a dessert wine lover! I hope you’ll appreciate this Madeira and potentially expand your wine palate to enjoy dessert wines as well!
I bought this Fanal Madeira Rainwater at The Wine Gallery and Gourmet of Colorado Springs for $20. I typically try to buy wines in the “under $15” range, however, a dessert wine like this one goes a very long way! This bottle is equivalent to 2 or 3 regular wines, so the price is actually at a fantastic point!