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D'Oliveiras, Sercial 1989
Classic electric Sercial acidity gives a (in Madeira terms) dry impression. Nutty, raisiny and extremely complex, this is fruitier and more 'youthful' than some examples.
Long ship journeys are no longer used for aging, but rather, the estufa method is often employed, in which hot water circulates through a coil in the middle of a steel tank, heating the wine for 90 days, or the wine is stored in a room with steam pipes for 6 months to a year. The finest madeiras, though, are made without any heating besides the sun and time (20 years!). Madeira is decidedly unique, and quite probably the worlds longest living wine.
DOliveira is one of the greatest of the classic Madeira shippers, and one of the few to survive from the pre-phylloxera era. Founded in 1850, and an amalgamation of firms dating back to 1820, it is today housed in cellars that date from 1619. This small jewel of a company has always been owned by the DOliveira family, its vineyard holdings built up over time through a series of marriages with other wine producing families. But what is really extraordinary is that DOliveira has held on to many of its most famous vintages, creating a unique, and irreplaceable, stock of old wines. And remarkably they are all DOliveira wines, not purchased from other shippers or growers. Thus, whether an 1862 Sercial or a 1922 Bual, all were produced by the DOliveiras and their ancestors, and generally from their own vineyards in Sao Martinho, one of the great viticultural sites in Madeira, lying just to the west of Funchal along the islands south coast. D'Olivera's house style can best be characterized by very powerful aromatics, great lushness and viscosity, incredible structure, and a tangy character that is essential to the finest wines of the 18th and 19th centuries. As is typical of the most traditional of houses, wines are kept in cask and bottled according to demand. Madeira - The small, steep volcanic island of Madeira off the coast of Portugal was historically an important port of call for ships en route to Africa, Asia, and South America, and, in turn, became an important port of call for sailors to stock up on booze. By the end of the 16th century, the Madeira wine industry had become an international phenomenon. The wines were originally fortified to help them last through their long sea journeys, but drinkers soon developed a taste for the maturation that the heat and the rolling of the ship provided. The wine became so popular in the North American colonies that it was used to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The major grapes in Madeira are Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, and Malvasia, each vinified to a unique style and level of sweetness.
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