A View From Behind The Bar

Ever since the Kingston Trio sang “Have some Maderia, My Dear”…, I have been fascinated with Maderia wine. But, truthfully, I never knew a lot about it.

Maderia wine comes from a small rugged gaggle of islands directly in the sailing routes in the Atlantic ocean off the coast of Spain. For many years it produced (and still does) a rich, heady wine called, (naturally!), Maderia. But as they say: “The devil is in the details”. The Maderia wine was a favorite with sailors who would stop at the little islands on their way out across the Atlantic to far-flung ports, and load up with casks of wine for the voyage. In those days the great sailing ships took their wine cargo in large wooden casks, not bottled and in cases, like today, that were stored in the hold of the ship. Through the voyage the wine was sloshed around in the barrels and heated to over 100 degrees in the steamy hold. The wine was, as they say, “cooked”. Strangely, the longer the voyage, the better the wine tasted. For a long time, this effect of the longest voyages producing the best wine, was thought to be a myth, but soon the voyagers figured out that stirring the wine (by sloshing it in barrels in a bobbing ship) and heating the wine (by storing it in the hot hold of the ship) was the secret to improving the wine.

The Madiera Effect and the 2012 Missouri Norton | Yellow Farmhouse Winery

And so we get to the 2012 Norton. A few weeks ago a customer tasting a glass of the new Norton commented that it’s superior taste and consistency was due to the “Maderia Effect”. My initial thought was that he is crazy. This wine has never been sloshed, and it has been fermented, aged and bottled in cool temperatures hovering around 60 – 65 degrees.

He explained that the summer of 2012 with its record setting temperatures, many of which were in excess of 100 degrees, had the same effect of “heating” the juice and the grape even while it hung on the vine. “You think that several days of 100 to 110 degree sunshine on the grapes doesn’t heat them up just like wine in the hold of a sailing schooner?” he said.

You know, he just might be right. Maybe God wanted us to have something to remember the summer of 2012 with, so he gave us sunshine in abundant quantities to cook the grapes and enhance their flavor. As a Winemaker we take all of the credit for a great wine. But maybe, just maybe, a greater power had a hand in producing the best Norton ever!

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