Wine Pick: Blandy’s Duke of Clarence Rich Madeira
Your dessert course—at Thanksgiving or anytime—has met its perfect match.
October 9, 2015
I’ve just returned from Portugal. There I explored the rugged, green, volcanic island of Madeira, where one of the world’s most significant fortified wines is made. Historic, long-lived, and undervalued, Madeira wine is made in a spectrum of styles—from tangy and dry to decadently sweet—but lively acid always keeps it balanced and refreshing.
Madeira is known as the “indestructible wine” because it’s been exposed to two aspects of wine-making that are usually avoided like the plague: oxidation and heating. Madeira is both deliberately oxidized and subjected to long periods of baking, which paradoxically render it stable and give it a distinctively carmelized and nutty flavour.
This rich wine, named for the Duke of Clarence (a traitor who was allegedly drowned in a barrel of Madeira wine), is made from the island’s most planted red grape, Tinta Negra. Blandy’s Duke of Clarence is a blend of various batches of wine that have been slowly heated and cooled for three months, then aged in oak casks. Deep chestnut in colour, it smells of honey, toffee, and roasted almonds. Rich flavours of raisins, salted caramel, and exotic spices float on a sweet, soft-textured palate that tightens up on the finish with a refreshing lick of acidity. Chill the bottle for half an hour, pour it into small wine glasses, and pair it with pumpkin, Banoffee, or pecan pie, or dark chocolate. If you don’t finish the bottle, simply pop the stopper back in and save it for the next dessert or cheese plate. It keeps for months after opening.
Blandy’s Duke of Clarence Rich Madeira