I was thrilled to read about your Madeira tasting at the hotel. I really learned much from your post (see earlier post by Truffle). Even though I left work later than usual today, I stopped at Total Wine to get a bottle for myself. I was thrilled to find, not just any bottle of Blandy's, but it's the Malmsey grape and has been aged 10 years in oak casks! It was a little more expensive than I expected, but worth the $40.
Sipping this lovely wine brings to mind a number of memories. But, before that, I am sure you already know that a number of Mediterranean countries produce some sort of fortified wine. The Spanish produce Sherry (as you have already mentioned), the Italians Marsala (which has unfortunately been permanently relegated to the kitchen like the barefoot pregnant), and the Portuguese Port, my favorite. What do the French produce? Cognac? Hmmm, not certain if that is considered a fortified wine. It is made from grape... I suppose the French always want to be different. Interestingly, they are all named after the regions/cities they come from. Although the city Sherry is from is Jerez in Spanish.
The Madeira is much sweeter than I expected. Prince Charming and I both tasted it with Parmesan cheese (would have preferred Stilton but Parmesan was all I had) and he thought it was quite similar to a white port we had a few years ago. It is more of a sweet Sherry or a sweeter version of Tawny than the more traditional Ruby Port.
This really reminded me of my six months in Lisbon, more than a decade ago. When I was wandering around a local grocery store looking for Sherry, known as Xerez in Portugal to complete a chicken dish. In my youth, I followed recipes doggedly. Now, I would have poured in a slosh of cognac or even whisky. Hey, even old red wine. Anyway, the grocer snorted as I asked for Xerez and he waved me away to a long row of many varieties of Port, at the end of which stood one single bottle of Xerez. That was my first lesson in the Portuguese-Spanish rivalry. Well, this bottle of Madeira, produced in the Portuguese colony of the same name, reminds me of their rival wine.
Saude, my dear sister! Relax and enjoy yourself with your husband. I look forward to your next post from the sunny Isle of Madeira.