You have certainly heard a lot about Madeira wine. Famous in cooking, it is the wine used in the also famous Madeira sauce.
What is Madeira wine?
Madeira Wine is a fortified wine with a high alcohol content. It is aged with heat, and produced in the region with the Denomination of Origin of Madeira from about 5 different types of grapes.
It reaches the market in different levels of sugar from soft to dry, being classified as: Dry, Medium Dry, Medium Sweet or Sweet, all marked by their high levels of acidity.
This sharp acidity is the direct result of its location: an archipelago, just off the northwest coast of Morocco, composed of two inhabited islands – Madeira and Porto Santo, in addition to two of them uninhabited, called Deserta and Selvagem.
All Madeira wine is produced on 500 hectares of volcanic soil, located mainly on the north coast of the island, it is there that the vineyards sway precariously on gravity-defying slopes.
They are true giant stairs and each step, the Portuguese call “poios”. The only way to harvest, of course, is by hand.
For irrigation, on the other hand, water is historically captured from the highest parts of the island (about 1800 meters high) and channeled through 2150 km of artificial channels called “levadas” – many of which date from the 16th century.
Which grape is Madeira wine made from?
About 90% of the total production of Madeira wine is made using the Tinta Negra variety, while the other 10% are divided between Sercial, Boal, Verdelho and Malvasia, and are chosen for the elaboration of fine labels.
The latter give simpler Madeira wines. They are aged on a bed. The so-called “Canteiros” are wooden structures that allow the wine barrels to be as high as possible, closer to the shingles of the warehouses, catching more heat. This happens for at least 2 years.
It is this process that brings unique characteristics and intense and complex aromas to this type of simpler Madeira Wine. They can only be marketed 3 years after the 1st of January of the harvest year.
How to make Madeira wine sauce?
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cup of water
1 cup of dry wine
Salt and pepper
Reserve 5 tablespoons of water to dilute theCorn Starch.
In a medium saucepan, bring the butter to the heat and add the onion and sauté, until it is lightly browned. Add the rest of the water and the meat broth. Add the Worcestershire sauce and mix. Add the previously dissolved the Corn Starch and the wine. Over medium heat, cook, stirring constantly, until boiling. Leave for 4 or 5 minutes or until creamy. Serve while still hot, accompanied by the meat of your choice.
To prevent the wine from spoiling, neutral grape distillates, vinyl alcohol (almost a grape cachaça, were added). This was because in the long sea voyages, the wines were exposed to excessive heat, along with the balance of the sea, they changed their taste. Madeira wine producers discovered this fact when a shipment not accepted by buyers returned to the island after a trip and return. Today this fact has made the product an icon of the place, exactly for this characteristic discovered unintentionally.
Whenever the European winter approaches, the expectation for the giant waves of Nazaré that happen normally between October and March increases. The best surfers on the planet go there at that time and provide record breaks every year. But what explains the formation of these water walls in Portugal?
Located north of Lisbon, Nazaré receives the giant waves generated in the storms of the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of kilometers away. What makes these waves much larger in the region than elsewhere on the Portuguese coast is the presence of a submerged canyon, also called a cannon – the famous Cannon of Nazaré.
Canhão da Nazaré
© MAÍRA PABST
“Canyons are geomorphological formations normally associated with soil erosion caused by a river.
To understand why the cannon is important for the formation of giant waves, it is necessary to understand the contrast between the seabed of the beaches of Nazaré and the North. At Nazaré beach is the canyon, with a depth that varies from 50 meters to almost 5,000 meters. Meanwhile, at Praia do Norte, the bottom is the continental shelf, much shallower.
Due to the depth, the waves that travel over the Cannon of Nazaré do not lose speed and have their direction changed. The waves that travel over the continental shelf lose speed and do not change direction. Both are in front of Farol da Nazaré, 200 meters from the beach. This junction causes the peak to rise even more, a major factor for the massive conditions in Nazaré.
Some of the best known records:
– the American Garrett McNamara, in 2011 joined Guinness World Records after surfing a 78 ft (23.8 m) wave
– November 8, 2017, Rodrigo Koxa from São Paulo reached the mark of 24.4 meters (80 feet).
– Maya Gabeira renewed her own female world record for the biggest wave surfed, with Guinness World Records with the 22.4 meter mark
At the end of the Serra do Buçaco, where the mountain reaches an altitude of 547 meters, there is Mata do Buçaco, surrounded by a high wall with eleven entrance doors. After touring the mountain paths, you arrive at the Palace Hotel do Bussaco, one of the most beautiful neo-Manueline buildings in Portugal, and at the Convent of Santa Cruz, where General Wellington stayed overnight during the Battle of Buçaco.
Mata do Buçaco falls far short of Europe’s large forests in extension. However, the variety of its plant species far exceeds them. Within the walls built by the Carmelites there are about 400 species native to the Portuguese Atlantic range and approximately 300 from other climates. The most representative element of this symbiosis is the cedar of Buçaco, an imposing cypress tree originally from Mexico that was the first exotic species planted in the forest by the monks in 1656. The Cedro de São José, planted 350 years ago by the monks at the door with the same name, is the local symbol of this imposing species of trees.
With six hiking trails, properly identified, the forest invites you to discover its stunning botany. Go to Vale dos Fetos and delight in its lakes, cool off in the countless fountains scattered around the fence and admire the natural corners designed by lush vegetation. You can also explore the forest through historical routes: admire the imposing doors of the fence or the chapels built by the Carmelites , which rise in perfect harmony with the grove. Walk through the Steps of the Passion of Christ, go up to the Cruz Alta Viewpoint and finally, go to the place of Almas de Encarnadouro to visit the Military Museum.
The Bussaco hotel: The building was designed in the last quarter of the 19th century by the Italian architect Luigi Manini, set designer at the National Theater of São Carlos.
The building of the current hotel, in Neo-Manueline style, is decorated with tile panels, frescoes and paintings depicting the Epic of the Portuguese Discoveries, all signed by some of the great masters of the arts.
The structure displays profiles of the Tower of Belém carved in stone of Ançã, motifs of the cloister of the Jerónimos Monastery, some arabesques and flowers of the Convento de Cristo, alleging a flowered Gothic with romantic episodes in contrast to austere monastic severity.
Inside, there are notable works of art by great Portuguese masters of the time. The furniture includes Portuguese, Indo-Portuguese and Chinese pieces, highlighted by lavish tapestries. Also of note is the Moorish ceiling, the remarkable floor made of exotic wood and the royal gallery.
In addition, the Military Museum of Buçaco invites you to enter the history of the Peninsular War, with emphasis on the Battle of Buçaco, in which, in 1810, the Anglo-Portuguese troops led by the Duke of Wellington defeated the Napoleonic army.
Today we take a trip to the demarcated region of Távora-Varosa, in Beira Alta, the oldest in the country, to understand the whole story that exists in the bubbles of wine.
This story begins under the ground and ends at the height of the party, because this is the trip of a bottle of sparkling wine after all. No other drink spends so long in the darkness of a cellar. It is the liquid that seals the importance of ephemeris and that embodies the remarkable events. In recent years, the Portuguese sparkling wine has started to lose the shame of not being champagne and has entered the most brilliant period in its history. New producers have appeared, the oldest are playing cards in international competitions, sales are growing steadily.
Lamego, a land of great nobility that holds a significant place in Portuguese history, was, accordingly, the birthplace oh this wine. Even though the raw material comes from the original Champagne grape varieties, this wine has made its mark as a quintessentially Portuguese product.
It all started in 1898 when the junior rebel commander and his family founded the raposeira cellars. At that time, the owners of the raposeira cellars went on to study in the famous champagne region, and from then on a series of experiments carried out in lamego lands allowed to create the personality of some of the most renowned Portuguese sparkling wines.
On average, five million bottles are produced here annually. The area was demarcated in 1989, there are 3,500 hectares of land, spread over eight counties in Beira – Tarouca, Lamego, Sernancelhe, Moimenta da Beira, Penedono, Tabuaço, São João da Pesqueira and Armamar. Together with Bairrada, it is a region of effervescence par excellence. From here come two icons of national sparkling wine, Raposeira and Murganheira. In the valleys of the Távora and Varosa rivers, two tributaries on the left bank of the Douro, it is clear what is happening today in the national sparkling wine market.
Acácio Laranjo was a textile producer in the region with business in France who one day decided to bring with him a Moët & Chandon winemaker to develop a high quality product. And when you enter the cellars of the company, you immediately see the path that the tycoon wanted to take. Underground, in the 1940s, two hundred meters of corridors were opened with dynamite in the middle of the granite. It is an impressive work, the blue walls of the Murganheira cellars maintain a constant temperature of 12.3 degrees, whether summer or winter.
There are roughly three flavors of sparkling wine: sweet, medium-dry and raw. If Murganheira produces essentially raw products, Raposeira clearly bet on sweets, cheaper and with less risk of error, because liquors are able to rectify any flaw in the product. Founded in 1898, these are the oldest sparkling wine cellars in the country. They are also the biggest center of Portuguese production – and both the dimension and the history are understandable at the first impact.
Távora ‑ Varosa is not the most productive region in the country, but it is the one that produces the most certified sparkling wine, that is, with a designation of origin and quality assurance.
The city of Porto is known worldwide for the wine with its name (produced in the Douro valley), for the bridges and for its historic center classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Without forgetting its gastronomy!
But what do we have to write even in our visit plan?
Here are 10 tips:
- KNOW THE CATHEDRAL
The Cathedral is imposing and of rare beauty inside. It is to be seen and admired without haste, as well as its cloister, on the south side. In the wide square of the cathedral, one has a privileged view of the city, the Douro River and part of the Ribeira. Close to the Sé, being in Terreiro da Sé, on the left, you go down a staircase and you will visit the Church of São Lourenço (16th century), also known as Igreja dos Grilos, in a mannerist style.
2. VISIT THE CHURCHES
Church of the Crickets
Inside you will be dazzled by the richness of details and the beautiful altarpiece of Our Lady of Purification, in gilded woodcarving. It is called Igreja dos Grilos because it was, after the expulsion of the Jesuits, sold to the Barefoot Hermits of Saint Augustine, known as “Friars Grilos”, who remained there until 1832.
Church of Santa Clara
This church has a great contrast between the extreme simplicity of its facade and the luxurious interior of gold carvings. Impresses by the sumptuousness and beauty! It is close to the Fernandinas Walls (14th century), being very close to the Guindais Funicular, which connects the Batalha neighborhood to Ribeira, in the lower part of the city.
Igreja do Carmo and Igreja das Carmelitas (side by side), in Cordoaria neighborhood
The Igreja do Carmo has a huge panel of tiles on its external side and the Igreja das Carmelitas, previously attached to the Convent (converted into part of a barracks) is also very beautiful.
San Francisco Church
Impresses by the wealth of details covered with more than 200 kg of gold and the wonderful work “Tree of Jesse”.
3. WALK THROUGH RIBEIRA
Ribeira is an area that is close to the Douro River, in the historic center of Porto. From there you can see the wine cellars and the Luís I bridge. A place of great charm with the colorful houses that compete for space, in the middle of the narrow streets, with shops, restaurants and people walking.
4. VISIT THE BOLSA PALACE
This palace was built in the place of the old San Francisco Monastery. Don’t miss the Arabic room with gold decorations and oriental style
5.TAIN THE TRAMWAY TO THE OCEAN
Take the tram line 1 from Ribeira to the mouth of the Douro river. It is a short trip – about 20 minutes – but very beautiful.
Attention: it is not a cheap transport as the tram ticket costs more than twice as much as a bus or metro ticket.
6. DISCOVER THE SERRALVES FOUNDATION AND THE CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM
The cultural foundation is one of the most important in Portugal and the museum is the most visited in the whole country. The building mixes contemporary architecture with Art Decò and touches of modernism.
7. EAT A FRANCESINHA
Looking for a real tavern to try an unforgettable dish: Francesinha. Inspired by the French toast, with various types of meat in the filling and melted cheese and fried egg on top. All dipped in an extraordinary sauce and accompanied by chips.
8. DRINKING A COFFEE AT CAJÉ MAJESTIC (on Rua Santa Catarina)
Certainly a tourist experience, but this cafe is worth a visit to observe its Art Nouveau architecture. In 2011 it was considered one of the most beautiful cafes in the world.
9. WALKING IN VILA NOVA DE GAIA
From Porto, you can cross the Luis I bridge on foot. Go to Vila Nova de Gaia from the top and take the opportunity to make fantastic photos! Arriving in Gaia, on the left side, the Serra do Pilar Monastery is highlighted, another unforgettable visit. And stop at one of the port wine cellars for a visit and a tasting.
10.WALKING IN THE BOLHÃO MARKET
One of the most emblematic markets in the city of Porto. The market is mainly focused on fresh products, especially food.