Charleston has one. Savannah as well. Boston too. And New York. New Orleans got a rare Special reserve. Baltimore has Rainwater. Now there’s also one dedicated to a Virginia family; the Lees at Stratford Hall.
History was my favorite subject back in school. The past fascinated. Still does. Furthermore, as a friend of Madeira wine, there’s really no way to bypass history. Madeira simply is drinking history. The founder at The Rare Wine Co., Mannie Berk, knows that. Mannie’s Historic Series of Madeira wine is a reminder of how important a beverage it was for the American society and why differing styles of the wine developed over the country.
Most people recognize the name of Robert Edward Lee; General Lee. Son of the probably just as well-known Henry Lee III, he was born at the Stratford Hall Plantation in Virginia. Researching 200+ years back in time, to find out what the Lees and the elite in general in Virgina were drinking, is just what Mannie Berk has done. Together with Ricardo Diogo, owner and winemaker at Vinhos Barbeito and Stratford Hall of today, the Lee family Special Reserve has been created, to resemble the preference two centuries ago.
The warm climate of Virginia encouraged a medium dry style of Madeira to develop. Not like the Rainwater but a richer and more concentrated type of wine. Before arriving to Virginia, the wine had taken the journey via the warm climate of the Indies. Then it was further aged for quite some time in casks – at the location – before drunk.
As a European I’m sadly not able to buy the wines – if not visiting the states. But since I do visit Vinhos Barbeito regularly I’m always giving the Historic Series priority. The Stratford Hall Family Reserve is right up my alley, Verdelho fan as I am. The wine is based on Verdelho from three lots, 7-21 years old. Then, to add depth and complexity, some very old Malvasia is added to the blend. Furthermore, the winemaker Ricardo Diogo has added two really old and dry Tinta Negra to the final blend.
The Baltimore Rainwater impressed a lot. In its category it has no competition on the market. Also the Stratford Hall shows such quality it is a must taste-wine for Madeira friends. Deeper in color, richer on the nose and more concentrated on the palate compared to the Rainwater. Yet it stays elegant and shows dried fruits, oriental spices, nutmeg and lovely tobacco and humus like scents. You expect a sweeter palate after having sniffed the wine and here the ride starts. It’s quite dry, like a Verdelho or Terrantez, but the acidity is almost Sercial like. Figs, caramel, sugar cane and nuts. A dash of flowers. The faintest hint of morellos in liquor. Then the wet earth. The intensity. The long, rich and pure finale. But most of all – and this is why I so cherish the work of Mr. Ricardo Diogo – the elegance.
For a further insight in Madeira’s importance in the American society, read Professor David Hancock’s ‘Oceans of Wine’.
What better way to celebrate post number 200 on the Mad about Madeira site than to talk about history!
Price at The Rare Wine Co.: $59.95
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