Once opened, port generally lasts longer than unfortified wine but is still best if consumed within a short period of time. Those with stoppers can be kept for a couple of months in a dark place, but if it has a cork it must be consumed sooner. Typically, the older the vintage, the quicker it must be consumed. Madeira Wine Madeira is a fortified Portuguese wine made in the Madeira Islands. Some wines produced in small quantities in California and Texas are also referred to as "Madeira", or "Madera", though it is not correct. The wine is produced in a variety of styles ranging from dry wines which can be consumed on their own as an aperitif, to sweet wines more usually consumed with dessert. Cheaper versions are often flavored with salt and pepper for use in cooking. The islands of Madeira have a long winemaking history dating back to the Age of Exploration when Madeira was a standard port of call for ships heading to the New World or East Indies. To prevent the wine from spoiling, neutral grape spirits were added. On the long sea voyages, the wines would be exposed to excessive heat and movement which transformed the flavor of the wine as the wine producers of Madeira found out when an unsold shipment of wine returned to the islands after a round trip. Today, Madeira is noted for its unique winemaking process which involves heating the wine up to temperatures as high as 140 °F for an extended period of time and deliberately exposing the wine to some levels of oxidation. Because of this unique process, Madeira is a very robust wine that can be quite long lived even after being opened. History Madeira's location made it an ideal stopping location for voyages to the New World and East Indies. The roots of Madeira's wine industry dates back to the Age of Exploration when Madeira was a regular port of call for ships travelling to the New World and East Indies. By the 16th century, records indicate that a well-established wine industry on the island was able to supply these ships with wine for the long voyages across the sea. The earliest examples of Madeira, like Port, were unfortified and had the habit of spoiling at sea. Following the example of Port, a small amount of distilled alcohol made from cane sugar was added to stabilize the wine by boosting the alcohol content. (The modern process of fortification using brandy did not become widespread till the 18th century). The Dutch East India Company became a regular customer, picking up large casks of wine known as pipesfor their voyages to India. The intense heat and constant movement of the ships had a transforming effect on the wine, as discovered by Madeira producers when one shipment was returned to the island after a long trip. It was found that the customer preferred the taste of this style of wine and Madeira labeled as vinho da roda(wines that have made a round trip) became very popular. Madeira producers found that aging the wine on long sea voyages was very costly and began to develop methods on the island to produce the same aged and heated style. They began storing the wines on trestles at the winery or in special rooms known as
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