Twenty-Wine Days of February: Day 20, Drinking Presidential-Style!

Happy President’s Day!  Today’s the day we celebrate all past Presidents instead of celebrating George Washington and Abraham Lincoln separately—because Richard Nixon didn’t want to be forgotten once he left office.  There was probably little chance of that, anyway, right?  There are also some pretty good sales, particularly on mattresses.

(Note: The above comment on the origin of ‘President’s Day’ is very incomplete and slightly exaggerated.  The official move to ‘President’s Day’ took a couple of years of Congressional work to complete and wasn’t without controversy, as Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday was not a federal holiday, and George Washington’s Birthday will never actually fall on the third Monday in February.)

Being a “traditionalist,” I wanted to link today’s wine selection to one of the two universally recognized greatest-ever Presidents of the United States.  This selection was made easier by the fact that President Lincoln was a teatotaler.  So President Washington got the call.

What did George Washington drink?  Oh, there was rum and ale (or grog, the “a” may be silent) to be sure, but for our purposes here, I decided to pop open a Madeira wine. Madeira was a popular beverage in George Washington’s day due to its hardiness; being fortified, it traveled well across the Atlantic and lasted a good while once opened.

Madeira Islands of Portugal

Madeira is wine produced from grapes grown on the Portuguese islands of the same name.  It is a fortified wine that is made in varying levels of sweetness (from most to least):  Malvasia (also known as Malmsey or Malvazia), Bual (or Boal), Verdelho, and Sercial.  Depending on the style, Madeira wines are generally sipped as an aperitif or with (or as) dessert.

This is the end of our overly simplistic Madeira lesson; on to the wine…

Blandy Madeira Bual 5 Years Old

Blandy's Madeira Bual 5 Year-Old

The non-vintaged Blandy’s 5 Year-Old Bual is a medium-rich Madeira wine (50% Malmsey/50% Bual) that is aged in oak for 5 years (seems simple enough to interpret that label, right?).  It has 13% residual sugar and 19% alcohol by volume.  I opened the new bottle, poured The Rib and myself a glass, and let is sit for a half hour or so before tasting.

On the nose, I got some orange and caramel notes.

The fruit on the palate was mostly orange (at least to me).  The caramel was there, but came across as a butter toffee.  There was an “oatmeal-y” quality to the flavor (not the viscosity) that I couldn’t quite get my head around.  As the wine sat in the glass for a while, I detected a slight raisin and nuttiness, as well, but the caramel/toffee/burnt sugar prevailed.

Overall, this is not bad.  And I must admit that Madeira (and other dessert/port-style wines) are not necessarily my go-to drink.  That said, I enjoyed this one well enough and look forward to having another sip of this one a month or so from now to see how it has developed and if my impressions of it have changed.

Those who would not otherwise indulge in Cognac or Scotch after dinner may enjoy a little nip of Madeira; for $25, Blandy’s Madeira Bual is about the same price as having a Brandy on the shelf and will last a while in the bottle (several months to a year, maybe), so it’s not the worst investment to give something new a try or have a unique offering on the liquor shelf for guests.

Cheers from the Corkpit,


Post-Script from The Rib:  Of course, the slow pace at which we sipped this wine gave us time to pause and consider the men—both great and not-so-much—who have served this fine country as commander-in-chief and leader of the “Free World;” each one—great and small—is deserving of a toast from a grateful nation. So, “Happy Birthday, Mr. President(s)!”

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