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March 24, 2021

The Quintessential American Wine: Madeira w/ Bartholomew Broadbent

The Quintessential American Wine: Madeira w/ Bartholomew Broadbent

Used to celebrate the drafting of the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, Madeira wines are the ultimate in American wines, though not made in America. Originating from shipping goods from Europe to America and being born from wines trav

Used to celebrate the drafting of the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, Madeira wines are the ultimate in American wines, though not made in America.  Originating from shipping goods from Europe to America and being born from wines traveling that route, it became the most prominent wine in the US pre-prohibition.  History, culture, and the wines' versatility benefited their relaunch in the 1990s by Bartholomew Broadbent, Owner of Broadbent Selections, which imports an array of wines from emerging regions and has its own line of Madeiras, Ports, and other wines.  Learn more about the history and the journey of reintroducing a long-lost style of wine back to America in this episode of XChateau. 

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Detailed Show Notes: 

  • Bartholomew’s background in wine
    • Son of Michael Broadbent (led wine auctions for Christie’s, Decanter Magazine writer for decades, & leading wine author)
    • Went to Australia at 18 to work harvest, Cognac as a tour guide, worked in wine at Harrod’s in London and at Harvey’s Fine Wines
    • He moved to Toronto and met the Symington Family, where he spent 10 years teaching about Port & Madeira, based out of San Francisco
    • He married a Virginia girl and now lives in Virginia
  • Broadbent Selections
    • Founded in 1996
    • The goal was to create their own brand of Port & Madeira
    • Started an import company as well, which focused on emerging wine regions, including: 
    • Broadbent wines include Madeira, Port, Vinho Verde (single biggest selling wine), Douro, and Gruner Veltliner from Austria
  • Madeira
    • It was the biggest selling wine in the US until Prohibition
    • Invented through shipping to America from Europe, ships stopped in Madeira (600 miles off the coast of Africa / Morocco) to re-stock; when wines accidentally made it back to Madeira and went through two journeys by sea, the wines tasted better through the heating
    • Now the wine style is a cooked and fortified wine
    • Lots of history around Madeira - the wine used to celebrate the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, was on the table w/ Betsy Ross sewed the American flag
    • Benefited from a tax loophole, when the King taxed all European goods going to America, it did not cover Madeira
    • Destruction of the Madeira market
      • Phylloxera - destroyed lots of vines
      • Prohibition - Prior, 95% of the wine was sent to the US, 5% to the UK and Russia
      • Upon appeal of Prohibition, shipping had improved and no longer needed to stop in Madeira for supplies
    • Re-launch of Madeira in the US - Bartholomew relaunched in 1989 with the Symingtons
  • Production
    • 8 producers of Madeira on the island, who buy grapes from ~1,000 growers
    • Vines mostly grown on trellises with other crops underneath (there aren’t a lot of vineyards to see and visit)
    • Two types of heating methods
      • Estufa - artificial heating in tanks, 3 months at 115F, mostly for the 3-5-year-old styles of wines
      • Canteiro / Traditional - left in attics of buildings to heat; Broadbent ages in 3 locations - attic, ground floor, and basement to blend and get more complexity
    • 8 producers make lots of different brands, Broadbent made by Justino’s
    • Island producers ~100,000 cases/year of drinking Madeira (vs. cooking Madeira), Justino’s ~55%, Henriques & Henriques ~20%
    • Grape varieties
      • 3 red grapes (~80%) - Tinta Negra
      • 7 white grapes - incl Sercial (grown in hills, ripens less and more acidic), Verdelho, Boal, Malmsey
      • Both name of grapes and style of wines
    • Drier Madeiras partly made by adding brandy later in fermentation
    • Rainwater - needs to be a lighter style
    • Vintage  or Frasqueira Madeira - needs to be aged for 20 years before release, at least 19 years in cask and 1 year in bottle, but bottles  the word “Vintage”  does not appear on the  label as that is trademarked by Port
    • Colheita - min 5 years of age
  • Selling Madeira in the US
    • ~25k cases/year in the US, #2 or 3 market globally
    • England and Japan drink a lot of Madeira, Canada also a big market
    • The slowdown of sales for Port in the late 1990’s - believes due to the rise of high alcohol wines and not leaving enough capacity for fortified wine at the end of dinner
    • Madeira appeals to the intellect, stories tied to US history, the beauty of island and tourism, and versatility of the wine due to acidity (pairs with anything)
    • No specific demographics for Madeira
    • Older, rarer wines sold mostly at restaurants
    • Mannie Berk of Rare Wine Company also started a Madeira brand and has done a good job of educating consumers
    • Sherry market has improved due to mixology and cocktail culture, Spanish restaurants (e.g., tapas) have also helped support it
    • Pricing of rare Madeiras has increased a lot, especially in the auction markets, as sales have depleted the stock on the island
  • Broadbent vs. other Madeiras
    • More elegance, considered one of the top brands made by Justino’s
    • Named in Wine & Spirits Top 100 wineries of the world
    • Great sales team, including 2 Master Sommeliers, who help to sell into restaurants and retail
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