This weekend on NPR's All Things Considered, host Debbie Elliott and their food guy John T. Edge talked to wine expert Mannie Berk about Madeira, A Wine for the Ages.
A fortified wine made in the Portuguese islands of the same name, Madeira when sealed properly is one of the longest lasting of wines. According to Wikipedia, "Madeiras have been known to survive over 150 years in excellent condition. It is not uncommon to see Madeiras pushing the century mark for sale at stores that specialize in rare wine. As of January 19, 2007, rarewineco.com was offering an 1834 Malvasia."
Madeira's stability and longevity are what made it the wine of choice in the New World, where quality wine grapes could not be grown, and it was imported by the "pipe"—a casket containing between 110-120 gallons. A favorite of Thomas Jefferson, Madeira was used to toast the Declaration of Independence in 1776. I've never had any myself, but I've always been curious about it because it pops up so much in books like Robinson Crusoe!