National Geographic : 1973 Apr
Uplands wrenched askew attest the volcanic forces that gave Madeira birth. Fields lush with wheat, cabbages, and potatoes demonstrate the land's remarkable fertility - capable of bearing three crops a year. A farmer, lower left, shoulders rods cut from the osier, a willow with branches supple yet strong. Peeled, bundled, and dried, the rods become the raw material for wickerwork. firms in Funchal. Jeremy Zino, a young man with brown hair and glasses, had volunteered to show me around. Jere my's father, Horace Zino, was once president of the associa tion. Figuratively speaking, Jeremy had grown up on wine. He invited me to try some, and we sat in a tasting room on sawed-off wine casks. Jeremy raised his glass, and the light struck little darts of red and amber from it. "Madeira wine has been a tradition for hundreds of years and will continue forever," he said. Wine has been made in Madeira since the days of Zarco when the first grapevines were transplanted from the Medi terranean islands of Crete and Cyprus. But the unique quality of present-day Madeira is generally accepted to be the result of a lucky accident that occurred long ago. It happened that a cargo of wine left the island in a sailing ship bound for the East Indies. A year or so later the cargo, still unsold, was returned to Madeira. Surprisingly, the islanders discovered that it had improved greatly during the long hot months in the tropics. So, to reproduce the effect of the voyage through warm seas, Madeirans developed the process called estufagem (estufa=hothouse). The wine, after being fortified with brandy, is put into a special tank and heated gradually to 114° F.-about the same as the hold of a ship in the tropics. It is kept at that temperature for three to six months and then, very slowly, allowed to cool. After that it is aged in vats for an average of four years (though most exported Madeira is considerably older than that).