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Below is a recipe for a Malvasia-style Madeira, along with an explanation of the ingredients and step-by-step instructions.
(5 gallons, 19 liters)
OG = 1.140 to 1.180
FG = 1.015
1 large can of Riesling concentrate (96 oz.)
1 large can of Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot or Burgundy concentrate (96 oz.)
4 pounds (approx. 1.8 kg) of peeled, very ripe (but not rotten) bananas 4 cups (approx. 1 L) of dark raisins
1 cup (approx. 250 mL) of dark brown sugar (optional, but I used it)
2 pounds (almost 1 kg) of dried dates (optional, but I used them)
2 to 3 packets or pouches of Champagne yeast or other ethanol-tolerant yeast
60 fluid ounces (approx. 1.75 L) of
40% brandy (your choice of quality)
4 cups (approx. 1 L) of oak chips (or more)
Explanation of ingredients
Riesling: The closest available relative to the Sercial grape of Madeira.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Burgundy or Grenache (rose): To fake the contribution of the Tinta Negra Mole grape. Depending on the color and heaviness you desire, pick one of them. If you want a very blond Madeira, substitute white concentrate for the rose.
Both cans together: Vary the amount of concentrate according to the strength of the content in the can. For weaker concentrates you need more than specified in this recipe. Adjust the amount as if a single can generates a wine of about 10 percent alcohol per five-gallon (19 L) batch, in which case two cans contain enough sugar to push the yeast beyond its alcohol tolerance level and leave some residual sugar. If you wish a drier Madeira, use less than a full can of each. But when in doubt, err on the side of too much rather than too little concentrate. You can always dilute the result later on. Experiment.
Bananas: These accentuate the fruity-estery, oxidized flavors that come from the relatively high fermentation temperatures. Other fruit that imitate this flavor are raspberry, apple, pear and strawberry. Bananas contribute the least non-Madeira byproducts.
Raisins: These provide a nice vinous component to counteract the residual sweetness.
Brown sugar: Brown sugar contains molasses. If you do not overdo the brown sugar, it gives the wine a trace of that nutty, earthy, burnt flavor For the lighter Madeira types, you may wish to leave it out all together.
Dates: You can use dates instead of or in addition to brown sugar, or you can leave one or both out entirely. Dates contribute to that rich, syrupy flavor that is desirable for Malvasia varieties.
Yeast: Do not under pitch. Since you are fermenting a heavy must, use twice as much yeast as you normally would. Ask your supplier for a yeast with a high alcohol tolerance level. White Labs WLP-715 (Champagne) can tolerate alcohol concentrations up to 17 percent. Red Star Pasteur Champagne Davis 522) dry yeast also has a good ethanol tolerance. Lalvin wine yeast EC-1118 (Prise de Mousse) is a tough fermenter and recommended for stuck Fermentations, but its disadvantage is tat it is more accustomed to low-temperature fermentation. Used two pouches of Wyeast 3021 (Pasteur Champagne Wise de Mousse) to start the fermentation, and after about a week. I added a pouch of Wyeast 3347 (Eau de View) which has a 21 percent alcohol tolerance.
Brandy: An American brandy is OK. If you want to splurge, of course, you can use a fine French cognac. Real Portuguese aguardente is imported into North America. but is hard to find. If you want to make a Madeira on a shoestring budget. you can also use the cheapest vodka for fortification. But you lose some complexity.
Oak chips: Add these to the wine dining aging. I am not sure if they do any good. Perhaps their contribution is more psychological than real - the oenological Hail-Mary pass when you age in glass instead of wood. You may lose your chips during racking. in which case you need double the specified amount you wish to replenish them. Casks on Madeira are made from American oak, but French white oak chips are OK. too.
1. Peel and mash the bananas with a fork and boil in about a gallon i4 Li of water for about 20 minutes. Strain hot through a sieve, discard the pulp. and add the raisins to the hot liquid to sterilize them. You can add the brown sugar at this point as well to dissolve it.
2. Cut the date meat off the pits and boil in a quart of water for about an hour Replenish the water if need be. Do not strain.
3. Pour the boiled dates and the liquid into the liquid from the bananas and allots to cool to room temperature.
4. Add the yeast to the cooled liquid.
5. Pour the cooled liquid and the cans of concentrate into a carboy, fill up with cool water to about 4 gallons (15 L). add a cup of the brandy, affix a water lock and let ferment.
6. Measure the gravity periodically. Pour about 1 quart (approx. 1 L) of brandy into the carboy when the gravity reaches about 1.015 for a Malvasia. 1.005 for a Verdelho and below 1.000 for a Sercial. The duration of the fermentation depends mostly on the vigor and alcohol tolerance of your yeast, but it should not take longer than four weeks. If fermentation does not cease (your airlock keeps on bubbling) after fortification, add more brandy If fermentation gets stuck before you reach the desired final gravity, try to stir the wine furiously and add a pouch of Wyeast 3347 (Fau de Vie) yeast to restart fermentation.
7. Once fermentation has ceased, let the wine stand for about two weeks to allow it to settle. Then siphon it off its lees into a clean carboy Leave behind all the debris from the dates and raisins. If you wish, you can use some bentonite or another fining agent at this point, let the wine rest again, and rack it a second time. Top the wine up with water that has been boiled and then allowed to cool off. You can also add an extra dose of brandy
8. Now it's time for the estufa treatment. Keep the wine there for six months and rack it every two months.
9. Let the wine cool for a couple of weeks. Place the oak chips into a clean carboy, carefully siphon the burnt wine into the fresh carboy, add the rest of the brandy, top up with boiled water, and...wait!
10. After six months, you may rack the wine again, if there is a visible layer of sediments. You may want to use fresh oak chips in the receiving carboy
11. The oak chips will ultimately become waterlogged and sink to the bottom. At bottling time, carefully rack the wine one more time. When to bottle depends on your patience. You should wait at least three years!