Paul Einbund on Madeira

Poor Madeira….or should I say pour Madeira? by Paul Einbund

It's been three years since Paul Einbund moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco--he has no plans of changing locales since he is now partners with chef Daniel Patterson at COI restaurant. He had previously been at Tartare and then had a brief stint at bacar. Sake, Lambic, tea, Madeira, wine, if it's liquid then he wants to taste it! Demystifying! Emboldening! Imbibing! Paul invites you to join him in the lounge for a bite to eat or a glass of something from what is becoming one of the city's most interesting beverage programs.

In my mind there could be nothing more exciting in the entire world to drink than Madeira. When else can we experience a wine from 30, 50 or even 170 years ago without completely breaking the bank, this is exactly what we can do with… Madeira!

Most people think of this succulent caramelized elixir exclusively as a mere cooking wine, but no! Behold! Imagine the best aspects of a tawny port: caramel, toffee, and tropical fruits blended with the soft and more round characteristics of a sweet sherry.

Here's what you need to know. The four major grapes, in order from driest to more sweet, are: Sercial, Verdelho, Boal, and Malmsey (also called Malvasia/Malvazia). The drier end of the spectrum can be great as an aperitif or with foods like stews and braised meats, while the sweeter wines are the best pairing for cheese, or even in lieu of dessert. Personally, I like to end the evening with a glass of something slightly sweet once I get home (but before I settle in for cozy nighty-night time).

When it comes to pairing Madeira with food, think of it this way: we are used to cooking with the stuff, but instead of adding it to the dish before it's done, drink a glass with the finished product, and check out how it adds that extra spice that was missing before!

One of the great aspects of Madeira is that this is a "cooked wine." The wines are aged in rooms that are heated by the sun for many years, with the end result being a wine that is nearly indestructible… seriously, you could stick this stuff in your oven and once it cools down (yikes!) it will be perfectly fine.

Or more importantly, the wine doesn't degrade for at least a year after it has been opened. "Yeah, but what does that mean to me?," you may ask. Open a super expensive bottle of Madeira, but have no fear, it's not going to go bad before you finish it. It's okay, take your time. Heck, you could even save it for a special occasion (like bed time!). This indestructibility makes Madeira the ultimate wine by the glass in a restaurant because it doesn't matter when the bottle was opened, it won't go bad.

But here's the downside: in the ten years since I have been a sommelier, the availability of good vintage Madeira has dwindled from little to next to none. It's hard to find but when you see it, buy it. For most of the really old wines, you have to be on a list and when they are bottled (to order) and shipped to the US of A they call you and let you know. But sometimes you can stumble across a bottle or two. The best place to find Madeira has got to be the Rare Wine Company, though one or two other importers also bring some into the country.

The moral of the story is drink Madeira! The odds are good it will be in great condition, no matter the storage temperature or when it was opened and gosh darn it, it just tastes good!