A dark, full-bodied, fruity, luscious, fragrant sipping wine. This ‘malmsey-style’ of wine is best served as a dessert wine. Madeira should be cellared upright. Pairs well with rich foods especially chocolate. Madeira starts life as fermenting must and is then fortified, either to arrest fermentation for a Malmsey or a Bual, or after fermenting out, in the case of Sercial or a Verdelho (to a minimum of 17% alcohol) and undergoes its own very special maturation process. Fermentation takes place at different stages according to the grape variety used. Grapes are picked from mid-August up to the end of October and the special ‘estufagem’ of the wines begins in January. The Estufa process: The unique character of Madeira was discovered in the 15th Century, when Madeira wines were used as victuals for ship’s companies, stored in the holds of caravels. The blowsy heat of the ship’s hold was found to have dramatically improved the wines, making them richer and more complex, as well as proving them to be the most stable in heat. This also demonstrated the great ageing potential that they had. The wines are estufa’d usually for 3 months in termperatures rising to 45 degrees C before being allowed to cool. Maturation then starts in wooden casks, which need not be topped up. The wines are not bottled until they are at least 3 years old. Invented in 1938 by Peter Cossart, father of John Cossart, Monte Seco was the first wine he made on his own at the age of 19. It was his answer in terms of Madeira to Fino and Manzanilla.