Madeira is a fortified wine, similar to port, made in the Madeira Islands off the coast of Portugal. During the Age of Exploration, Madeira was a standard port of call for ships heading to the new world. To prevent their wine from spoiling, a small amount of brandy/neutral spirit was added. Sailors noticed that after long voyages at seas, the wine would “cook” in the bottom decks and flavors would change. This was discovered by the wine producers of Madeira when an unsold shipment of wine returned after a round trip. The wines are still heated to this day, just with modern technology.
Madeira played a huge role in the USA in the 17-18th centuries. No wine of quality was being made in the 13 colonies so Madeira was used at events. John Hancock’s boat was seized after unloading 25 full barrels of madeira, causing the Boston riots of 1768. It was also used to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence.