Wine is a way of life in Madeira
. Wine is made all over the island and it is considered rude not to accept a glass or an invitation to see where it is made. Madeira though often over looked, is one of the three great fortified wines of the world – the other two being Port and Sherry. Like Port, the original Madeira wines were not fortified but only became that way in order that they might better survive long sea transportation. It wasn't until the middle of the eighteenth century when British merchants on the island, began to add distilled spirits, made from sugar cane, to preserve it on its long voyage to the Americas. But at this point, the two wines differ. Unlike Port that enjoys peace and quiet as it matures, Madeira improves the more it is mistreated. This was not always known. It was discovered one day, when a shipment returned unsold after an arduous journey at sea. From that time forth, Madeira has always been heated to achieve its special qualities.