Madeira Wine History

Legend has it that Henry the Navigator was the main advocate of Madeira Wine and who encouraged the cultivation of the Malvasia Candida grape originating from Candia in Crete, which became a success. By the mid-15th century, Madeira wine was exported and its export routes included Europe, where it was seen as being very refined to the extent that it was even used as perfume on the handkerchiefs of the ladies in waiting at court.

Such was the prestige of this delicious drink that there are frequent references to it throughout history in the arts and legends of some countries. A few basic examples include the fact it was titled a precious essence in William Shakespeare's play Henry IV, the Duke of Clarence is put to death by drowning in a vat of Malmsey wine, there is Winston Churchill's famous toast, made during one of his stays in Madeira (1950), with wine that Napoleon spurned after acquiring it in Madeira on his way to exile on the island of St. Helena.

In America, General George Washington, who was a great fan of Madeira wine, ensured that it was served at all the celebrations he was involved in, including his inauguration as president of the USA and the Independence Day celebrations. Drinking Madeira wine took off in the 20th century for upper class Americans and became part of their social lives, especially for residents of the East coast of the USA, in cities like Savannah were the famous "Madeira Parties" were organized, which are still re-enacted today in the Davenport House Museum in Savannah, where the 'Madeira Club' still exists.