Like all the other Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson was partial to a Portuguese fortified wine called Madeira. A thick, often sweet, caramel-colored wine that can taste of smoky apricots, toffee, vanilla or even cooked berries, Madeira was there at dances, parties and birthdays. It was poured into eggnog. It was even raised to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Madeira was the most popular wine throughout the British Empire, including the American colonies, for 400 years. Though today it occupies a minor spot on most wine lists – if it appears at all – Jefferson and his cronies drank the stuff like water.
Michael Scaffidi, wine director at The Jefferson Hotel in Washington, D.C., offers a short, impassioned tutorial on America's once-favorite wine.
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