Madeira the wine has been produced for centuries, a favourite of both the new and old worlds. But in its early days the wine was apt to spoil during long sea crossings. Then it was realised that by fortifying it and its exposure to the heat of ships’ holds on long crossings, not only was the flavour improved but the wine kept better too.

Marco Polo Spiral GuidesIn his excellent book Madeira – The islands and their wines, Richard Mayson tells the full story of not only this delicious wine, but also of the history of the islands along with a brief, but useful travel guide.

It starts with an introduction to the wine and history of the island and includes chapters explaining how madeira is produced.

There's also information on the wine producers; as well as how to buy, keep, serve and taste madeira. At the end of the book is a useful glossary of Portuguese and technical terms.

It is a fascinating read, but also, thanks to its easy to follow layout with clear chapters and sections, it is a book that can be dipped into as and when depending on the reader’s interests.

A splash of madeira certainly adds an extra depth of flavour to many a sauce, but as Richard Mayson points out it should also be drunk and enjoyed in its own right.

Once opened the bottle will last for months, if, that is, you can resist its rich, mellow flavour that long!

Madeira – The islands and their wines. Richard Mayson. ISBN: 978-1-908984-30-2. £35. Infinite Ideas Ltd. www.infideas.com 

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