Since we all wish we were on an island right about now sipping Piña Coladas or Frosé, we decided we’d dive into the wine culture that exists on many islands world wide. Yes, there’s wine on ISLANDS! Let’s talk about it.
We’ll start with Madeira, a delicious and sweet fortified wine.
It gets its name from the island of Madeira which is located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean; north of the Canary Islands, almost directly west of Morocco. Madeira is a fortified wine available in a range of dry to sweet styles. It was created back in the 1600s when wine would be shipped overseas. On its journey down to India the wines would heat up and cool down depending upon the outside weather. In order to survive the long journey, and the constant change in temperature, often brandy was added to the wine which created the fortification process.
Now, for most wines, this process would virtually ruin them. How does this work for Madeira?
Due to the heat on the Island during harvest season, in order to retain enough natural acidity yet still have fruit ready to process for wine, the harvest is significantly earlier than other areas of the world. This helps preserve the wines as they go through the aging process. The two aging processes are the “Estufa” process which is heating the wines in a stove (commonly used for lower quality Madeira) and the “Cantero” process which is heating the wines in barrels in the sun for years. The Cantero process allows for the wine to become more complex at a slower rate which results in a finer wine.
Madeira has a unique taste, unlike any other wines. This comes from repeatedly heating the wine. This creates flavors such as caramel, toffee, nuts and baked/stewed fruits.
Just along the other side of the African continent, in the Aegean Sea, we find the Greek islands. These remnants of ancient volcanoes are a fantastic place to grow extremely unique and delicious wines. One of the Greek islands in particular, Santorini, is known for its delicious wines, one of them even has the name Santorini.
There are actually 16 wineries that exist on the 4 mile-long island. The wines produced on Santorini are both red and white. The most well known Greek varietal, Assyrtiko, comes from this Island. Assyrtiko is a thick skinned white grape that produces a delicious white wine perfect to pair with the local cuisine. It is bright and racy, lots of lemon, apple and lime notes, a strong salinity, and a dry finish. This is the ultimate sushi wine, branzino pairing, or even a fennel and apple salad perfect pair.
You may think, well this is an inactive volcano, where are the nutrients for these vines? These vines actually thrive on the island. The volcanic rock is rich in several minerals and it is porous to allow for the vine to trap moisture. This dry farming, paired with the intense winds have helped shape the grape to what it is today.
Did you know that all 50 states produce wine? Yep! So let’s talk about our state that is 100% island, Hawaii. If you think about production of alcoholic beverages in Hawaii, you’ll likely think of Kona Brewing Company, or Maui Brewing. If you even think about wine, you’ll likely think, oh yes, the fruit wines! But there are a number of traditional vineyards planted on the Islands of Maui, Hawaii (Big Island) and even Oahu.
One of the most popular styles of Hawaiian wine is the Pineapple Sparkling Wine which you can find at the Maui Winery. On the side of the volcano on the Big Island, Volcano Winery produces delicious wines with bright tropical notes, guava, jaboticaba berry, and more! Some of these wines are even blended with fruits. Talk about an island sangria!
Many of these wines are available in the state of Hawaii, so if you visit, be sure to bring some home with you.