June 13, 2014

Your Madeira Wine Library

When you start getting serious about collecting Madeira wine, of course you start collecting some books about Madeira wine as well. Besides a duo of absolute must-have basics, there are more books about the historical background, society, economics and so on. In this chapter I will try to give you an overview about the available books about Madeira wine. It is of course my personal view, but those books have really been helpful over the years, so you might consider taking a closer look at them.


The must-have duo of basics about Madeira wine

Noel Cossart: Madeira the island vineyard, 1984, Christie’s Wine Publications, 2011 Rare Wine Co and Alex Liddell: Madeira, 1998, Faber and Faber Limited, 2014 Hurst & Co. If you only ever own two books about Madeira wine, these two would be it. While Cossart’s book was certainly the best Madeira publication for the 1980ies, Liddell’s book became the same for the 1990ies. Both books have made a glorious comeback. Emanuel Berk has re-edited Cossart’s Madeira the island vineyard with lots of new material in 2011 and published this second edition through his Rare Wine Co., Sonoma, California. Three years later Alex Liddell had also revised his book and published this second and expanded edition of Madeira the mid-atlantic wine with Hurst & Co in 2014. While it is certainly interesting to own the originals from 1984 and 1998, I would advise you to get the second editions, since they contain lots of new material. They are also meticulously revised to reflect the many changes on Madeira island and in the Madeira wine business.


The two books perfectly complement one another, since they are totally different in style. Island vineyard offers a lot of basic Madeira wine knowledge but is also a colorful collection of stories about the wine, the involved people, the anecdotes about the different famous wines and so on. Alex’ book takes the more scientific approach. The author’s background as a university lecturer certainly shows in the love for detail and the reliable facts that are abundant in this publication. It might not be as entertaining as Island vineyard, but it certainly is a fluent read. It must be said, however, that Mannie Berk has added a wealth of new material to the second edition of Cossart’s book and this brings a lot of ‘gravitas’ to the book. Both authors cannot be praised enough for putting so much effort into their publications, especially when you consider the fact that Madeira wine is still a niche market.


The duo about the social and historical background of Madeira wine

Marcus Binney: The Blandys of Madeira 1811-2011, 2011, Frances Lincoln is the basic book about one of the most influential families on Madeira island. The Blandys have not only been involved in the wine trade, but also in travel, trade in general, banking and even the famous Reid’s hotel. The book spans two centuries starting with John Blandy arriving on Madeira island early in 1808 and ending with a wonderful picture of the Blandy family at Palheiro. If you want to understand Madeiran society, there is no read like Binney’s book.


David Hancock: Oceans of Wine, 2009, Yale University Press is a certainly herculean effort. This publication gives a very complete overview about the trans-Atlantic wine trade in the 17th and 18th century. On 600+ pages David gets into every detail, from wine-making and trading to drinking habits, he has it all covered - the index alone has 40 pages! Coming from a scientific background myself, I like the fact that this book is abundant with notes (160 pages of them) that enable you to look up sources for further reading. Some of the notes are so extensive themselves that you could have made additional chapters of them.


The quick access to Madeira wine

Trevor Elliot: The wines of Madeira, 2010, Trevor Elliot Publishing. If you ever wanted to read a fast and easy book for the quick access to Madeira wine, look no further. Trevor Elliot’s book offers a complete overview, but in a very condensed fashion. It is the ideal refresher to read while travelling to Madeira island. But the real value lies in the many and beautiful pictures in the book. Every time I flip through the pages, the pictures make me want to go back to the island, or at least open a bottle of Madeira wine.


The American interest in Madeira wine

Emanuel Berk: A century past, a celebration of the Madeira party in America, 1999, The Rare Wine Co, Sonoma, California. In this booklet, Mannie gives an overview about Madeira wine collecting, Madeira Parties and the last of the great nineteen-century Madeira parties, hosted by Douglas H. Thomas. The publication makes you understand just how important Madeira wine was in social life in the United States.

John P. Cann: The Madeira heritage in colonial America, 2003, reprinted by the Rare Wine Co. Another short, but very interesting read into the early American Madeira customs.


A Silas Weir Mitchell: A Madeira Party, reprint 1975, Corti Brothers, Sacramento. The best ever and most accurate description of a typical American Madeira wine party, written in a humorous and slightly sarcastic way and very entertaining. This reprint also contains an essay on Silas Weir Mitchell and a very interesting essay on "Our Madeira Tradition" by Roy Brady.


Other books I would like to recommend

Rupert Croft-Cooke: Madeira, 1961, Putnam, London. This is an old but complete book about Madeira wine from the 1960ies’ British perspective.


Don Glen Sandy: Madeira wine at home,1988. The author had been editor of the Madeira Island Bulletin since 1978 and gives a somewhat wild mixture of facts, stories and recipes about Madeira wine. This book is a roller-coaster ride, but a very interesting read nevertheless.

F. William Sunderman: Our Madeira Heritage, 1979, Institute for Clinical Science, Inc., Philadelphia. Doctor Sunderman offers a wide description of Madeira wine in general and the American Madeira heritage. His book also contains Silas Weir Mitchell’s story A Madeira Party and the lyrics of Have some Madeira m’dear.