Woman on wine is award winning writer Amy Reiley’s monthly wine column. What should you be drinking right now? You can always find the answer in Woman on Wine!

Naked Wines: a wine club experience with a twist

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As a wine writer, I’ve never felt the need to join a winery’s wine club or one of the many wine-of-the-month sort of deals cropping up on the internet at a staggering rate. I generally find my wines for articles from professional wine tastings, visits to wineries, digging around in the dusty back aisles of wine shops or from samples sent directly from the winery. But an advertisement for one wine club, Naked Wines, caught my eye; it even got me to click a link. And what I discovered is a bit of a wine industry game changer. Read more

Dedicated to the Champagne Lovers–5 wines you’ll want to try

amy reileyWoman on Wine with Amy Reiley

Like just about ever other wine writer, I tend to save my stories on Champagne for the holiday season. Unfortunately, that only helps to perpetuate the idea that Champagne is a celebration-only wine. Sure, it’s effervescence seems to put everyone in a party mood, but that shouldn’t mean that you limit your Champagne intake only to birthdays, weddings and New Year’s Eve! Read more

Affordable Wines for Romantic Occasions

Woman on Wine--affordable wines for romance

Woman on Wine

with Amy Reiley

An inexpensive wine CAN be a perfect choice for a romantic celebration, here’s why:

A few weeks ago, the marketing team for Noble Vines approached me. They pitched me on the notion that affordable wines are a viable choice for a romantic evening, be it Valentine’s Day, an anniversary, or whatever day you’re celebrating. I thought about it for a while and realized they have a solid argument. I mean, we always point to “special occasion” wines for making romance. But it is absolutely true that inexpensive wines can fit the bill just as nicely, depending on the circumstance. Read more

Try a New Wine

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with Amy Reiley

Now is the perfect time to expand your gastronomic horizons and try a new wine

This month’s column is inspired, in part, by a shopping trip to K & L, one of the West Coast’s most interesting wine retailers. I wanted to try a new wine and this wine store had more interesting and unusual wines than familiar favorites. Read more

Madeira Wines–they’ll get you in the mood

amy reileyWoman on Wine

with Amy Reiley

I was putting the final touches on this month’s column when I was struck by a bolt of lightning.

Not literally.

I was invited to a tasting of Madeira wines. I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I didn’t expect was that the lineup would inspire me to scrap my column entirely and start again.

Madeira wines are a bit of a mystery to most Americans. Sure most of us are familiar with the term, “Madeira wine,” and many tend to lump it into a category with Port. That wouldn’t be incorrect, exactly. Both are bold, fortified wines produced by the Portuguese. And many Ports as well as many Madeiras are delicious with chocolate and/or cheese. But that’s about where the similarity ends.

Madeira WinesTo better understand Madeira you have to start with its incredibly unique geography. After my tasting, the first thing I did was look up the exact location of Madeira (which is the name of the island as well as the style of wine produced in this geographic region). Madeira is a pinprick of a volcanic island standing solitarily in the Atlantic, over 1,000 miles from mainland Portugal. (It isn’t actually entirely alone. The island is part of the Archipelago of Madeira, which looks like a smattering of bread crumbs off the coast of Morocco on your average map.) And because it is actually off the coast of Africa, it is much closer to the equator than most popular wine growing regions.

But not only is Madeira’s geography unique, its tradition of winemaking also sets it apart from anything else in the world. It is estimated that in the 1400’s, only 25 years after Madeira was colonized, the islanders began exporting wine. However, the process of winemaking that marks the Madeira style of wine known today wasn’t invented until the 1700’s.

Aging Madeira WinesThe wines of Madeira, after they’re fortified, are aged through a process of slow oxidation. The wines are classified by their level of sweetness. Levels include Dry, Medium Dry, Medium Rich or Rich. If the wine is made from the Sercial grape, the wine will be Dry. If it is made from Verdelho, it’s Medium Dry. For the Boal grape, it’s Medium Rich and wines made from Malmsey are Rich. If you prefer a Madeira as an aperitif or with a savory meal, you might want to explore the Dry wines. And if you’re one of those people who love wine and chocolate, you should get to know Rich Madeira wines. For the rest of us, I recommend keeping one bottle in each style on hand at all times.

Now, back to the reason I completely changed my column to share Madeira wines with you RIGHT NOW.  Madeira is utterly perfect for the Holiday season. The wines echo the flavors of the season that pull on your emotions. There are notes of bright citrus, the warmth of baking spices, roasted nuts, golden raisins, vanilla and caramel. These are the kinds of wines to instantly get you in the spirit of the season. So to get you started, here are four of the wines from the tasting that helped inspire this column:

Tasting Notes

Henriques & Henriques
Single Harvest Sercial 2001
What’s most remarkable about this wine is its freshness. It is delightfully bright and fruity with citrus, especially orange oil, from the aromas to the finish. Although I’m recommending these wines for the holidays, this is one you could easily enjoy year-round.

The Rare Wine Co. Historic Series Madeira
New York Malmsey Special Reserve
If you’re looking to lose yourself in a big, rich wine, this is the one for you. Its aromas are as enticing as a vanilla bean crème brulee and in the mouth it has weight, body, oranges and golden raisins. The best part is the finish with a hint of milk chocolate.

Broadbent 10 Year MalmseyBroadbent
10 Year Malmsey
This is the wine for drinkers who love texture. It is thick and rich with a seductively syrupy mouthfeel. Its flavors offer citrus with deliciously intriguing baking spice and just a touch of black pepper on the lingering finish.

Verdelho 1997
This wine is Christmas dinner in a bottle. Big, complex and spicy, it offers layers of vanilla and baking spice in the aromas and on the palate. As it rolls across the tongue it leaves the impression of a delicious baked something, like brioche studded with dried orange and raisins.