The island of Madeira lies 400 miles off Morocco in the Atlantic and is governed by Portugal; but the historic fortified wines made here are very much a part of American history. Because of trade routes and politics during our Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, Madeira was available, and popular, in the infant U.S. at a time when the Clarets, Burgundies and Hocks, favored by the British (and typically shipped through British ports), weren't so politically correct.
According to Frank Schoonmaker's Encyclopedia of Wine, colonists rioted on the docks of Boston in 1768 (five years before the Boston Tea Party) when British customs officials sought to place a duty on a shipment of Madeira. "Madeira was used to toast the signing of the Declaration of Independence," Schoonmaker reports, "and, in 1789, the inauguration of George Washington."
Not unlike Sherry in general style, Madeira gains its unique character by being stored for years in hot rooms called estufas, a rough emulation of the treatment it used to receive on the decks of sailing ships crossing the broad Atlantic.
Learn more about the fascinating story of Madeira:
A wine with the name of an island
An island with the name of a wine: