Drink St. Anselm’s New Signature Madeira Like a Founding Father

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The Union Market tavern offers diners the chance to sip a one-of-a-kind wine.

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Photograph courtesy of Hallie Angelo.

Everything old is new again. Take Madeira, a once wildly popular fortified wine favored by the Founding Fathers. Known for delivering perfumed, caramelized, and nutty flavors, the style of production has largely fallen out of favor with drinkers angling for dry, unfortified wines. But St. Anselm–Stephen Starr and Joe Carroll’s Union Market tavern–has been giving guests a reason to explore the style. With over 60 bottles, some dating back to the 1800s, the restaurant claims to have the largest selection of Madeira in the country. You can sip it by the ounce or in curated flights. The newest addition to its list: a Madeira of the St. Anselm’s own, made in collaboration with Vinhos Barbeito–one of a few producers left in the world.

“It was one of the first wines to come to America, but it’s definitely fallen to the wayside,” says St. Anselm beverage manager Jack Zarecky. “And now, St. Anselm is kind of spearheading its redevelopment and reintegration into the wine world.”

In addition to being fortified—meaning a neutral spirit is added to the wine, as with port or sherry—Madeira undergoes a significant heating process during aging that leads to singular, complex flavors. The wine is made on the eponymous Portuguese island off the coast of Morocco, and the idea to heat the wine is said to have come from tasting barrels of Madeiran wine after long, hot journeys across the Atlantic Ocean. The wine can range in sweetness levels and is known to age almost indefinitely.  Zarecky’s team reached out to Rare Wine Company–one of the most respected Madeira importers in the country–to get in contact with Vinhos Barbeito and started the process of tasting and blending samples.

“There were some that we liked the aromatics of, and there were some that we liked the very small touch of residual sugar and fruit that it would bring to the table,” he says.

The restaurant team settled on a medium-sweet style that can pair with a variety of savory dishes or desserts. Some of Zarecky’s recommendations include the restaurant’s New York strip, or homemade peanut butter and molasses cookies. Guests can pop into St. Anselm’s bar or dining room for a taste, offered at $12 an ounce, or try it in a cocktail. Fans can also pick up a bottle to take home for $128.

Peter Njoroge

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