In the island of Madeira, where the homonymous wine is produced, different processes have been developed to replicate the natural heating and oxidative conditions their wines where historically exposed to while shipping overseas. Wines stored in the vessels where highly exposed to heat, and some oxygen, during the long trips amidst tropical seas.
Estufagem It is an extreme induced treatment based on heating the wine, carried out in a "estufa" (hothouse), which will accelerate its development and maturation.
This process will create a super resistant wine, as it has been exposed to shocking temperatures and deliberate oxidation, therefore it becomes fully developed and sustains contact to air exchange much better than a normal wine. The fortification process carried out before the "estufagem" is the main reason why this type of wine withholds this aggressive style of maturation.
This process has been much improved over the years with concrete tanks being replaced by stainless steel, known as cubas de calor, ranging in size between 20,000 and 50,000 ll and most widely used for large-volume production. Hot water circulates either through a stainless steel coil in the middle of the tank or a jacket, heating the wine to a maximum temperature of 55 °C for at least 3 months. The process is carefully monitored by the wine industry's controlling body, the Instituto do Vinho da Madeira (Madeira Wine Institute, or IVM).
The wine will show this method clearly in its style, with a deep brown colour, toffee, dried fruits and nuts, molasses aromas and flavours, altogether a baked character, mainly sweet, all supported by some natural acidity from the island grapes.
This processes is used to produce the lower end wines, mainly of blends of vintages and using almost exclusively the Tinta Negra Mole variety, with nobler grapes reserved for gentler methods.
"A second type of estufagem (used exclusively by the Madeira Wine Company) takes place in 600-l/158-gal wooden casks or lodge pipes which are stored in warm rooms (armazens de calor) heated by the nearby tanks or by steam-filled hot water pipes. Temperatures usually range between 30 °C and 40 °C and the wines develop over a longer period, usually six months to a year. This is a gentler process than the bulk method generally used, and is used for higher-quality." in Robinson, Jancis, Oxford Companion to Wine, 5th edition
Canteiro This much gentler method is used to produce the finest Madeira, and it will not involve any kind of artificial heating.
Wines will be left to age naturally, heated only by the sun, in 600-l pipes placed on wooden support beams called “canteiros”, in the top floors of the wine cellars, where the temperature is higher, for a minimum period of two years that could easily rise up to 20 or in some extraordinary cases to a century. It is a gentle and slow type of oxidative cask ageing, making the wine develop unique characteristics with intense and complex aromas.
These wines may only be commercialised, once at least 3 years have elapsed, counting from the 1st January of the year following the harvest.
As these wines will be mainly reserved for Vintage batches, namely Colheita/Harvest (wine from a single year, bottled after spending at least 5 years ageing in cask) and Frasqueira (also from a single year but with a maturation period of at least 20 years in cask), they will be made using the noblest grapes like Sercial, Verdelho, the super scarce Terrantez, Malvasia and some Bual.
These wines are drier in style, with Sercial producing the driest wines, and a little lighter in colour if the ageing period is kept low. The oxidative aromas and flavours will be lighter, there will have a fresher character, with tremendous acidity, very complex, with fresh honey touch and even some floral tones, not forgetting that unique touch of "vinagrinho" (hint of volatile acidity) that lifts the bouquet. Best ones will be able to age literally for centuries.
Found this remarkable curiosity at artisan producer Artur Barros e Sousa website:
"For guarantee of its preparation and it's genuinely, we gratify with £ 1,000 to that who proves that our wine marks for consumption are not of Canteiro." (http://www.vinhosmadeira.com)