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Mr. Madison’s Madeira


Dinner menu for America Under Fire.

Dinner menu for America Under Fire.

It was during the War of 1812 that on August 24, 1814, British forces advanced into Washington, DC.  After burning the Capitol the British occupied the White House or President’s House as it was known then.   Madeira was James Madison’s favorite wine so it is of no surprise that there were coolers of Madeira waiting in the dining room for President James Madison’s return.  The British forces notoriously drank this excellent Madeira before setting fire to the President’s House.  This summer I provided an introduction to James Madison and his wine in my post the The 200th Anniversary of the Burning of Washington and the Destruction of President James Madison’s Choice Wines.

Bill of lading detailing a quarter-cask of Malmsey for James Madison. Christopher Child, May 10, 1809. Bill of Lading, Wine Shipment. The James Madison Papers. Library of Congress.

Bill of lading detailing a quarter-cask of Malmsey for James Madison. Christopher Child, May 10, 1809. Bill of Lading, Wine Shipment. The James Madison Papers. Library of Congress.

To commemorate this 200th anniversary I collaborated on a fantastic project to recreate the Madeira that the British drank before the burning.  Together with Mannie Berk, Rare Wine Company, and Meg Kennedy, Director of Museum Programs at The Montpelier Foundation, we identified a specific Madeira from James Madison’s wine orders.  The British descriptions of the Madeira being “super excellent” and “nectar of the gods” led us to choose a rare seven year old Malmsey that James Madison ordered in 1809.  With this in mind Ricardo Freitas, Vinhos Barbeito, blended a 2006 Malmsey with a small amount of very old Tinta Negra.  Only 450 liters of this wine were produced.  The wine was named Mr. Madison’s Madeira in reference to an alternative name for the War of 1812, Mr. Madison’s War.  The bottle itself is sealed with wax that was stamped with a recreation of an original James Madison wine seal.

Glasses of Mr. Madison's Madeira.

Glasses of Mr. Madison’s Madeira.

This summer The White House Historical Association, The United States Capitol Historical Society, and James Madison’s Montpelier organized the America Under Fire Symposium.  At the conclusion of the symposium dinner Mr. Madison’s Madeira was served for the commemorative toast.  The majority of Mr. Madison’s Madeira was set aside for Montpelier but there is a very small amount available through the latest newsletter of the Rare Wine Company.  In my 200th anniversary post I suggested that you offer a commemorative toast with your finest and rarest Madeira.  I now suggest you offer another toast this time with Mr. Madison’s Madeira.  When you smell and taste the wine realize that this is what recharged the weary British forces before they went outside to set the White House ablaze.

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