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For more than 500 years, Madeira has been made from the slopes of a volcanic island off the coast of Morocco. There was a time, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, when it was the English-speaking world’s most revered beverage, but a century of vine calamities, wars and economic disasters nearly ended its production and caused a long descent into oblivion.
Yet, Madeira’s virtual immortality insured its eventual rediscovery. Today, we can still find bottles of Madeira made in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries whose vivid flavors and powerful aromas argue that this is among the world's greatest wines.
Of all the books ever written about Madeira, the most admired is Noel Cossart’s Madeira, The Island Vineyard. Noel was the fourth, and final, generation of his family to manage Madeira's most important wine producer, Cossart, Gordon. He entered the firm in 1925 and managed it from 1936 until 1953, when economic conditions forced him to sell the firm's assets to the Madeira Wine Association.
When Noel retired from the wine business in 1976, his old friend from Christie's, Michael Broadbent, convinced him to draw on his long experience and deep family archives to write Madeira, The Island Vineyard, which was published by Christie's in 1984.
Noel's book was very warmly received. Yet, it had only one printing and soon became scarce even in second-hand bookstores. But with the new millennium, interest in Madeira has grown—and so has demand for Noel's book. By the summer of 2010, the average asking price for the first edition ofMadeira, The Island Vineyard on the antiquarian book market reached $500.
This richly illustrated new edition of Madeira, The Island Vineyard makes Noel’s words available again. But it also benefits from extensive new material, including the first published history of Noel’s own life; an unprecedented compilation of Madeira auction prices from the 1970s to the present, and Noel’s private correspondence with several other wine scholars in the months following the book’s 1984 publication.
Noel Cossart was the last of his family to head Cossart, Gordon & Co., which for more than 150 years was the largest and most important producer of Madeira. Born on the island of Madeira in 1907, he joined the company after his father's death in 1925, and managed the firm from 1936 until, under economic pressure, he sold its assets to the Madeira Wine Association in 1953.
For years after the sale, Noel continued to play an active role in marketing Cossart, Gordon wines and by the 1960s he began to contemplate writing a book on Madeira. That dream was realized in 1984 with the publication of his Madeira, The Island Vineyard by Christie's Wine Publications.
Noel's book had what previous works lacked: an insider's perspective, as he drew on his decades of personal experience as well as family business archives dating back to the 1700s. For more than a quarter of a century, Madeira, The Island Vineyard has stood as one of the essential works on Madeira and its wines.
Noel Cossart died in England in 1987.
Born in 1949, and founder of The Rare Wine Co., Emanuel Berk began importing Madeira into the United States in 1989, just two years after Noel Cossart's death.
Inspired by the wine's unique qualities and its historic place in American culture, he made The Rare Wine Co. America's largest importer of ﬁne Madeira and the largest stockholder of old and rare Madeiras outside the island itself.
Mannie has long been a student of Madeira's history, and he has written and spoken extensively about the wine and its place in America. Previous written works to his credit include A Century Past: A History of Madeira in America and Antebellum Nectar: Madeira and Champagne in pre-Civil War Charleston and the South.
His advocacy of Madeira has helped restore this historic wine to prominence in the United States, reversing more than a century of declining popularity.
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