A Madeira Tribute to Ben Franklin

The Founders of our Republic were a remarkable lot. But even in such august company, Benjamin Franklin stood out. 

Though he never held high public office, no one else influenced so many different aspects of early American life. Largely unschooled, he became one of the 18th century’s towering figures, as printer and journalist; philosopher, scientist and inventor; public servant and diplomat, and a leader of the American Revolution. And like other Americans of his time, he loved Madeira.

Ten years ago, in 2011, we created a fine Madeira in Franklin's memory, launched at an epic dinner at Philadelphia’s Fork Restaurant, just steps from the site of Franklin’s home and printing office on Market Street. This was the first Madeira we made to honor a Founder—predating our Jefferson, Washington and Madison Madeiras. Bual in style, and selling out within weeks of its release, the wine itself has become something of a legend. 

On the tenth anniversary of that wine’s release, we decided it was time for a second Franklin Madeira. Once again we asked Barbeito’s Ricardo Freitas to create a Madeira worthy of Franklin. It's now here, and it's a beauty. And we are happy to offer it, while it lasts, for just $79.95 a bottle. 

Please note that this is a very limited release, and, when it’s sold out, that’s it. We have no plans to make another for the next few years. 

Behind the Wine
Called Madeira's "Game Changer" by Neal Martin, Ricardo Freitas has the special gift of being able to assemble wines of disparate varieties and ages to create Madeiras where the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts.

His Benjamin Franklin 10th Anniversary Special Reserve perfectly showcases his art. We asked Ricardo to honor Franklin with a Madeira that, like the original Franklin bottling, is Bual in character. And he did indeed start with some stunningly good Bual components. One was 200 liters of superb 1997 vintage Bual from a now-extinct vineyard in Sao Vicente. 

Then he added a 70-year-old Bual he discovered aging in demijohn and bottles in the attic of a house in Calheta, on the island’s South Coast—a subtle homage to the early American practice of aging Madeiras to perfection in demijohn in an attic.

To elevate the wine into the masterpiece category, Ricardo found other amazing components, such an intensely sweet 70-year-old Tinta Negra from a family in Cama de Lobos which he balanced against an entirely different, and much drier, Tinta Negra, also from Cama de Lobos. 

The result is a Madeira of great richness, but with the kind of elegance that’s Ricardo’s trademark. It's very much a Madeira that Franklin himself would have enjoyed.

Franklin and Madeira
Of the many stories about Franklin and Madeira, the most famous is one he wrote himself. Believing that science would one day be able to resurrect the dead, he wished that he could be put in a barrel of Madeira when he died:

"... having a very ardent desire to see and observe the state of America a hundred years hence, I should prefer to any ordinary death, the being immersed in a cask of Madeira wine, with a few friends, till that time, to be then recalled to life by the solar warmth of my dear country!"

He also played a role in Madeira's development, recommending in Poor Richard's Almanack in 1743 that wines shipped by boat to America (like Madeira) be fortified by adding brandy. Within a decade, the addition of a bucket of brandy to each cask of Madeira was a common practice of the island's merchants.

Madeira to the Defense
In his autobiography, Franklin credited Madeira with acquiring a battery of cannon in 1754 to protect Philadelphia during the French and Indian War. Having exhausted his other resources, he asked New York’s Colonial Governor Clinton for the cannon, but he was initially refused. Then, "at a Dinner with his Council where there was great Drinking of Madeira Wine ... (Clinton) soften’d by degrees, and said he would lend us Six. After a few more Bumpers he advanc’d to Ten. And at length he very good-naturedly conceded Eighteen. They were fine Cannon, 18 pounders, with their Carriages."

This wonderful Madeira is a fitting tribute to a great American and a great Madeira lover. However, because of the very limited number of bottles available, we must restrict purchases to three bottles, while supplies last.

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