How Madeira Wine Helped to Found America
Everyone on the SouthCoast is familiar with the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament's signature drink, Madeira wine, but surprisingly few know how central of a role it played in the American Revolution.
Madeira wine was at the time, and remains to this day, a fortified wine, which means it's blended with brandy. It was fortified so the barrels wouldn't spoil on the long voyage along Portuguese trade routes in subtropical temperatures. The heat the barrels endured from being stored on the ships on those long journeys in fact became part of the distilling process. It is replicated in the wine's production today.
This process gave Madeira wine a unique flavor and longevity with which the Founding Fathers were obsessed. Thomas Jefferson planted cork trees on his famed Monticello estate solely for the purpose of bottling Brazilian Madeira. George Washington was known to drink a bottle of Madeira every day, even during his presidency, and he commissioned Madeira for his soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
John Hancock, known of his robust signature on the Declaration of Independence, laid the foundation for the American Revolution with a large shipment of the beloved Portuguese wine. In 1768, a time when the British Crown was attempting to crack down on smugglers at Boston Harbor, they seized Hancock's ship, Liberty, that had over 3,100 gallons of Madeira wine on board.
The seizure sparked a civil unrest known as the Liberty Affair, and British troops were called in to quell the uprising and were stationed there afterwards to enforce the rules of the Crown. This lead to many incidents of civil unrest that happened throughout Boston over the next couple of years, eventually culminated with the infamous Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770, one of the catalyzing events for the Revolution.
When all of those tensions came to a head, and the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in July of 1776 to establish themselves as a sovereign nation, they toasted to the cause with none other than their beloved Madeira wine.
So whether you're enjoying a glass of Madeira on feast weekend, at home, or out with friends, know that you're enjoying the official drink of the American Revolution.