Prosperity and setbacks
Madeira was a major international docking point for adventurous ocean expeditions centuries long, until the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. From that moment on, ships no longer had to sail around Africa, and Madeira was forgotten. The history of Madeira reads like an exciting novel, starting with its discovery in 1419, the official discovery of Madeira.
A fire of seven years
After its discovery in 1419, the rugged land full of forests had to be made fit for habitation, so for that purpose large forests were set on fire. These fires lasted no less than seven consecutive years! In those days, air pollution and sustainability were not in the dictionary. This massive destruction, however, created a very fertile soil.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch, Portuguese, and English ruled the oceans with a mighty fleet of hundreds of ships, controlling most of the global trade with Europe. Madeira became the hub for these voyages, as the sailors used the island as a stopover for fresh water and food, for voyages to North America, Central America, South America, India, and everything beyond.
1869 / Opening of the Suez Canal
The opening of the Suez Canal in Egypt in 1869 meant an enormous leap forward for shipping. Now it was possible to sail from Western Europe via the Mediterranean to India. Without the detour around Africa 7,0000 kilometre were saved, consisting of almost half the journey! Madeira was therefore no longer part of the route, and the demand for Madeira declined to such an extent that it was called the ‘forgotten island wine.’
1986 / Portugal joins the EU
Accession to the EU has greatly improved the standard of living in Madeira. Until then, especially in the north, there was a lot of poverty.
“Madeira Wine Today is a large, handsome hardback book, with an elegant, minimalist cover that starts with stunning photography. It is the the vivid, beautifully composed pictures that bring Madeira to live in a way that text simply cannot.
This book is a delight from start to finish. It’s full of little crazy gems. Beautifully conceived, designed, written and edited, gorgeous to look at, hold and read, this would be the book on Madeira that I would choose to give to someone.”
Tamlyn Currin | Jancis Robinson.com